Day 265 (Sept. 22): Dedication of Jerusalem’s wall, offerings for temple, Nehemiah leaves and evil waltzes in, Nehemiah returns and restores Jerusalem, unworthy sacrifices, warning to the priests

100 Days to go!  And, just 2 days until we hit the NT!

Welcome to BibleBum where we are exploring the entire Bible in one year to better learn how to follow God’s instructions and discover the purpose for our lives.  The BibleBum blog uses The One Year Chronological Bible, the New Living Translation version.  At the end of each day’s reading, Rob, a cultural history aficionado and seminary graduate, answers questions from Leigh An, the blogger host, about the daily scripture.  To start from the beginning, click on “Index” and select Day 1.

Day 265 (Sept. 22)

New Living Translation, Biblegateway.com

Nehemiah 12:27-13:6

Dedication of Jerusalem’s Wall / 445 BC

27 For the dedication of the new wall of Jerusalem, the Levites throughout the land were asked to come to Jerusalem to assist in the ceremonies. They were to take part in the joyous occasion with their songs of thanksgiving and with the music of cymbals, harps, and lyres. 28 The singers were brought together from the region around Jerusalem and from the villages of the Netophathites. 29 They also came from Beth-gilgal and the rural areas near Geba and Azmaveth, for the singers had built their own settlements around Jerusalem. 30 The priests and Levites first purified themselves; then they purified the people, the gates, and the wall.

31 I led the leaders of Judah to the top of the wall and organized two large choirs to give thanks. One of the choirs proceeded southward[a] along the top of the wall to the Dung Gate. 32 Hoshaiah and half the leaders of Judah followed them, 33 along with Azariah, Ezra, Meshullam, 34 Judah, Benjamin, Shemaiah, and Jeremiah. 35 Then came some priests who played trumpets, including Zechariah son of Jonathan, son of Shemaiah, son of Mattaniah, son of Micaiah, son of Zaccur, a descendant of Asaph. 36 And Zechariah’s colleagues were Shemaiah, Azarel, Milalai, Gilalai, Maai, Nethanel, Judah, and Hanani. They used the musical instruments prescribed by David, the man of God. Ezra the scribe led this procession. 37 At the Fountain Gate they went straight up the steps on the ascent of the city wall toward the City of David. They passed the house of David and then proceeded to the Water Gate on the east.

38 The second choir giving thanks went northward[b] around the other way to meet them. I followed them, together with the other half of the people, along the top of the wall past the Tower of the Ovens to the Broad Wall, 39 then past the Ephraim Gate to the Old City Gate,[c] past the Fish Gate and the Tower of Hananel, and on to the Tower of the Hundred. Then we continued on to the Sheep Gate and stopped at the Guard Gate.

40 The two choirs that were giving thanks then proceeded to the Temple of God, where they took their places. So did I, together with the group of leaders who were with me. 41 We went together with the trumpet-playing priests—Eliakim, Maaseiah, Miniamin, Micaiah, Elioenai, Zechariah, and Hananiah— 42 and the singers—Maaseiah, Shemaiah, Eleazar, Uzzi, Jehohanan, Malkijah, Elam, and Ezer. They played and sang loudly under the direction of Jezrahiah the choir director.

43 Many sacrifices were offered on that joyous day, for God had given the people cause for great joy. The women and children also participated in the celebration, and the joy of the people of Jerusalem could be heard far away.

Provisions for Temple Worship

44 On that day men were appointed to be in charge of the storerooms for the offerings, the first part of the harvest, and the tithes. They were responsible to collect from the fields outside the towns the portions required by the Law for the priests and Levites. For all the people of Judah took joy in the priests and Levites and their work. 45 They performed the service of their God and the service of purification, as commanded by David and his son Solomon, and so did the singers and the gatekeepers. 46 The custom of having choir directors to lead the choirs in hymns of praise and thanksgiving to God began long ago in the days of David and Asaph. 47 So now, in the days of Zerubbabel and of Nehemiah, all Israel brought a daily supply of food for the singers, the gatekeepers, and the Levites. The Levites, in turn, gave a portion of what they received to the priests, the descendants of Aaron.

Nehemiah’s Various Reforms

13 On that same day, as the Book of Moses was being read to the people, the passage was found that said no Ammonite or Moabite should ever be permitted to enter the assembly of God.[d] For they had not provided the Israelites with food and water in the wilderness. Instead, they hired Balaam to curse them, though our God turned the curse into a blessing. When this passage of the Law was read, all those of foreign descent were immediately excluded from the assembly.

Nehemiah left Jerusalem in 433 BC and returned to his point in Susa as King Artaxerxes’ cup-bearer.

Nehemiah’s Absence from Jerusalem

Before this had happened, Eliashib the priest, who had been appointed as supervisor of the storerooms of the Temple of our God and who was also a relative of Tobiah, had converted a large storage room and placed it at Tobiah’s disposal. The room had previously been used for storing the grain offerings, the frankincense, various articles for the Temple, and the tithes of grain, new wine, and olive oil (which were prescribed for the Levites, the singers, and the gatekeepers), as well as the offerings for the priests.

I was not in Jerusalem at that time, for I had returned to King Artaxerxes of Babylon in the thirty-second year of his reign,[e] though I later asked his permission to return.

Nehemiah 5:14-19

14 For the entire twelve years that I was governor of Judah—from the twentieth year to the thirty-second year of the reign of King Artaxerxes[a]—neither I nor my officials drew on our official food allowance. 15 The former governors, in contrast, had laid heavy burdens on the people, demanding a daily ration of food and wine, besides forty pieces[b] of silver. Even their assistants took advantage of the people. But because I feared God, I did not act that way.

16 I also devoted myself to working on the wall and refused to acquire any land. And I required all my servants to spend time working on the wall. 17 I asked for nothing, even though I regularly fed 150 Jewish officials at my table, besides all the visitors from other lands! 18 The provisions I paid for each day included one ox, six choice sheep or goats, and a large number of poultry. And every ten days we needed a large supply of all kinds of wine. Yet I refused to claim the governor’s food allowance because the people already carried a heavy burden.

19 Remember, O my God, all that I have done for these people, and bless me for it.

Nehemiah 13:7-31

Nehemiah’s Return to Jerusalem / after 433 BC

When I arrived back in Jerusalem, I learned about Eliashib’s evil deed in providing Tobiah with a room in the courtyards of the Temple of God. I became very upset and threw all of Tobiah’s belongings out of the room. Then I demanded that the rooms be purified, and I brought back the articles for God’s Temple, the grain offerings, and the frankincense.

10 I also discovered that the Levites had not been given their prescribed portions of food, so they and the singers who were to conduct the worship services had all returned to work their fields. 11 I immediately confronted the leaders and demanded, “Why has the Temple of God been neglected?” Then I called all the Levites back again and restored them to their proper duties. 12 And once more all the people of Judah began bringing their tithes of grain, new wine, and olive oil to the Temple storerooms.

13 I assigned supervisors for the storerooms: Shelemiah the priest, Zadok the scribe, and Pedaiah, one of the Levites. And I appointed Hanan son of Zaccur and grandson of Mattaniah as their assistant. These men had an excellent reputation, and it was their job to make honest distributions to their fellow Levites.

14 Remember this good deed, O my God, and do not forget all that I have faithfully done for the Temple of my God and its services.

15 In those days I saw men of Judah treading out their winepresses on the Sabbath. They were also bringing in grain, loading it on donkeys, and bringing their wine, grapes, figs, and all sorts of produce to Jerusalem to sell on the Sabbath. So I rebuked them for selling their produce on that day. 16 Some men from Tyre, who lived in Jerusalem, were bringing in fish and all kinds of merchandise. They were selling it on the Sabbath to the people of Judah—and in Jerusalem at that!

17 So I confronted the nobles of Judah. “Why are you profaning the Sabbath in this evil way?” I asked. 18 “Wasn’t it just this sort of thing that your ancestors did that caused our God to bring all this trouble upon us and our city? Now you are bringing even more wrath upon Israel by permitting the Sabbath to be desecrated in this way!”

19 Then I commanded that the gates of Jerusalem should be shut as darkness fell every Friday evening,[a] not to be opened until the Sabbath ended. I sent some of my own servants to guard the gates so that no merchandise could be brought in on the Sabbath day. 20 The merchants and tradesmen with a variety of wares camped outside Jerusalem once or twice. 21 But I spoke sharply to them and said, “What are you doing out here, camping around the wall? If you do this again, I will arrest you!” And that was the last time they came on the Sabbath. 22 Then I commanded the Levites to purify themselves and to guard the gates in order to preserve the holiness of the Sabbath.

Remember this good deed also, O my God! Have compassion on me according to your great and unfailing love.

23 About the same time I realized that some of the men of Judah had married women from Ashdod, Ammon, and Moab. 24 Furthermore, half their children spoke the language of Ashdod or of some other people and could not speak the language of Judah at all. 25 So I confronted them and called down curses on them. I beat some of them and pulled out their hair. I made them swear in the name of God that they would not let their children intermarry with the pagan people of the land.

26 “Wasn’t this exactly what led King Solomon of Israel into sin?” I demanded. “There was no king from any nation who could compare to him, and God loved him and made him king over all Israel. But even he was led into sin by his foreign wives. 27 How could you even think of committing this sinful deed and acting unfaithfully toward God by marrying foreign women?”

28 One of the sons of Joiada son of Eliashib the high priest had married a daughter of Sanballat the Horonite, so I banished him from my presence.

29 Remember them, O my God, for they have defiled the priesthood and the solemn vows of the priests and Levites.

30 So I purged out everything foreign and assigned tasks to the priests and Levites, making certain that each knew his work. 31 I also made sure that the supply of wood for the altar and the first portions of the harvest were brought at the proper times.

Remember this in my favor, O my God.

Malachi’s ministry may have occurred during the time of Nehemiah’s absence from Jerusalem beginning in 433 BC.

Malachi 1-2:9

The Prophecy of Malachi / ca. 433 to 430 BC

1 This is the message[a] that the Lord gave to Israel through the prophet Malachi.[b]

The Lord’s Love for Israel

“I have always loved you,” says the Lord.

But you retort, “Really? How have you loved us?”

And the Lord replies, “This is how I showed my love for you: I loved your ancestor Jacob, but I rejected his brother, Esau, and devastated his hill country. I turned Esau’s inheritance into a desert for jackals.”

Esau’s descendants in Edom may say, “We have been shattered, but we will rebuild the ruins.”

But the Lord of Heaven’s Armies replies, “They may try to rebuild, but I will demolish them again. Their country will be known as ‘The Land of Wickedness,’ and their people will be called ‘The People with Whom the Lord Is Forever Angry.’ When you see the destruction for yourselves, you will say, ‘Truly, the Lord’s greatness reaches far beyond Israel’s borders!’”

Unworthy Sacrifices

The Lord of Heaven’s Armies says to the priests: “A son honors his father, and a servant respects his master. If I am your father and master, where are the honor and respect I deserve? You have shown contempt for my name!

“But you ask, ‘How have we ever shown contempt for your name?’

“You have shown contempt by offering defiled sacrifices on my altar.

“Then you ask, ‘How have we defiled the sacrifices?[c]

“You defile them by saying the altar of the Lord deserves no respect. When you give blind animals as sacrifices, isn’t that wrong? And isn’t it wrong to offer animals that are crippled and diseased? Try giving gifts like that to your governor, and see how pleased he is!” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.

“Go ahead, beg God to be merciful to you! But when you bring that kind of offering, why should he show you any favor at all?” asks the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.

10 “How I wish one of you would shut the Temple doors so that these worthless sacrifices could not be offered! I am not pleased with you,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, “and I will not accept your offerings. 11 But my name is honored[d] by people of other nations from morning till night. All around the world they offer[e] sweet incense and pure offerings in honor of my name. For my name is great among the nations,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.

12 “But you dishonor my name with your actions. By bringing contemptible food, you are saying it’s all right to defile the Lord’s table. 13 You say, ‘It’s too hard to serve the Lord,’ and you turn up your noses at my commands,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. “Think of it! Animals that are stolen and crippled and sick are being presented as offerings! Should I accept from you such offerings as these?” asks the Lord.

14 “Cursed is the cheat who promises to give a fine ram from his flock but then sacrifices a defective one to the Lord. For I am a great king,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, “and my name is feared among the nations!

A Warning to the Priests

2 “Listen, you priests—this command is for you! Listen to me and make up your minds to honor my name,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, “or I will bring a terrible curse against you. I will curse even the blessings you receive. Indeed, I have already cursed them, because you have not taken my warning to heart. I will punish your descendants and splatter your faces with the manure from your festival sacrifices, and I will throw you on the manure pile. Then at last you will know it was I who sent you this warning so that my covenant with the Levites can continue,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.

“The purpose of my covenant with the Levites was to bring life and peace, and that is what I gave them. This required reverence from them, and they greatly revered me and stood in awe of my name. They passed on to the people the truth of the instructions they received from me. They did not lie or cheat; they walked with me, living good and righteous lives, and they turned many from lives of sin.

“The words of a priest’s lips should preserve knowledge of God, and people should go to him for instruction, for the priest is the messenger of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. But you priests have left God’s paths. Your instructions have caused many to stumble into sin. You have corrupted the covenant I made with the Levites,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. “So I have made you despised and humiliated in the eyes of all the people. For you have not obeyed me but have shown favoritism in the way you carry out my instructions.”

∆∆∆

Questions & Observations

Q. (Nehemiah 12:27-43): The wall is so incredibly important to Jerusalem because it protects them (and notably the temple and treasures from enemies), makes it easier to break away from ruling kingdoms and not pay their “taxes” or whatever they are called and it would better control who comes into their city — keeping those out who may defile them.  Is this right?  Are there any other reasons that a wall is so important?

A. I don’t get the impression that Judah wanted a wall so they could revolt against the king: that was certainly not Nehemiah’s plan, but other than that you have it right.  In the ancient world, a city wasn’t really considered a city without a wall: the “regulation” that came with the wall (what goes in, what goes out) was central to this idea of a city.

Q. (13:15-18): Keeping the Sabbath holy and a day of rest is obviously a very important law for God.  If it’s so important, why is it deflated in the NT?

A. Oh, let’s not spoil that when we’re so close.  Patience.

Q. (13:19): I have heard that the Sabbath back then was actually on Saturday.  Is this right?  If so, how has it ended up on Sunday?

A. You are correct, it is Saturday.  Here’s what I responded when asked this very question in our section on the 10 Commandments way back Exodus 20 (Day 38, Feb 7th):

 

Observant Jews and Seventh Day Adventists will tell you that the Sabbath is Saturday.  Sunday is seen as the first day of the week, following the Sabbath.  So we should think of Sunday as “Day 1” in the Creation story.  This is significant when it comes to the story of Jesus and His resurrection.  Jesus was resurrected on a Sunday, and the implications of that are significant: the resurrection intentionally spoke of a new creation story: everything was new in light of what Christ had done.  Two factors played a role in the loss of Saturday as the formal Sabbath of Christians: Christians began to gather on Sundays (called the first day of the week in the NT) to commemorate the resurrection, and because Christians came to see themselves as free from the requirements of the Law, they were not obligated to take the Sabbath on Saturdays.  Thus, most Christians would, I think, tell you that the Sabbath was Sunday if you asked.  As we discussed yesterday [Day 37], there is value in taking a day of rest for the purpose of connection with family and God, but we are NOT required to, and we are certainly NOT required to do so on Saturday.

 

Q. (13:19-21): Back then, religion, at times, had control of the government.  There is irrefutable evidence that the U.S. forefathers’ heavily put their religion into laws and forming this country.  That has pretty much been completely replaced by a politically-correct, religious-free attitude or equality for all religions.  I wonder if it would ever change back.  Do you know of any research to compare the well-being of society during times when Christianity has controlled a society?

A. First, the separation of Church and State (i.e. religion and government) is a modern, Enlightenment concept that would have baffled people from prior centuries, but it is standard practice now.  I will leave it up to you to decide if we are better off with these two “camps” divided (I personally think the barrier is silly and artificial, but anyway…).  As to your question, I rather doubt there would be any way to empirically test it, simply because there have been so many stripes of Christianity throughout the centuries.  I would point out, however, that I do not think that it is in the best interest of our society to keep pushing for less and less religious influence.  The natural state of man is slavery (i.e. control by someone or something else), but it is only in the Gospel that man can find true freedom.  That is why the Judeo-Christian foundations of Western Society were so crucial to the establishment of the freedoms we enjo — we moved away from our natural state by God’s grace, and the flourishing of the entire Western world was the result.  But what happens when we remove the foundation?  The building collapses, and we return to our natural state: control of the many by the few in power (i.e. slavery).  I don’t know about you, but that sure sounds like the direction we’re headed.

Q. (13:25): I am surprised that Nehemiah beat and pulled the hair of offenders.  I wonder what kept them people from fighting back?  Maybe he had other palace officials with him.  Why would people want to submit to someone who is so oppressing?

A. Nehemiah was in charge: that’s why.  If they turned on him, they would be out.

Q. (Malachi 1:2-5): This does not sound like a loving God.  Why would He make an entire nation a forever enemy?  I hope you can explain this because I am bummed about it and confused.

A. I agree it sounds harsh, but like all nations, Edom can take solace in the light of the Gospel: all nations are redeemed by God’s work in Christ, even the enemies of God’s chosen people (whether in ancient times or today).  Praise God for His great mercy!

O. (1:8-9): I love this!  I have been thinking about giving my best lately.  My Kindergartner came home from school all excited about finding things for a charity drive to give to Haiti orphans.  She was looking for toys that she didn’t want.  I explained to her that that was fine.  If they are in good shape and she doesn’t want them, then giving them away is a great idea.  But, I also told her that God expects us to give our best.  I asked her about some pop beads that she enjoys playing with from time to time.  I told her that I could just imagine a group of girls sitting in a circle playing with them.  I think she got the picture.  She put them in her school bag to donate.  Giving to the orphans is giving to God.

Day 264 (Sept. 21): Israelites settle in Jerusalem, lists of returning priests and Levites, the returning exiles

Welcome to BibleBum where we are exploring the entire Bible in one year to better learn how to follow God’s instructions and discover the purpose for our lives.  The BibleBum blog uses The One Year Chronological Bible, the New Living Translation version.  At the end of each day’s reading, Rob, a cultural history aficionado and seminary graduate, answers questions from Leigh An, the blogger host, about the daily scripture.  To start from the beginning, click on “Index” and select Day 1.

New Living Translation, Biblegateway.com

Nehemiah 11-12:26

The People Occupy Jerusalem

11 The leaders of the people were living in Jerusalem, the holy city. A tenth of the people from the other towns of Judah and Benjamin were chosen by sacred lots to live there, too, while the rest stayed where they were. And the people commended everyone who volunteered to resettle in Jerusalem.

Here is a list of the names of the provincial officials who came to live in Jerusalem. (Most of the people, priests, Levites, Temple servants, and descendants of Solomon’s servants continued to live in their own homes in the various towns of Judah, but some of the people from Judah and Benjamin resettled in Jerusalem.)

From the tribe of Judah:

Athaiah son of Uzziah, son of Zechariah, son of Amariah, son of Shephatiah, son of Mahalalel, of the family of Perez. Also Maaseiah son of Baruch, son of Col-hozeh, son of Hazaiah, son of Adaiah, son of Joiarib, son of Zechariah, of the family of Shelah.[a] There were 468 descendants of Perez who lived in Jerusalem—all outstanding men.

From the tribe of Benjamin:

Sallu son of Meshullam, son of Joed, son of Pedaiah, son of Kolaiah, son of Maaseiah, son of Ithiel, son of Jeshaiah. After him were Gabbai and Sallai and a total of 928 relatives. Their chief officer was Joel son of Zicri, who was assisted by Judah son of Hassenuah, second-in-command over the city.

10 From the priests:

Jedaiah son of Joiarib; Jakin; 11 and Seraiah son of Hilkiah, son of Meshullam, son of Zadok, son of Meraioth, son of Ahitub, the supervisor of the Temple of God. 12 Also 822 of their associates, who worked at the Temple. Also Adaiah son of Jeroham, son of Pelaliah, son of Amzi, son of Zechariah, son of Pashhur, son of Malkijah, 13 along with 242 of his associates, who were heads of their families. Also Amashsai son of Azarel, son of Ahzai, son of Meshillemoth, son of Immer, 14 and 128 of his[b] outstanding associates. Their chief officer was Zabdiel son of Haggedolim.

15 From the Levites:

Shemaiah son of Hasshub, son of Azrikam, son of Hashabiah, son of Bunni. 16 Also Shabbethai and Jozabad, who were in charge of the work outside the Temple of God. 17 Also Mattaniah son of Mica, son of Zabdi, a descendant of Asaph, who led in thanksgiving and prayer. Also Bakbukiah, who was Mattaniah’s assistant, and Abda son of Shammua, son of Galal, son of Jeduthun. 18 In all, there were 284 Levites in the holy city.

19 From the gatekeepers:

Akkub, Talmon, and 172 of their associates, who guarded the gates.

20 The other priests, Levites, and the rest of the Israelites lived wherever their family inheritance was located in any of the towns of Judah. 21 The Temple servants, however, whose leaders were Ziha and Gishpa, all lived on the hill of Ophel.

22 The chief officer of the Levites in Jerusalem was Uzzi son of Bani, son of Hashabiah, son of Mattaniah, son of Mica, a descendant of Asaph, whose family served as singers at God’s Temple. 23 Their daily responsibilities were carried out according to the terms of a royal command.

24 Pethahiah son of Meshezabel, a descendant of Zerah son of Judah, was the royal adviser in all matters of public administration.

25 As for the surrounding villages with their open fields, some of the people of Judah lived in Kiriath-arba with its settlements, Dibon with its settlements, and Jekabzeel with its villages. 26 They also lived in Jeshua, Moladah, Beth-pelet, 27 Hazar-shual, Beersheba with its settlements, 28 Ziklag, and Meconah with its settlements. 29 They also lived in En-rimmon, Zorah, Jarmuth, 30 Zanoah, and Adullam with their surrounding villages. They also lived in Lachish with its nearby fields and Azekah with its surrounding villages. So the people of Judah were living all the way from Beersheba in the south to the valley of Hinnom.

31 Some of the people of Benjamin lived at Geba, Micmash, Aija, and Bethel with its settlements. 32 They also lived in Anathoth, Nob, Ananiah, 33 Hazor, Ramah, Gittaim, 34 Hadid, Zeboim, Neballat, 35 Lod, Ono, and the Valley of Craftsmen.[c] 36 Some of the Levites who lived in Judah were sent to live with the tribe of Benjamin.

A History of the Priests and Levites

The list begins with the priests and Levites who returned to Jerusalem with Zerubbabel in 538 BC (see Ezra 2:1, page 1224) and sweeps down to the time of Nehemiah, ca. 445 BC.

12 Here is the list of the priests and Levites who returned with Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel and Jeshua the high priest:

Seraiah, Jeremiah, Ezra,
Amariah, Malluch, Hattush,
Shecaniah, Harim,[d] Meremoth,
Iddo, Ginnethon,[e] Abijah,
Miniamin, Moadiah,[f] Bilgah,
Shemaiah, Joiarib, Jedaiah,
Sallu, Amok, Hilkiah, and Jedaiah.

These were the leaders of the priests and their associates in the days of Jeshua.

The Levites who returned with them were Jeshua, Binnui, Kadmiel, Sherebiah, Judah, and Mattaniah, who with his associates was in charge of the songs of thanksgiving. Their associates, Bakbukiah and Unni, stood opposite them during the service.

10 Jeshua the high priest was the father of Joiakim.
Joiakim was the father of Eliashib.
Eliashib was the father of Joiada.
11 Joiada was the father of Johanan.[g]
Johanan was the father of Jaddua.

12 Now when Joiakim was high priest, the family leaders of the priests were as follows:

Meraiah was leader of the family of Seraiah.
Hananiah was leader of the family of Jeremiah.
13 Meshullam was leader of the family of Ezra.
Jehohanan was leader of the family of Amariah.
14 Jonathan was leader of the family of Malluch.[h]
Joseph was leader of the family of Shecaniah.[i]
15 Adna was leader of the family of Harim.
Helkai was leader of the family of Meremoth.[j]
16 Zechariah was leader of the family of Iddo.
Meshullam was leader of the family of Ginnethon.
17 Zicri was leader of the family of Abijah.
There was also a[k] leader of the family of Miniamin.
Piltai was leader of the family of Moadiah.
18 Shammua was leader of the family of Bilgah.
Jehonathan was leader of the family of Shemaiah.
19 Mattenai was leader of the family of Joiarib.
Uzzi was leader of the family of Jedaiah.
20 Kallai was leader of the family of Sallu.[l]
Eber was leader of the family of Amok.
21 Hashabiah was leader of the family of Hilkiah.
Nethanel was leader of the family of Jedaiah.

22 A record of the Levite families was kept during the years when Eliashib, Joiada, Johanan, and Jaddua served as high priest. Another record of the priests was kept during the reign of Darius the Persian.[m] 23 A record of the heads of the Levite families was kept in The Book of History down to the days of Johanan, the grandson[n] of Eliashib.

24 These were the family leaders of the Levites: Hashabiah, Sherebiah, Jeshua, Binnui,[o] Kadmiel, and other associates, who stood opposite them during the ceremonies of praise and thanksgiving, one section responding to the other, as commanded by David, the man of God. 25 This included Mattaniah, Bakbukiah, and Obadiah.

Meshullam, Talmon, and Akkub were the gatekeepers in charge of the storerooms at the gates. 26 These all served in the days of Joiakim son of Jeshua, son of Jehozadak,[p] and in the days of Nehemiah the governor and of Ezra the priest and scribe.

1 Chronicles 9:1-34

9 So all Israel was listed in the genealogical records in The Book of the Kings of Israel.

The Returning Exiles

The people of Judah were exiled to Babylon because they were unfaithful to the Lord. The first of the exiles to return to their property in their former towns were priests, Levites, Temple servants, and other Israelites. Some of the people from the tribes of Judah, Benjamin, Ephraim, and Manasseh came and settled in Jerusalem.

One family that returned was that of Uthai son of Ammihud, son of Omri, son of Imri, son of Bani, a descendant of Perez son of Judah.

Others returned from the Shilonite clan, including Asaiah (the oldest) and his sons.

From the Zerahite clan, Jeuel returned with his relatives.

In all, 690 families from the tribe of Judah returned.

From the tribe of Benjamin came Sallu son of Meshullam, son of Hodaviah, son of Hassenuah; Ibneiah son of Jeroham; Elah son of Uzzi, son of Micri; and Meshullam son of Shephatiah, son of Reuel, son of Ibnijah.

These men were all leaders of clans, and they were listed in their genealogical records. In all, 956 families from the tribe of Benjamin returned.

The Returning Priests

10 Among the priests who returned were Jedaiah, Jehoiarib, Jakin, 11 Azariah son of Hilkiah, son of Meshullam, son of Zadok, son of Meraioth, son of Ahitub. Azariah was the chief officer of the house of God.

12 Other returning priests were Adaiah son of Jeroham, son of Pashhur, son of Malkijah, and Maasai son of Adiel, son of Jahzerah, son of Meshullam, son of Meshillemith, son of Immer.

13 In all, 1,760 priests returned. They were heads of clans and very able men. They were responsible for ministering at the house of God.

The Returning Levites

14 The Levites who returned were Shemaiah son of Hasshub, son of Azrikam, son of Hashabiah, a descendant of Merari; 15 Bakbakkar; Heresh; Galal; Mattaniah son of Mica, son of Zicri, son of Asaph; 16 Obadiah son of Shemaiah, son of Galal, son of Jeduthun; and Berekiah son of Asa, son of Elkanah, who lived in the area of Netophah.

17 The gatekeepers who returned were Shallum, Akkub, Talmon, Ahiman, and their relatives. Shallum was the chief gatekeeper. 18 Prior to this time, they were responsible for the King’s Gate on the east side. These men served as gatekeepers for the camps of the Levites. 19 Shallum was the son of Kore, a descendant of Abiasaph,[a] from the clan of Korah. He and his relatives, the Korahites, were responsible for guarding the entrance to the sanctuary, just as their ancestors had guarded the Tabernacle in the camp of the Lord.

20 Phinehas son of Eleazar had been in charge of the gatekeepers in earlier times, and the Lord had been with him. 21 And later Zechariah son of Meshelemiah was responsible for guarding the entrance to the Tabernacle.[b]

22 In all, there were 212 gatekeepers in those days, and they were listed according to the genealogies in their villages. David and Samuel the seer had appointed their ancestors because they were reliable men. 23 These gatekeepers and their descendants, by their divisions, were responsible for guarding the entrance to the house of the Lord when that house was a tent. 24 The gatekeepers were stationed on all four sides—east, west, north, and south. 25 Their relatives in the villages came regularly to share their duties for seven-day periods.

26 The four chief gatekeepers, all Levites, were trusted officials, for they were responsible for the rooms and treasuries at the house of God. 27 They would spend the night around the house of God, since it was their duty to guard it and to open the gates every morning.

28 Some of the gatekeepers were assigned to care for the various articles used in worship. They checked them in and out to avoid any loss. 29 Others were responsible for the furnishings, the items in the sanctuary, and the supplies, such as choice flour, wine, olive oil, frankincense, and spices. 30 But it was the priests who blended the spices. 31 Mattithiah, a Levite and the oldest son of Shallum the Korahite, was entrusted with baking the bread used in the offerings. 32 And some members of the clan of Kohath were in charge of preparing the bread to be set on the table each Sabbath day.

33 The musicians, all prominent Levites, lived at the Temple. They were exempt from other responsibilities since they were on duty at all hours. 34 All these men lived in Jerusalem. They were the heads of Levite families and were listed as prominent leaders in their genealogical records.

∆∆∆

Questions & Observations

Q. Rob, I don’t see anything to comment on.  How about you?

A. Nothing that we have not already covered elsewhere.  Moving on…

Day 262 (Sept. 19): Nehemiah calls for registration of exiles, list of exiled families with a count for each, Israelites settle in their towns, Ezra reads Law of Moses, Nehemiah tells them to celebrate for this sacred day

Welcome to BibleBum where we are exploring the entire Bible in one year to better learn how to follow God’s instructions and discover the purpose for our lives.  The BibleBum blog uses The One Year Chronological Bible, the New Living Translation version.  At the end of each day’s reading, Rob, a cultural history aficionado and seminary graduate, answers questions from Leigh An, the blogger host, about the daily scripture.  To start from the beginning, click on “Index” and select Day 1.

New Living Translation, Biblegateway.com

Nehemiah 7:4-8:12

Nehemiah Registers the People / 445 BC

At that time the city was large and spacious, but the population was small, and none of the houses had been rebuilt. So my God gave me the idea to call together all the nobles and leaders of the city, along with the ordinary citizens, for registration. I had found the genealogical record of those who had first returned to Judah. This is what was written there:

Here is the list of the Jewish exiles of the provinces who returned from their captivity. King Nebuchadnezzar had deported them to Babylon, but now they returned to Jerusalem and the other towns in Judah where they originally lived. Their leaders were Zerubbabel, Jeshua, Nehemiah, Seraiah,[a] Reelaiah,[b] Nahamani, Mordecai, Bilshan, Mispar,[c] Bigvai, Rehum,[d] and Baanah.

This is the number of the men of Israel who returned from exile:

The family of Parosh 2,172
The family of Shephatiah 372
10 The family of Arah 652
11 The family of Pahath-moab (descendants of Jeshua and Joab) 2,818
12 The family of Elam 1,254
13 The family of Zattu 845
14 The family of Zaccai 760
15 The family of Bani[e] 648
16 The family of Bebai 628
17 The family of Azgad 2,322
18 The family of Adonikam 667
19 The family of Bigvai 2,067
20 The family of Adin 655
21 The family of Ater (descendants of Hezekiah) 98
22 The family of Hashum 328
23 The family of Bezai 324
24 The family of Jorah[f] 112
25 The family of Gibbar[g] 95
26 The people of Bethlehem and Netophah 188
27 The people of Anathoth 128
28 The people of Beth-azmaveth 42
29 The people of Kiriath-jearim, Kephirah, and Beeroth 743
30 The people of Ramah and Geba 621
31 The people of Micmash 122
32 The people of Bethel and Ai 123
33 The people of West Nebo[h] 52
34 The citizens of West Elam[i] 1,254
35 The citizens of Harim 320
36 The citizens of Jericho 345
37 The citizens of Lod, Hadid, and Ono 721
38 The citizens of Senaah 3,930

39 These are the priests who returned from exile:

The family of Jedaiah (through the line of Jeshua) 973
40 The family of Immer 1,052
41 The family of Pashhur 1,247
42 The family of Harim 1,017

43 These are the Levites who returned from exile:

The families of Jeshua and Kadmiel (descendants of Hodaviah[j]) 74
44 The singers of the family of Asaph 148
45 The gatekeepers of the families of Shallum, Ater, Talmon, Akkub, Hatita, and Shobai 138

46 The descendants of the following Temple servants returned from exile:

Ziha, Hasupha, Tabbaoth,
47 Keros, Siaha,[k] Padon,
48 Lebanah, Hagabah, Shalmai,
49 Hanan, Giddel, Gahar,
50 Reaiah, Rezin, Nekoda,
51 Gazzam, Uzza, Paseah,
52 Besai, Meunim, Nephusim,[l]
53 Bakbuk, Hakupha, Harhur,
54 Bazluth,[m] Mehida, Harsha,
55 Barkos, Sisera, Temah,
56 Neziah, and Hatipha.

57 The descendants of these servants of King Solomon returned from exile:

Sotai, Hassophereth, Peruda,[n]
58 Jaalah,[o] Darkon, Giddel,
59 Shephatiah, Hattil, Pokereth-hazzebaim, and Ami.[p]

60 In all, the Temple servants and the descendants of Solomon’s servants numbered 392.

61 Another group returned at this time from the towns of Tel-melah, Tel-harsha, Kerub, Addan,[q] and Immer. However, they could not prove that they or their families were descendants of Israel. 62 This group included the families of Delaiah, Tobiah, and Nekoda—a total of 642 people.

63 Three families of priests—Hobaiah, Hakkoz, and Barzillai—also returned. (This Barzillai had married a woman who was a descendant of Barzillai of Gilead, and he had taken her family name.) 64 They searched for their names in the genealogical records, but they were not found, so they were disqualified from serving as priests. 65 The governor told them not to eat the priests’ share of food from the sacrifices until a priest could consult the Lord about the matter by using the Urim and Thummim—the sacred lots.

66 So a total of 42,360 people returned to Judah, 67 in addition to 7,337 servants and 245 singers, both men and women. 68 They took with them 736 horses, 245 mules,[r] 69 435 camels, and 6,720 donkeys.

70 Some of the family leaders gave gifts for the work. The governor gave to the treasury 1,000 gold coins,[s] 50 gold basins, and 530 robes for the priests. 71 The other leaders gave to the treasury a total of 20,000 gold coins[t] and some 2,750 pounds[u] of silver for the work. 72 The rest of the people gave 20,000 gold coins, about 2,500 pounds[v] of silver, and 67 robes for the priests.

73 So the priests, the Levites, the gatekeepers, the singers, the Temple servants, and some of the common people settled near Jerusalem. The rest of the people returned to their own towns throughout Israel.

Ezra Reads the Law / 445 BC

In October,[w] when the Israelites had settled in their towns, 8 all the people assembled with a unified purpose at the square just inside the Water Gate. They asked Ezra the scribe to bring out the Book of the Law of Moses, which the Lord had given for Israel to obey.

So on October 8[x] Ezra the priest brought the Book of the Law before the assembly, which included the men and women and all the children old enough to understand. He faced the square just inside the Water Gate from early morning until noon and read aloud to everyone who could understand. All the people listened closely to the Book of the Law.

Ezra the scribe stood on a high wooden platform that had been made for the occasion. To his right stood Mattithiah, Shema, Anaiah, Uriah, Hilkiah, and Maaseiah. To his left stood Pedaiah, Mishael, Malkijah, Hashum, Hashbaddanah, Zechariah, and Meshullam. Ezra stood on the platform in full view of all the people. When they saw him open the book, they all rose to their feet.

Then Ezra praised the Lord, the great God, and all the people chanted, “Amen! Amen!” as they lifted their hands. Then they bowed down and worshiped the Lord with their faces to the ground.

The Levites—Jeshua, Bani, Sherebiah, Jamin, Akkub, Shabbethai, Hodiah, Maaseiah, Kelita, Azariah, Jozabad, Hanan, and Pelaiah—then instructed the people in the Law while everyone remained in their places. They read from the Book of the Law of God and clearly explained the meaning of what was being read, helping the people understand each passage.

Then Nehemiah the governor, Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who were interpreting for the people said to them, “Don’t mourn or weep on such a day as this! For today is a sacred day before the Lord your God.” For the people had all been weeping as they listened to the words of the Law.

10 And Nehemiah[y] continued, “Go and celebrate with a feast of rich foods and sweet drinks, and share gifts of food with people who have nothing prepared. This is a sacred day before our Lord. Don’t be dejected and sad, for the joy of the Lord is your strength!”

11 And the Levites, too, quieted the people, telling them, “Hush! Don’t weep! For this is a sacred day.” 12 So the people went away to eat and drink at a festive meal, to share gifts of food, and to celebrate with great joy because they had heard God’s words and understood them.

∆∆∆

Questions & Observations

Q. (Nehemiah 7:65): We have talked about casting lots before as a way of asking God to identify or choose.  Can you explain the process in more detail?

A. We covered this way, way back in March (the 28th to be exact, day 87), but I am happy to reexamine the question.  The two stones: seen here: http://www.bibleandscience.com/store/catalog/product_info.php?products_id=29, would have basically served as the “yes” and “no” for questions that the High Priest asked.  In the Joshua story — as we were looking at when we first addressed the topic — we saw that the priest would basically put the question or names on paper, and then cast the two stones towards the question to determine the answer.  That’s basically all there is to it.  It was one of the responsibilities of the High Priest, but both Christians and Jews have moved away from the practice.

Q. (7:66-73a): At first, I thought 42,000 people in one city is a pretty large number.  (I still can’t imagine cities as big as they were back then.  I always imagine small because of the more physical lifestyle and it was just long ago.)  But, when you consider that this was all of the men (not women, children, servants, etc.?), then it’s not much when they scatter throughout all of Israel.

A. The nation was significantly smaller than the size under David or even Joshua, but keep in mind that’s only the people who returned: there were still people, including Jews, there: the king used them to grow crops on his land.

Q. (8:8): Here they say the Book of God.  It’s the same as Book of Moses or Moses’ Law, right?

A. Yes.  Many Jews would still use that title today.

Day 259 (Sept. 16): Enemies of Judah notify King Artaxerxes of Jerusalem’s wall being rebuilt, Artaxerxes orders the building to stop, Ezra arrives in Jerusalem, Artaxerxes supports Ezra, Ezra praises God, list of exiles who go to Jerusalem with Ezra, Ezra inventories Israelites and requests Levites, Israelites fast for God’s favor for protection in their journeys, Israelites arrive and sacrifice burnt offerings

Welcome to BibleBum where we are exploring the entire Bible in one year to better learn how to follow God’s instructions and discover the purpose for our lives.  The BibleBum blog uses The One Year Chronological Bible, the New Living Translation version.  At the end of each day’s reading, Rob, a cultural history aficionado and seminary graduate, answers questions from Leigh An, the blogger host, about the daily scripture.  To start from the beginning, click on “Index” and select Day 1.

New Living Translation, Biblegateway.com

Ezra 4:7-23

Here, we continue with Ezra’s account, which we left following the dedication of the Temple and the celebration of the Passover in 515 BC (see Ezra 6:19-22).

Later Opposition under King Artaxerxes / 464 BC

Even later, during the reign of King Artaxerxes of Persia,[a] the enemies of Judah, led by Bishlam, Mithredath, and Tabeel, sent a letter to Artaxerxes in the Aramaic language, and it was translated for the king.

8 [b]Rehum the governor and Shimshai the court secretary wrote the letter, telling King Artaxerxes about the situation in Jerusalem. They greeted the king for all their colleagues—the judges and local leaders, the people of Tarpel, the Persians, the Babylonians, and the people of Erech and Susa (that is, Elam). 10 They also sent greetings from the rest of the people whom the great and noble Ashurbanipal[c] had deported and relocated in Samaria and throughout the neighboring lands of the province west of the Euphrates River.[d] 11 This is a copy of their letter:

“To King Artaxerxes, from your loyal subjects in the province west of the Euphrates River.

12 “The king should know that the Jews who came here to Jerusalem from Babylon are rebuilding this rebellious and evil city. They have already laid the foundation and will soon finish its walls. 13 And the king should know that if this city is rebuilt and its walls are completed, it will be much to your disadvantage, for the Jews will then refuse to pay their tribute, customs, and tolls to you.

14 “Since we are your loyal subjects[e] and do not want to see the king dishonored in this way, we have sent the king this information. 15 We suggest that a search be made in your ancestors’ records, where you will discover what a rebellious city this has been in the past. In fact, it was destroyed because of its long and troublesome history of revolt against the kings and countries who controlled it. 16 We declare to the king that if this city is rebuilt and its walls are completed, the province west of the Euphrates River will be lost to you.”

17 Then King Artaxerxes sent this reply:

“To Rehum the governor, Shimshai the court secretary, and their colleagues living in Samaria and throughout the province west of the Euphrates River. Greetings.

18 “The letter you sent has been translated and read to me. 19 I ordered a search of the records and have found that Jerusalem has indeed been a hotbed of insurrection against many kings. In fact, rebellion and revolt are normal there! 20 Powerful kings have ruled over Jerusalem and the entire province west of the Euphrates River, receiving tribute, customs, and tolls. 21 Therefore, issue orders to have these men stop their work. That city must not be rebuilt except at my express command. 22 Be diligent, and don’t neglect this matter, for we must not permit the situation to harm the king’s interests.”

23 When this letter from King Artaxerxes was read to Rehum, Shimshai, and their colleagues, they hurried to Jerusalem. Then, with a show of strength, they forced the Jews to stop building.

Ezra 7-8:36

Ezra Arrives in Jerusalem / 458 BC

7 Many years later, during the reign of King Artaxerxes of Persia,[a] there was a man named Ezra. He was the son[b] of Seraiah, son of Azariah, son of Hilkiah, son of Shallum, son of Zadok, son of Ahitub, son of Amariah, son of Azariah, son[c] of Meraioth, son of Zerahiah, son of Uzzi, son of Bukki, son of Abishua, son of Phinehas, son of Eleazar, son of Aaron the high priest.[d] This Ezra was a scribe who was well versed in the Law of Moses, which the Lord, the God of Israel, had given to the people of Israel. He came up to Jerusalem from Babylon, and the king gave him everything he asked for, because the gracious hand of the Lord his God was on him. Some of the people of Israel, as well as some of the priests, Levites, singers, gatekeepers, and Temple servants, traveled up to Jerusalem with him in the seventh year of King Artaxerxes’ reign.

Ezra arrived in Jerusalem in August[e] of that year. He had arranged to leave Babylon on April 8, the first day of the new year,[f] and he arrived at Jerusalem on August 4,[g] for the gracious hand of his God was on him. 10 This was because Ezra had determined to study and obey the Law of the Lord and to teach those decrees and regulations to the people of Israel.

Artaxerxes’ Letter to Ezra / 458 BC

11 King Artaxerxes had given a copy of the following letter to Ezra, the priest and scribe who studied and taught the commands and decrees of the Lord to Israel:

12 [h]“From Artaxerxes, the king of kings, to Ezra the priest, the teacher of the law of the God of heaven. Greetings.

13 “I decree that any of the people of Israel in my kingdom, including the priests and Levites, may volunteer to return to Jerusalem with you. 14 I and my council of seven hereby instruct you to conduct an inquiry into the situation in Judah and Jerusalem, based on your God’s law, which is in your hand. 15 We also commission you to take with you silver and gold, which we are freely presenting as an offering to the God of Israel who lives in Jerusalem.

16 “Furthermore, you are to take any silver and gold that you may obtain from the province of Babylon, as well as the voluntary offerings of the people and the priests that are presented for the Temple of their God in Jerusalem. 17 These donations are to be used specifically for the purchase of bulls, rams, male lambs, and the appropriate grain offerings and liquid offerings, all of which will be offered on the altar of the Temple of your God in Jerusalem. 18 Any silver and gold that is left over may be used in whatever way you and your colleagues feel is the will of your God.

19 “But as for the cups we are entrusting to you for the service of the Temple of your God, deliver them all to the God of Jerusalem. 20 If you need anything else for your God’s Temple or for any similar needs, you may take it from the royal treasury.

21 “I, Artaxerxes the king, hereby send this decree to all the treasurers in the province west of the Euphrates River[i]: ‘You are to give Ezra, the priest and teacher of the law of the God of heaven, whatever he requests of you. 22 You are to give him up to 7,500 pounds[j] of silver, 500 bushels[k] of wheat, 550 gallons of wine, 550 gallons of olive oil,[l] and an unlimited supply of salt. 23 Be careful to provide whatever the God of heaven demands for his Temple, for why should we risk bringing God’s anger against the realm of the king and his sons? 24 I also decree that no priest, Levite, singer, gatekeeper, Temple servant, or other worker in this Temple of God will be required to pay tribute, customs, or tolls of any kind.’

25 “And you, Ezra, are to use the wisdom your God has given you to appoint magistrates and judges who know your God’s laws to govern all the people in the province west of the Euphrates River. Teach the law to anyone who does not know it. 26 Anyone who refuses to obey the law of your God and the law of the king will be punished immediately, either by death, banishment, confiscation of goods, or imprisonment.”

Ezra Praises the Lord / 458 BC

27 Praise the Lord, the God of our ancestors, who made the king want to beautify the Temple of the Lord in Jerusalem! 28 And praise him for demonstrating such unfailing love to me by honoring me before the king, his council, and all his mighty nobles! I felt encouraged because the gracious hand of the Lord my God was on me. And I gathered some of the leaders of Israel to return with me to Jerusalem.

Exiles Who Returned with Ezra / 458 BC

8 Here is a list of the family leaders and the genealogies of those who came with me from Babylon during the reign of King Artaxerxes:

From the family of Phinehas: Gershom.
From the family of Ithamar: Daniel.
From the family of David: Hattush, a descendant of Shecaniah.
From the family of Parosh: Zechariah and 150 other men were registered.
From the family of Pahath-moab: Eliehoenai son of Zerahiah and 200 other men.
From the family of Zattu[m]: Shecaniah son of Jahaziel and 300 other men.
From the family of Adin: Ebed son of Jonathan and 50 other men.
From the family of Elam: Jeshaiah son of Athaliah and 70 other men.
From the family of Shephatiah: Zebadiah son of Michael and 80 other men.
From the family of Joab: Obadiah son of Jehiel and 218 other men.
10 From the family of Bani[n]: Shelomith son of Josiphiah and 160 other men.
11 From the family of Bebai: Zechariah son of Bebai and 28 other men.
12 From the family of Azgad: Johanan son of Hakkatan and 110 other men.
13 From the family of Adonikam, who came later[o]: Eliphelet, Jeuel, Shemaiah, and 60 other men.
14 From the family of Bigvai: Uthai, Zaccur,[p] and 70 other men.

Ezra’s Journey to Jerusalem / 458 BC

15 I assembled the exiles at the Ahava Canal, and we camped there for three days while I went over the lists of the people and the priests who had arrived. I found that not one Levite had volunteered to come along. 16 So I sent for Eliezer, Ariel, Shemaiah, Elnathan, Jarib, Elnathan, Nathan, Zechariah, and Meshullam, who were leaders of the people. I also sent for Joiarib and Elnathan, who were men of discernment. 17 I sent them to Iddo, the leader of the Levites at Casiphia, to ask him and his relatives and the Temple servants to send us ministers for the Temple of God at Jerusalem.

18 Since the gracious hand of our God was on us, they sent us a man named Sherebiah, along with eighteen of his sons and brothers. He was a very astute man and a descendant of Mahli, who was a descendant of Levi son of Israel.[q] 19 They also sent Hashabiah, together with Jeshaiah from the descendants of Merari, and twenty of his sons and brothers, 20 and 220 Temple servants. The Temple servants were assistants to the Levites—a group of Temple workers first instituted by King David and his officials. They were all listed by name.

21 And there by the Ahava Canal, I gave orders for all of us to fast and humble ourselves before our God. We prayed that he would give us a safe journey and protect us, our children, and our goods as we traveled. 22 For I was ashamed to ask the king for soldiers and horsemen[r] to accompany us and protect us from enemies along the way. After all, we had told the king, “Our God’s hand of protection is on all who worship him, but his fierce anger rages against those who abandon him.” 23 So we fasted and earnestly prayed that our God would take care of us, and he heard our prayer.

24 I appointed twelve leaders of the priests—Sherebiah, Hashabiah, and ten other priests— 25 to be in charge of transporting the silver, the gold, the gold bowls, and the other items that the king, his council, his officials, and all the people of Israel had presented for the Temple of God. 26 I weighed the treasure as I gave it to them and found the totals to be as follows:

24 tons[s] of silver,
7,500 pounds[t] of silver articles,
7,500 pounds of gold,
27 20 gold bowls, equal in value to 1,000 gold coins,[u]
2 fine articles of polished bronze, as precious as gold.

28 And I said to these priests, “You and these treasures have been set apart as holy to the Lord. This silver and gold is a voluntary offering to the Lord, the God of our ancestors. 29 Guard these treasures well until you present them to the leading priests, the Levites, and the leaders of Israel, who will weigh them at the storerooms of the Lord’s Temple in Jerusalem.” 30 So the priests and the Levites accepted the task of transporting these treasures of silver and gold to the Temple of our God in Jerusalem.

31 We broke camp at the Ahava Canal on April 19[v] and started off to Jerusalem. And the gracious hand of our God protected us and saved us from enemies and bandits along the way. 32 So we arrived safely in Jerusalem, where we rested for three days.

33 On the fourth day after our arrival, the silver, gold, and other valuables were weighed at the Temple of our God and entrusted to Meremoth son of Uriah the priest and to Eleazar son of Phinehas, along with Jozabad son of Jeshua and Noadiah son of Binnui—both of whom were Levites. 34 Everything was accounted for by number and weight, and the total weight was officially recorded.

35 Then the exiles who had come out of captivity sacrificed burnt offerings to the God of Israel. They presented twelve bulls for all the people of Israel, as well as ninety-six rams and seventy-seven male lambs. They also offered twelve male goats as a sin offering. All this was given as a burnt offering to the Lord. 36 The king’s decrees were delivered to his highest officers and the governors of the province west of the Euphrates River,[w] who then cooperated by supporting the people and the Temple of God.

∆∆∆

Questions & Observations

Q. (Ezra 4:7): Xerxes and Artaxerxes are two different kings, right?  But, they both ruled over Persia.  Was there anyone ruling over Jerusalem, like in Jerusalem, not from someone having power over them from afar?

A. They are different kings: Artaxerxes is the son of Xerxes (Artaxerxes’ name means “rule from Xerxes”).  There would have been a ruler (what we might call a governor) of the region of Samaria, who controlled the entire region on behalf of the king.  He will come into play in a larger role when we move to Nehemiah.

Q. (7:6): Who is the king that gave Ezra everything he asked for.  Artaxerxes, right?

A. Yes.  Xerxes is dead at this point.

Q. (7:11-26): I’m trying to figure out what is going on here.  Is Artaxerxes is two-faced?  In Ezra 4:18-22, Artaxerxes orders Jerusalem to stop the building of their wall.  But, in 7:11-26, he is telling Ezra to take anything he needs for the temple and worshipping God.  Another point I would like to talk about is that Artaxerxes respects God’s authority, yet he does not choose to worship God.  Why don’t these other nations who recognize God’s power choose Him as their god?

A. The real threat here, as best I understand the story, is the walls.  That appears to be the focus of the king and Israel’s enemies: if Jerusalem has a rebuilt wall, it will become powerful again, which could be dangerous.  So when Ezra is given his marching orders to bring people back, note that no provision is made for rebuilding the walls, but instead to make worship at the temple.  It will not be until Nehemiah joins the party that we see the king truly change his mind and order it to be rebuilt.  It appears Artaxerxes’ real concern is offending the Jews’ God.  As to why he (and other foreign kings) do not worship God while showing Him respect (of sorts), it most likely has to do with their understanding of gods controlling particular cities or regions.  The idea of one God ruling everything does not appear to be on their radar.  So while they pay lip service to God’s power, they still don’t really think of Him as THEIR God.

Q. (8:15): Any idea why there weren’t any Levites?

A. No idea I’m afraid.

Q. (8:18-19): Why was it so important to keep Temple tasks in line with family origins?  For example, why couldn’t a non-Levite become a priest?  There are other examples, like the tribe that protected the Temple at the gates.  And, why is it important to say someone’s name with who their descendant was?  Was it a reference of character, just to note “for the record,” or what?

A. Since God was the one who ordained that only Levites could serve in the temple (and only a subset of them could be priests), He’s the one you can “blame” for the lack of non-Levite priests.  Don’t forget, that’s what got the people of the Northern Kingdom in a lot of trouble: they were using unauthorized priests because the true Levites wouldn’t participate and went to Judah.  As to the family lines: heritage was EVERYTHING to these people: your only value in such a society at this time was because of who your family was, whether good or bad.  A family name was paramount, as it still is in places in the world today.

Q. (8:21-23): This scripture is great for me.  I was just pondering and doubting my resolve with this very issue.  Here, Ezra and crew were worried about traveling a long way without soldiers and horses for fear of being attacked.  It’s great to see how “human” this scripture is.  I think of so many Bible heroes, Ezra appears that he is one this far, and how humble they are before the Lord.  They have fears and doubts like we do today, but they have courage and stick to God.  At BCL — a weekly live performance at our church (where kids and parents learn about God together) — they were talking about courage.  Courage to let God take over the life that I have known for 40-plus years and letting go of it is hard.  Our interests, traits, the way we do things, etc. are learned or develop over time out of habit.  And mine were not all born from God.  I, and my “family” (meaning family, friends, co-workers, really my whole world down to the teachers I had and the tv shows I watch) created my life.  Luckily, God was in it too.  But, my point is, I created who I am, without referring to God’s word or asking Him.  So, I need to repent myself and erase those things from my blackboard that are not Godly.  I’m going to bring in some shame here.  I snack while I’m doing these blogs many times as a nervous habit, to stay awake, just something to do.  In the last 3 years I have gained 10 pounds which really bugs me.  But, munching while blogging hardly seems a sin, but it is.  I need to ask God for help with that.  I also have a problem with thinking people are against me, unfriendly or spiteful without giving them a chance.  That is at my core for some reason.  Must come from my childhood.  But, I am combatting that bad personality trait fairly fast.  Rather, God is helping me combat that.  I also have doubts, like Ezra, that God will take care of me.  Yesterday, we had a full day at a theme park.  So, I thought we should go to the later church service today to let my daughter get enough rest.  But, she is shy and her friends are at the first service.  I just blurted out in my head, “I’m not going to worry about it, God’s got it.”  To my surprise, another one of her friends showed up with her twin little sisters so both my girls had friends they knew in church today.  What a surprise.  And then, there was a bonus.  We talked to them later and figured out some other families we can invite into our small group.  My point is, there is darkness and doubt in our everyday lives — be that it may seem small — that can overtake our day.  If we just let God handle it, it really feels like a big weight off of your shoulders and you get lifted up!  So these ill feelings that these bad habits cause is a huge hint that they are not godly.  And, I should repent and turn them over to God.  They seem so innocent that it shouldn’t matter, but they really do interfere with my happiness.

A. The Bible is quite frank about the shortcomings of many of its characters, and I think that provides a good model for us.  When we see how human many of these people really are (they act in cowardly manners, they fail repeatedly, etc.), we can see the ways that God works with them and through them — sometimes using their very faults in the process — to redeem their lives and the lives of others.  The Bible is quite clear on who is ultimately good, and it is not us.  We will see lots of examples of this in the NT.

Q. (8:33): I don’t ever remember the weight of the offerings as being important.

A. They were making sure that nothing was stolen on the long journey to the Holy Land.

O. (8:35): How wonderful it must have been for the Israelites to be together again and starting anew by worshipping God.

Day 252 (Sept. 9): Exiles who returned to Israel with Zerubbabel, altar is rebuilt, people begin to rebuild temple but face opposition, Zerubbabel’s descendants

Welcome to BibleBum where we are exploring the entire Bible in one year to better learn how to follow God’s instructions and discover the purpose for our lives.  The BibleBum blog uses The One Year Chronological Bible, the New Living Translation version.  At the end of each day’s reading, Rob, a cultural history aficionado and seminary graduate, answers questions from Leigh An, the blogger host, about the daily scripture.  To start from the beginning, click on “Index” and select Day 1.

New Living Translation, Biblegateway.com

Ezra 2-4:5

Exiles Who Returned with Zerubbabel / 538 BC

2 Here is the list of the Jewish exiles of the provinces who returned from their captivity. King Nebuchadnezzar had deported them to Babylon, but now they returned to Jerusalem and the other towns in Judah where they originally lived. 2 Their leaders were Zerubbabel, Jeshua, Nehemiah, Seraiah, Reelaiah, Mordecai, Bilshan, Mispar, Bigvai, Rehum, and Baanah.

This is the number of the men of Israel who returned from exile:

3 The family of Parosh  2,172

4 The family of Shephatiah  372

5 The family of Arah  775

6 The family of Pahath-moab (descendants of Jeshua and Joab)  2,812

7 The family of Elam  1,254

8 The family of Zattu  945

9 The family of Zaccai  760

10 The family of Bani  642

11 The family of Bebai  623

12 The family of Azgad  1,222

13 The family of Adonikam  666

14 The family of Bigvai  2,056

15 The family of Adin  454

16 The family of Ater (descendants of Hezekiah)  98

17 The family of Bezai  323

18 The family of Jorah  112

19 The family of Hashum  223

20 The family of Gibbar  95

21 The people of Bethlehem  123

22 The people of Netophah  56

23 The people of Anathoth  128

24 The people of Beth-azmaveth[a]  42

25 The people of Kiriath-jearim,[b] Kephirah, and Beeroth  743

26 The people of Ramah and Geba  621

27 The people of Micmash  122

28 The people of Bethel and Ai  223

29 The citizens of Nebo  52

30 The citizens of Magbish  156

31 The citizens of West Elam[c]  1,254

32 The citizens of Harim  320

33 The citizens of Lod, Hadid, and Ono  725

34 The citizens of Jericho  345

35 The citizens of Senaah  3,630

36 These are the priests who returned from exile:

The family of Jedaiah (through the line of Jeshua)  973

37 The family of Immer  1,052

38 The family of Pashhur  1,247

39 The family of Harim  1,017

40 These are the Levites who returned from exile:

The families of Jeshua and Kadmiel (descendants of Hodaviah)  74

41 The singers of the family of Asaph  128

42 The gatekeepers of the families of Shallum, Ater, Talmon, Akkub, Hatita, and Shobai  139

43 The descendants of the following Temple servants returned from exile:

Ziha, Hasupha, Tabbaoth,
44 Keros, Siaha, Padon,
45 Lebanah, Hagabah, Akkub,
46 Hagab, Shalmai,[d] Hanan,
47 Giddel, Gahar, Reaiah,
48 Rezin, Nekoda, Gazzam,
49 Uzza, Paseah, Besai,
50 Asnah, Meunim, Nephusim,
51 Bakbuk, Hakupha, Harhur,
52 Bazluth, Mehida, Harsha,
53 Barkos, Sisera, Temah,
54 Neziah, and Hatipha.

55 The descendants of these servants of King Solomon returned from exile:

Sotai, Hassophereth, Peruda,
56 Jaalah, Darkon, Giddel,
57 Shephatiah, Hattil, Pokereth-hazzebaim, and Ami.

58 In all, the Temple servants and the descendants of Solomon’s servants numbered 392.

59 Another group returned at this time from the towns of Tel-melah, Tel-harsha, Kerub, Addan, and Immer. However, they could not prove that they or their families were descendants of Israel. 60 This group included the families of Delaiah, Tobiah, and Nekoda—a total of 652 people.

61 Three families of priests—Hobaiah, Hakkoz, and Barzillai—also returned. (This Barzillai had married a woman who was a descendant of Barzillai of Gilead, and he had taken her family name.) 62 They searched for their names in the genealogical records, but they were not found, so they were disqualified from serving as priests. 63 The governor told them not to eat the priests’ share of food from the sacrifices until a priest could consult the Lord about the matter by using the Urim and Thummim—the sacred lots.

64 So a total of 42,360 people returned to Judah, 65 in addition to 7,337 servants and 200 singers, both men and women. 66 They took with them 736 horses, 245 mules, 67 435 camels, and 6,720 donkeys.

68 When they arrived at the Temple of the Lord in Jerusalem, some of the family leaders made voluntary offerings toward the rebuilding of God’s Temple on its original site, 69 and each leader gave as much as he could. The total of their gifts came to 61,000 gold coins,[e] 6,250 pounds[f] of silver, and 100 robes for the priests.

70 So the priests, the Levites, the singers, the gatekeepers, the Temple servants, and some of the common people settled in villages near Jerusalem. The rest of the people returned to their own towns throughout Israel.

The Altar Is Rebuilt / 538 BC

3 In early autumn,[g] when the Israelites had settled in their towns, all the people assembled in Jerusalem with a unified purpose. 2 Then Jeshua son of Jehozadak[h] joined his fellow priests and Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel with his family in rebuilding the altar of the God of Israel. They wanted to sacrifice burnt offerings on it, as instructed in the Law of Moses, the man of God. 3 Even though the people were afraid of the local residents, they rebuilt the altar at its old site. Then they began to sacrifice burnt offerings on the altar to the Lord each morning and evening.

4 They celebrated the Festival of Shelters as prescribed in the Law, sacrificing the number of burnt offerings specified for each day of the festival. 5 They also offered the regular burnt offerings and the offerings required for the new moon celebrations and the annual festivals as prescribed by the Lord. The people also gave voluntary offerings to the Lord. 6 Fifteen days before the Festival of Shelters began,[i] the priests had begun to sacrifice burnt offerings to the Lord. This was even before they had started to lay the foundation of the Lord’s Temple.

The People Begin to Rebuild the Temple / 537 BC

7 Then the people hired masons and carpenters and bought cedar logs from the people of Tyre and Sidon, paying them with food, wine, and olive oil. The logs were brought down from the Lebanon mountains and floated along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea[j] to Joppa, for King Cyrus had given permission for this.

8 The construction of the Temple of God began in midspring,[k] during the second year after they arrived in Jerusalem. The work force was made up of everyone who had returned from exile, including Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, Jeshua son of Jehozadak and his fellow priests, and all the Levites. The Levites who were twenty years old or older were put in charge of rebuilding the Lord’s Temple. 9 The workers at the Temple of God were supervised by Jeshua with his sons and relatives, and Kadmiel and his sons, all descendants of Hodaviah.[l] They were helped in this task by the Levites of the family of Henadad.

10 When the builders completed the foundation of the Lord’s Temple, the priests put on their robes and took their places to blow their trumpets. And the Levites, descendants of Asaph, clashed their cymbals to praise the Lord, just as King David had prescribed. 11 With praise and thanks, they sang this song to the Lord:

“He is so good!
His faithful love for Israel endures forever!”

Then all the people gave a great shout, praising the Lord because the foundation of the Lord’s Temple had been laid.

12 But many of the older priests, Levites, and other leaders who had seen the first Temple wept aloud when they saw the new Temple’s foundation. The others, however, were shouting for joy. 13 The joyful shouting and weeping mingled together in a loud noise that could be heard far in the distance.

Enemies Oppose the Rebuilding

4 The enemies of Judah and Benjamin heard that the exiles were rebuilding a Temple to the Lord, the God of Israel. 2 So they approached Zerubbabel and the other leaders and said, “Let us build with you, for we worship your God just as you do. We have sacrificed to him ever since King Esarhaddon of Assyria brought us here.”

3 But Zerubbabel, Jeshua, and the other leaders of Israel replied, “You may have no part in this work. We alone will build the Temple for the Lord, the God of Israel, just as King Cyrus of Persia commanded us.”

4 Then the local residents tried to discourage and frighten the people of Judah to keep them from their work. 5 They bribed agents to work against them and to frustrate their plans. This went on during the entire reign of King Cyrus of Persia and lasted until King Darius of Persia took the throne.[m]

1 Chronicles 3:19-24

19 The sons of Pedaiah were Zerubbabel and Shimei.

The sons of Zerubbabel were Meshullam and Hananiah. (Their sister was Shelomith.) 20 His five other sons were Hashubah, Ohel, Berekiah, Hasadiah, and Jushab-hesed.

21 The sons of Hananiah were Pelatiah and Jeshaiah. Jeshaiah’s son was Rephaiah. Rephaiah’s son was Arnan. Arnan’s son was Obadiah. Obadiah’s son was Shecaniah.

22 The descendants of Shecaniah were Shemaiah and his sons, Hattush, Igal, Bariah, Neariah, and Shaphat—six in all.

23 The sons of Neariah were Elioenai, Hizkiah, and Azrikam—three in all.

24 The sons of Elioenai were Hodaviah, Eliashib, Pelaiah, Akkub, Johanan, Delaiah, and Anani—seven in all.

∆∆∆

Questions & Observations

O. If you are curious about who Ezra is, go to: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ezra

Q. (Ezra 2:1-70): How did all of these exiles know to return?

A. As the first chapter of Ezra noted, the decree from Cyrus went out among his entire empire, so the Jews likely received notice either by messenger or by public posting of the decree.  It appears that the Jews in the story were quite prepared for this event, as they appear to have kept land records and family genealogies that helped them settle claims and redistribute the recovered land.

Q. (3:12): The ones who had seen the old Temple wept when they saw the new Temple because they were reminded of it’s grandeur and felt ashamed for not upholding the law to honor God?

A. Yes, and for all of the anguish the people had been through.  No doubt they were grateful for God’s provision and restoration, but they could not hold back the tears in crying aloud for their former glory.

Q. (4:4-5): Why did the local residents discourage the Judeans from building the Temple?

A. The area that had been the Jewish Promised Land was now controlled by a number of outside forces that centered in the region of Samaria (part of the Northern Kingdom that was destroyed by the Assyrians).  Having a Jewish state with any sort of clout (which the Temple would certainly provide) would be a threat to their rule, so they were opposed to this move.  We will see more about this in Nehemiah, which these same forces would oppose his efforts to rebuild the wall around the city.

Q. (1 Chronicles 3:19b-24): Is there anything in these family lines we need to make note of?

A. Other than them being lines of David’s distant descendants (via Jehoiachin), not really.

Day 123 (May 3): Levites cast lots to find out temple duties

I’m so sorry for the late post.  Please forgive me.

Welcome to BibleBum where we are exploring the entire Bible in one year to better learn how to follow God’s instructions and discover the purpose for our lives.  The BibleBum blog uses The One Year Chronological Bible, the New Living Translation version.  At the end of each day’s reading, Rob, a cultural history aficionado and seminary graduate, answers questions from Leigh An, the blogger host, about the daily scripture.  To start from the beginning, click on “Index” and select Day 1.

Day 123 (May 3)

New Living Translation, Biblegateway.com

1 Chronicles 23-25

Duties of the Levites

23 When David was an old man, he appointed his son Solomon to be king over Israel. David summoned all the leaders of Israel, together with the priests and Levites. All the Levites who were thirty years old or older were counted, and the total came to 38,000. Then David said, “From all the Levites, 24,000 will supervise the work at the Temple of the Lord. Another 6,000 will serve as officials and judges. Another 4,000 will work as gatekeepers, and 4,000 will praise the Lord with the musical instruments I have made.” Then David divided the Levites into divisions named after the clans descended from the three sons of Levi—Gershon, Kohath, and Merari.

The Gershonites

The Gershonite family units were defined by their lines of descent from Libni[a] and Shimei, the sons of Gershon. Three of the descendants of Libni were Jehiel (the family leader), Zetham, and Joel. These were the leaders of the family of Libni.

Three of the descendants of Shimei were Shelomoth, Haziel, and Haran. 10 Four other descendants of Shimei were Jahath, Ziza,[b] Jeush, and Beriah. 11 Jahath was the family leader, and Ziza was next. Jeush and Beriah were counted as a single family because neither had many sons.

The Kohathites

12 Four of the descendants of Kohath were Amram, Izhar, Hebron, and Uzziel.

13 The sons of Amram were Aaron and Moses. Aaron and his descendants were set apart to dedicate the most holy things, to offer sacrifices in the Lord’s presence, to serve the Lord, and to pronounce blessings in his name forever.

14 As for Moses, the man of God, his sons were included with the tribe of Levi. 15 The sons of Moses were Gershom and Eliezer. 16 The descendants of Gershom included Shebuel, the family leader. 17 Eliezer had only one son, Rehabiah, the family leader. Rehabiah had numerous descendants.

18 The descendants of Izhar included Shelomith, the family leader.

19 The descendants of Hebron included Jeriah (the family leader), Amariah (the second), Jahaziel (the third), and Jekameam (the fourth).

20 The descendants of Uzziel included Micah (the family leader) and Isshiah (the second).

The Merarites

21 The descendants of Merari included Mahli and Mushi.

The sons of Mahli were Eleazar and Kish. 22 Eleazar died with no sons, only daughters. His daughters married their cousins, the sons of Kish.

23 Three of the descendants of Mushi were Mahli, Eder, and Jerimoth.

24 These were the descendants of Levi by clans, the leaders of their family groups, registered carefully by name. Each had to be twenty years old or older to qualify for service in the house of the Lord. 25 For David said, “The Lord, the God of Israel, has given us peace, and he will always live in Jerusalem. 26 Now the Levites will no longer need to carry the Tabernacle and its furnishings from place to place.” 27 In accordance with David’s final instructions, all the Levites twenty years old or older were registered for service.

28 The work of the Levites was to assist the priests, the descendants of Aaron, as they served at the house of the Lord. They also took care of the courtyards and side rooms, helped perform the ceremonies of purification, and served in many other ways in the house of God. 29 They were in charge of the sacred bread that was set out on the table, the choice flour for the grain offerings, the wafers made without yeast, the cakes cooked in olive oil, and the other mixed breads. They were also responsible to check all the weights and measures. 30 And each morning and evening they stood before the Lord to sing songs of thanks and praise to him. 31 They assisted with the burnt offerings that were presented to the Lord on Sabbath days, at new moon celebrations, and at all the appointed festivals. The required number of Levites served in the Lord’s presence at all times, following all the procedures they had been given.

32 And so, under the supervision of the priests, the Levites watched over the Tabernacle and the Temple[c] and faithfully carried out their duties of service at the house of the Lord.

Duties of the Priests

24 This is how Aaron’s descendants, the priests, were divided into groups for service. The sons of Aaron were Nadab, Abihu, Eleazar, and Ithamar. But Nadab and Abihu died before their father, and they had no sons. So only Eleazar and Ithamar were left to carry on as priests.

With the help of Zadok, who was a descendant of Eleazar, and of Ahimelech, who was a descendant of Ithamar, David divided Aaron’s descendants into groups according to their various duties. Eleazar’s descendants were divided into sixteen groups and Ithamar’s into eight, for there were more family leaders among the descendants of Eleazar.

All tasks were assigned to the various groups by means of sacred lots so that no preference would be shown, for there were many qualified officials serving God in the sanctuary from among the descendants of both Eleazar and Ithamar. Shemaiah son of Nethanel, a Levite, acted as secretary and wrote down the names and assignments in the presence of the king, the officials, Zadok the priest, Ahimelech son of Abiathar, and the family leaders of the priests and Levites. The descendants of Eleazar and Ithamar took turns casting lots.

The first lot fell to Jehoiarib.
The second lot fell to Jedaiah.
The third lot fell to Harim.
The fourth lot fell to Seorim.
The fifth lot fell to Malkijah.
The sixth lot fell to Mijamin.
10 The seventh lot fell to Hakkoz.
The eighth lot fell to Abijah.
11 The ninth lot fell to Jeshua.
The tenth lot fell to Shecaniah.
12 The eleventh lot fell to Eliashib.
The twelfth lot fell to Jakim.
13 The thirteenth lot fell to Huppah.
The fourteenth lot fell to Jeshebeab.
14 The fifteenth lot fell to Bilgah.
The sixteenth lot fell to Immer.
15 The seventeenth lot fell to Hezir.
The eighteenth lot fell to Happizzez.
16 The nineteenth lot fell to Pethahiah.
The twentieth lot fell to Jehezkel.
17 The twenty-first lot fell to Jakin.
The twenty-second lot fell to Gamul.
18 The twenty-third lot fell to Delaiah.
The twenty-fourth lot fell to Maaziah.

19 Each group carried out its appointed duties in the house of the Lord according to the procedures established by their ancestor Aaron in obedience to the commands of the Lord, the God of Israel.

Family Leaders among the Levites

20 These were the other family leaders descended from Levi:

From the descendants of Amram, the leader was Shebuel.[d]
From the descendants of Shebuel, the leader was Jehdeiah.
21 From the descendants of Rehabiah, the leader was Isshiah.
22 From the descendants of Izhar, the leader was Shelomith.[e]
From the descendants of Shelomith, the leader was Jahath.
23 From the descendants of Hebron, Jeriah was the leader,[f] Amariah was second, Jahaziel was third, and Jekameam was fourth.
24 From the descendants of Uzziel, the leader was Micah.
From the descendants of Micah, the leader was Shamir, 25 along with Isshiah, the brother of Micah.
From the descendants of Isshiah, the leader was Zechariah.
26 From the descendants of Merari, the leaders were Mahli and Mushi.
From the descendants of Jaaziah, the leader was Beno.
27 From the descendants of Merari through Jaaziah, the leaders were Beno, Shoham, Zaccur, and Ibri.
28 From the descendants of Mahli, the leader was Eleazar, though he had no sons.
29 From the descendants of Kish, the leader was Jerahmeel.
30 From the descendants of Mushi, the leaders were Mahli, Eder, and Jerimoth.

These were the descendants of Levi in their various families. 31 Like the descendants of Aaron, they were assigned to their duties by means of sacred lots, without regard to age or rank. Lots were drawn in the presence of King David, Zadok, Ahimelech, and the family leaders of the priests and the Levites.

Duties of the Musicians

25 David and the army commanders then appointed men from the families of Asaph, Heman, and Jeduthun to proclaim God’s messages to the accompaniment of lyres, harps, and cymbals. Here is a list of their names and their work:

From the sons of Asaph, there were Zaccur, Joseph, Nethaniah, and Asarelah. They worked under the direction of their father, Asaph, who proclaimed God’s messages by the king’s orders.

From the sons of Jeduthun, there were Gedaliah, Zeri, Jeshaiah, Shimei,[g] Hashabiah, and Mattithiah, six in all. They worked under the direction of their father, Jeduthun, who proclaimed God’s messages to the accompaniment of the lyre, offering thanks and praise to the Lord.

From the sons of Heman, there were Bukkiah, Mattaniah, Uzziel, Shubael,[h] Jerimoth, Hananiah, Hanani, Eliathah, Giddalti, Romamti-ezer, Joshbekashah, Mallothi, Hothir, and Mahazioth. All these were the sons of Heman, the king’s seer, for God had honored him with fourteen sons and three daughters.

All these men were under the direction of their fathers as they made music at the house of the Lord. Their responsibilities included the playing of cymbals, harps, and lyres at the house of God. Asaph, Jeduthun, and Heman reported directly to the king. They and their families were all trained in making music before the Lord, and each of them—288 in all—was an accomplished musician. The musicians were appointed to their term of service by means of sacred lots, without regard to whether they were young or old, teacher or student.

The first lot fell to Joseph of the Asaph clan and twelve of his sons and relatives.[i]
The second lot fell to Gedaliah and twelve of his sons and relatives.
10 The third lot fell to Zaccur and twelve of his sons and relatives.
11 The fourth lot fell to Zeri[j] and twelve of his sons and relatives.
12 The fifth lot fell to Nethaniah and twelve of his sons and relatives.
13 The sixth lot fell to Bukkiah and twelve of his sons and relatives.
14 The seventh lot fell to Asarelah[k] and twelve of his sons and relatives.
15 The eighth lot fell to Jeshaiah and twelve of his sons and relatives.
16 The ninth lot fell to Mattaniah and twelve of his sons and relatives.
17 The tenth lot fell to Shimei and twelve of his sons and relatives.
18 The eleventh lot fell to Uzziel[l] and twelve of his sons and relatives.
19 The twelfth lot fell to Hashabiah and twelve of his sons and relatives.
20 The thirteenth lot fell to Shubael and twelve of his sons and relatives.
21 The fourteenth lot fell to Mattithiah and twelve of his sons and relatives.
22 The fifteenth lot fell to Jerimoth[m] and twelve of his sons and relatives.
23 The sixteenth lot fell to Hananiah and twelve of his sons and relatives.
24 The seventeenth lot fell to Joshbekashah[n] and twelve of his sons and relatives.
25 The eighteenth lot fell to Hanani and twelve of his sons and relatives.
26 The nineteenth lot fell to Mallothi and twelve of his sons and relatives.
27 The twentieth lot fell to Eliathah and twelve of his sons and relatives.
28 The twenty-first lot fell to Hothir and twelve of his sons and relatives.
29 The twenty-second lot fell to Giddalti and twelve of his sons and relatives.
30 The twenty-third lot fell to Mahazioth and twelve of his sons and relatives.
31 The twenty-fourth lot fell to Romamti-ezer and twelve of his sons and relatives.

∆ ∆ ∆

Questions & Observations

Q. (1 Chronicles 23:25): What does it mean when David said that The Lord will always live in Jerusalem?

A. When the temple that David has been planning for is built by his son Solomon, it will become the final location for the Ark and therefore God’s presence.

Q. (1 Chronicles 24:6): What does “casting lots” mean?

A. It’s the same thing we’ve been looking at before: the use of the Urim and Thummim to determine God’s will.  They were “cast” or thrown as a kind of “yes” or “no” answer.

Q. (1 Chronicles 23-25): Today’s reading is primarily for record-keeping?  One thought that comes to mind is why is there so much work in the temple?  Of course, I am judging this in today’s standards where you go to church with 30-10,000 people depending on the size of the building.  But, when you have hundreds of thousands of worshippers, the duties would be multiplied.  And, this is no basic church, it is where the Ark rests.

A. Yes, it is pointing out two important aspects of ministry for the various priests: care for the temple and ministries of worship on behalf of the king and royal family.  Those tasks would have required plenty of labor, so it is not really a surprise to me that there were a lot of priestly families involved.

Day 88 (March 29): Joshua’s land, cities of refuge, Levites territory

Welcome to BibleBum where we are exploring the entire Bible in one year to better learn how to follow God’s instructions and discover the purpose for our lives.  The BibleBum blog uses The One Year Chronological Bible, the New Living Translation version.  At the end of each day’s reading, Rob, a cultural history aficionado and seminary graduate, answers questions from Leigh An, the blogger host, about the daily scripture.  To start from the beginning, click on “Index” and select Day 1.  Take the challenge.  You won’t regret it.

New Living Translation, Biblegateway.com

Joshua 19:49-21:45

The Land Given to Joshua

49 After all the land was divided among the tribes, the Israelites gave a piece of land to Joshua as his allocation. 50 For the Lord had said he could have any town he wanted. He chose Timnath-serah in the hill country of Ephraim. He rebuilt the town and lived there.

51 These are the territories that Eleazar the priest, Joshua son of Nun, and the tribal leaders allocated as grants of land to the tribes of Israel by casting sacred lots in the presence of the Lord at the entrance of the Tabernacle[a] at Shiloh. So the division of the land was completed.

The Cities of Refuge

20 The Lord said to Joshua, “Now tell the Israelites to designate the cities of refuge, as I instructed Moses. Anyone who kills another person accidentally and unintentionally can run to one of these cities; they will be places of refuge from relatives seeking revenge for the person who was killed.

“Upon reaching one of these cities, the one who caused the death will appear before the elders at the city gate and present his case. They must allow him to enter the city and give him a place to live among them. If the relatives of the victim come to avenge the killing, the leaders must not release the slayer to them, for he killed the other person unintentionally and without previous hostility. But the slayer must stay in that city and be tried by the local assembly, which will render a judgment. And he must continue to live in that city until the death of the high priest who was in office at the time of the accident. After that, he is free to return to his own home in the town from which he fled.”

The following cities were designated as cities of refuge: Kedesh of Galilee, in the hill country of Naphtali; Shechem, in the hill country of Ephraim; and Kiriath-arba (that is, Hebron), in the hill country of Judah. On the east side of the Jordan River, across from Jericho, the following cities were designated: Bezer, in the wilderness plain of the tribe of Reuben; Ramoth in Gilead, in the territory of the tribe of Gad; and Golan in Bashan, in the land of the tribe of Manasseh. These cities were set apart for all the Israelites as well as the foreigners living among them. Anyone who accidentally killed another person could take refuge in one of these cities. In this way, they could escape being killed in revenge prior to standing trial before the local assembly.

The Towns Given to the Levites

21 Then the leaders of the tribe of Levi came to consult with Eleazar the priest, Joshua son of Nun, and the leaders of the other tribes of Israel. They came to them at Shiloh in the land of Canaan and said, “The Lord commanded Moses to give us towns to live in and pasturelands for our livestock.” So by the command of the Lord the people of Israel gave the Levites the following towns and pasturelands out of their own grants of land.

The descendants of Aaron, who were members of the Kohathite clan within the tribe of Levi, were allotted thirteen towns that were originally assigned to the tribes of Judah, Simeon, and Benjamin. The other families of the Kohathite clan were allotted ten towns from the tribes of Ephraim, Dan, and the half-tribe of Manasseh.

The clan of Gershon was allotted thirteen towns from the tribes of Issachar, Asher, Naphtali, and the half-tribe of Manasseh in Bashan.

The clan of Merari was allotted twelve towns from the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and Zebulun.

So the Israelites obeyed the Lord’s command to Moses and assigned these towns and pasturelands to the Levites by casting sacred lots.

The Israelites gave the following towns from the tribes of Judah and Simeon 10 to the descendants of Aaron, who were members of the Kohathite clan within the tribe of Levi, since the sacred lot fell to them first: 11 Kiriath-arba (that is, Hebron), in the hill country of Judah, along with its surrounding pasturelands. (Arba was an ancestor of Anak.) 12 But the open fields beyond the town and the surrounding villages were given to Caleb son of Jephunneh as his possession.

13 The following towns with their pasturelands were given to the descendants of Aaron the priest: Hebron (a city of refuge for those who accidentally killed someone), Libnah, 14 Jattir, Eshtemoa, 15 Holon, Debir, 16 Ain, Juttah, and Beth-shemesh—nine towns from these two tribes.

17 From the tribe of Benjamin the priests were given the following towns with their pasturelands: Gibeon, Geba, 18 Anathoth, and Almon—four towns. 19 So in all, thirteen towns with their pasturelands were given to the priests, the descendants of Aaron.

20 The rest of the Kohathite clan from the tribe of Levi was allotted the following towns and pasturelands from the tribe of Ephraim: 21 Shechem in the hill country of Ephraim (a city of refuge for those who accidentally killed someone), Gezer, 22 Kibzaim, and Beth-horon—four towns.

23 The following towns and pasturelands were allotted to the priests from the tribe of Dan: Eltekeh, Gibbethon, 24 Aijalon, and Gath-rimmon—four towns.

25 The half-tribe of Manasseh allotted the following towns with their pasturelands to the priests: Taanach and Gath-rimmon—two towns. 26 So in all, ten towns with their pasturelands were given to the rest of the Kohathite clan.

27 The descendants of Gershon, another clan within the tribe of Levi, received the following towns with their pasturelands from the half-tribe of Manasseh: Golan in Bashan (a city of refuge for those who accidentally killed someone) and Be-eshterah—two towns.

28 From the tribe of Issachar they received the following towns with their pasturelands: Kishion, Daberath, 29 Jarmuth, and En-gannim—four towns.

30 From the tribe of Asher they received the following towns with their pasturelands: Mishal, Abdon, 31 Helkath, and Rehob—four towns.

32 From the tribe of Naphtali they received the following towns with their pasturelands: Kedesh in Galilee (a city of refuge for those who accidentally killed someone), Hammoth-dor, and Kartan—three towns. 33 So in all, thirteen towns with their pasturelands were allotted to the clan of Gershon.

34 The rest of the Levites—the Merari clan—were given the following towns with their pasturelands from the tribe of Zebulun: Jokneam, Kartah, 35 Dimnah, and Nahalal—four towns.

36 From the tribe of Reuben they received the following towns with their pasturelands: Bezer, Jahaz,[b] 37 Kedemoth, and Mephaath—four towns.

38 From the tribe of Gad they received the following towns with their pasturelands: Ramoth in Gilead (a city of refuge for those who accidentally killed someone), Mahanaim, 39 Heshbon, and Jazer—four towns. 40 So in all, twelve towns were allotted to the clan of Merari.

41 The total number of towns and pasturelands within Israelite territory given to the Levites came to forty-eight. 42 Every one of these towns had pasturelands surrounding it.

43 So the Lord gave to Israel all the land he had sworn to give their ancestors, and they took possession of it and settled there. 44 And the Lord gave them rest on every side, just as he had solemnly promised their ancestors. None of their enemies could stand against them, for the Lord helped them conquer all their enemies. 45 Not a single one of all the good promises the Lord had given to the family of Israel was left unfulfilled; everything he had spoken came true.

1 Chronicles 6:54-81

Territory for the Levites

54 This is a record of the towns and territory assigned by means of sacred lots to the descendants of Aaron, who were from the clan of Kohath. 55 This territory included Hebron and its surrounding pasturelands in Judah, 56 but the fields and outlying areas belonging to the city were given to Caleb son of Jephunneh. 57 So the descendants of Aaron were given the following towns, each with its pasturelands: Hebron (a city of refuge),[a] Libnah, Jattir, Eshtemoa, 58 Holon,[b] Debir, 59 Ain,[c] Juttah,[d] and Beth-shemesh. 60 And from the territory of Benjamin they were given Gibeon,[e] Geba, Alemeth, and Anathoth, each with its pasturelands. So thirteen towns were given to the descendants of Aaron. 61 The remaining descendants of Kohath received ten towns from the territory of the half-tribe of Manasseh by means of sacred lots.

62 The descendants of Gershon received by sacred lots thirteen towns from the territories of Issachar, Asher, Naphtali, and from the Bashan area of Manasseh, east of the Jordan.

63 The descendants of Merari received by sacred lots twelve towns from the territories of Reuben, Gad, and Zebulun.

64 So the people of Israel assigned all these towns and pasturelands to the Levites. 65 The towns in the territories of Judah, Simeon, and Benjamin, mentioned above, were assigned to them by means of sacred lots.

66 The descendants of Kohath were given the following towns from the territory of Ephraim, each with its pasturelands: 67 Shechem (a city of refuge in the hill country of Ephraim),[f] Gezer, 68 Jokmeam, Beth-horon, 69 Aijalon, and Gath-rimmon. 70 The remaining descendants of Kohath were assigned the towns of Aner and Bileam from the territory of the half-tribe of Manasseh, each with its pasturelands.

71 The descendants of Gershon received the towns of Golan (in Bashan) and Ashtaroth from the territory of the half-tribe of Manasseh, each with its pasturelands. 72 From the territory of Issachar, they were given Kedesh, Daberath, 73 Ramoth, and Anem, each with its pasturelands. 74 From the territory of Asher, they received Mashal, Abdon, 75 Hukok, and Rehob, each with its pasturelands. 76 From the territory of Naphtali, they were given Kedesh in Galilee, Hammon, and Kiriathaim, each with its pasturelands.

77 The remaining descendants of Merari received the towns of Jokneam, Kartah,[g] Rimmon,[h] and Tabor from the territory of Zebulun, each with its pasturelands. 78 From the territory of Reuben, east of the Jordan River opposite Jericho, they received Bezer (a desert town), Jahaz,[i] 79 Kedemoth, and Mephaath, each with its pasturelands. 80 And from the territory of Gad, they received Ramoth in Gilead, Mahanaim, 81 Heshbon, and Jazer, each with its pasturelands.

∆ ∆ ∆

Questions & Observations

O. (Joshua 19:50): I am just paying attention to notable tidbits about the tribes and who comes from which one.  I did look up which tribe Joshua came from — it had slipped my mind.  It is the tribe of (drumroll, please) Ephraim, one of Joseph’s sons.  I just thought that it was predictable, yet interesting and noteworthy, that he chose his own tribe to live among.

Q. (20:1-9): There sure is a significant amount of scripture given to the cities of refuge.  Why were they so important?  It sounds like a simple, logical idea, yet so much text is devoted to their conception.  Are there any particular cities of refuge that we should make note of?

A. According to my notes, the cities were important because they prevented blood feuds between families, which would be the result of potentially endless life for life retribution.  I can’t give you a really good explanation as to why they get so many verses, but it appears that the cities provided an important cog in the Israelite system of justice.

As to the cities themselves, in this area, the city of Kedesh, was not an important place at this point (it was consecrated in this reading), but the other two sites are important to note: the city of Shechem was the site where Israel renewed its covenant with God in Joshua 8.  Joseph’s bones will be buried there in our next reading.  Hebron — in addition to being the land given to Caleb — was among the most important places in all of Canaan, as it was the place where Sarah died way back in Genesis 23, and would subsequently be the resting place of many of the patriarchs and their wives: Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebekah, and Jacob and Leah (Genesis 49:29-50:14).

On both sides of the Jordan (remember there are 6 cities total), there is a city in the north, south, and middle of the Israelite territory, in order to ensure that no one has to go too far in order to be protected.

Q. (21:2): There seems to be a lot going on at Shiloh.  Is it the city where the leaders settle?

A. Yes.  As mentioned, the Tabernacle is setup in Shiloh, and it will serve as an unofficial capital until David moves the capital to Jerusalem in 2 Samuel.

Q. (21:6): I don’t ever think we talked about why Manasseh split.  Did they act as one tribe after the split or two?

A. Joseph’s son Manasseh got the single largest share of the Promised Land, and if we consider the Transjordan area as part of their territory as well, then their allotment is truly huge.  Because of the major geographical barrier between East and West (the Jordan river), as far as I can tell, the tribes acted more like two than one.  The Bible does not tell us why the tribe split in half, but it appears that some of the families of Manasseh wanted to stay in the Transjordan area, while others wanted to enter the true Promised Land.

Q. (21:43-45): In today’s society, we have expectations of immediate gratification.  We want something, we charge it and hopefully pay later.  In these times, God makes a promise to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and on to Joseph and Moses among all the other faithful Israelites.  However, they did not get to see the Promised Land.  It seems almost unjust that these men of God did not get to enjoy the fruits of their toil.  Were expectations different back then? Something promised to your descendants would mean so much to you that you would go to great lengths to make it happen, and never enjoy it yourself?  Or, does the Bible say anything about they are there enjoying it in spirit?

A. As the story in Genesis told us, the land was not directly promised to Abraham, but rather to Abraham’s descendants, and renewed with Isaac and Jacob.  So, I think that God was perfectly up front with these men about what He was promising.  It did appear to be enough for each of these men that their families — more than 400 years later — would receive the blessing that had been promised to them.

This part of the OT does not talk much about the afterlife — though it never says there isn’t one — but rather a person’s success or failure comes with having descendants who will carry on your heritage, and hopefully succeed more than you did (something we frankly all want for our kids.  We just don’t always define “success” they way they do).  So not only is God promising Abraham and his sons that they will still HAVE descendants in more than 400 years (by no means guaranteed), but that his family will be huge, prosperous, and able to take an entire area of land with God’s help.  That sounds like an amazing promise, and I think it surely would have been enough for them to hear the ways that God would be faithful.

Day 70 (March 11): God defines Israel’s borders, Leaders divide land among tribes, Levites given own towns amongst tribes, cities of refuge, retaining land rights

Welcome to BibleBum where we are exploring the entire Bible in one year to better learn how to follow God’s instructions and discover the purpose for our lives.  The BibleBum blog uses The One Year Chronological Bible, the New Living Translation version.  At the end of each day’s reading, Rob, a cultural history aficionado and seminary graduate, answers questions from Leigh An, the blogger host, about the daily scripture.  To start from the beginning, click on “Index” and select Day 1.  Take the challenge.  You won’t regret it.

New Living Translation, Biblegateway.com

Numbers 34-36

Boundaries of the Land

34 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Give these instructions to the Israelites: When you come into the land of Canaan, which I am giving you as your special possession, these will be the boundaries. The southern portion of your country will extend from the wilderness of Zin, along the edge of Edom. The southern boundary will begin on the east at the Dead Sea.[a] It will then run south past Scorpion Pass[b] in the direction of Zin. Its southernmost point will be Kadesh-barnea, from which it will go to Hazar-addar, and on to Azmon. From Azmon the boundary will turn toward the Brook of Egypt and end at the Mediterranean Sea.[c]

“Your western boundary will be the coastline of the Mediterranean Sea.

“Your northern boundary will begin at the Mediterranean Sea and run east to Mount Hor, then to Lebo-hamath, and on through Zedad and Ziphron to Hazar-enan. This will be your northern boundary.

10 “The eastern boundary will start at Hazar-enan and run south to Shepham, 11 then down to Riblah on the east side of Ain. From there the boundary will run down along the eastern edge of the Sea of Galilee,[d] 12 and then along the Jordan River to the Dead Sea. These are the boundaries of your land.”

13 Then Moses told the Israelites, “This territory is the homeland you are to divide among yourselves by sacred lot. The Lord has commanded that the land be divided among the nine and a half remaining tribes. 14 The families of the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and half the tribe of Manasseh have already received their grants of land 15 on the east side of the Jordan River, across from Jericho toward the sunrise.”

Leaders to Divide the Land

16 And the Lord said to Moses, 17 “Eleazar the priest and Joshua son of Nun are the men designated to divide the grants of land among the people. 18 Enlist one leader from each tribe to help them with the task. 19 These are the tribes and the names of the leaders:

Tribe

Leader

  Judah Caleb son of Jephunneh
20  Simeon Shemuel son of Ammihud
21  Benjamin Elidad son of Kislon
22  Dan Bukki son of Jogli
23  Manasseh son of Joseph Hanniel son of Ephod
24  Ephraim son of Joseph Kemuel son of Shiphtan
25  Zebulun Elizaphan son of Parnach
26  Issachar Paltiel son of Azzan
27  Asher Ahihud son of Shelomi
28  Naphtali Pedahel son of Ammihud

29 These are the men the Lord has appointed to divide the grants of land in Canaan among the Israelites.”

Towns for the Levites

35 While Israel was camped beside the Jordan on the plains of Moab across from Jericho, the Lord said to Moses, “Command the people of Israel to give to the Levites from their property certain towns to live in, along with the surrounding pasturelands. These towns will be for the Levites to live in, and the surrounding lands will provide pasture for their cattle, flocks, and other livestock. The pastureland assigned to the Levites around these towns will extend 1,500 feet[e] from the town walls in every direction. Measure off 3,000 feet[f] outside the town walls in every direction—east, south, west, north—with the town at the center. This area will serve as the larger pastureland for the towns.

“Six of the towns you give the Levites will be cities of refuge, where a person who has accidentally killed someone can flee for safety. In addition, give them forty-two other towns. In all, forty-eight towns with the surrounding pastureland will be given to the Levites. These towns will come from the property of the people of Israel. The larger tribes will give more towns to the Levites, while the smaller tribes will give fewer. Each tribe will give property in proportion to the size of its land.”

Cities of Refuge

The Lord said to Moses, 10 “Give the following instructions to the people of Israel.

“When you cross the Jordan into the land of Canaan, 11 designate cities of refuge to which people can flee if they have killed someone accidentally. 12 These cities will be places of protection from a dead person’s relatives who want to avenge the death. The slayer must not be put to death before being tried by the community. 13 Designate six cities of refuge for yourselves, 14 three on the east side of the Jordan River and three on the west in the land of Canaan. 15 These cities are for the protection of Israelites, foreigners living among you, and traveling merchants. Anyone who accidentally kills someone may flee there for safety.

16 “But if someone strikes and kills another person with a piece of iron, it is murder, and the murderer must be executed. 17 Or if someone with a stone in his hand strikes and kills another person, it is murder, and the murderer must be put to death. 18 Or if someone strikes and kills another person with a wooden object, it is murder, and the murderer must be put to death. 19 The victim’s nearest relative is responsible for putting the murderer to death. When they meet, the avenger must put the murderer to death. 20 So if someone hates another person and pushes him or throws a dangerous object at him and he dies, it is murder. 21 Or if someone hates another person and hits him with a fist and he dies, it is murder. In such cases, the avenger must put the murderer to death when they meet.

22 “But suppose someone pushes another person without having shown previous hostility, or throws something that unintentionally hits another person, 23 or accidentally drops a huge stone on someone, though they were not enemies, and the person dies. 24 If this should happen, the community must follow these regulations in making a judgment between the slayer and the avenger, the victim’s nearest relative: 25 The community must protect the slayer from the avenger and must escort the slayer back to live in the city of refuge to which he fled. There he must remain until the death of the high priest, who was anointed with the sacred oil.

26 “But if the slayer ever leaves the limits of the city of refuge, 27 and the avenger finds him outside the city and kills him, it will not be considered murder. 28 The slayer should have stayed inside the city of refuge until the death of the high priest. But after the death of the high priest, the slayer may return to his own property. 29 These are legal requirements for you to observe from generation to generation, wherever you may live.

30 “All murderers must be put to death, but only if evidence is presented by more than one witness. No one may be put to death on the testimony of only one witness. 31 Also, you must never accept a ransom payment for the life of someone judged guilty of murder and subject to execution; murderers must always be put to death. 32 And never accept a ransom payment from someone who has fled to a city of refuge, allowing a slayer to return to his property before the death of the high priest. 33 This will ensure that the land where you live will not be polluted, for murder pollutes the land. And no sacrifice except the execution of the murderer can purify the land from murder.[g] 34 You must not defile the land where you live, for I live there myself. I am the Lord, who lives among the people of Israel.”

Women Who Inherit Property

36 Then the heads of the clans of Gilead—descendants of Makir, son of Manasseh, son of Joseph—came to Moses and the family leaders of Israel with a petition. They said, “Sir, the Lord instructed you to divide the land by sacred lot among the people of Israel. You were told by the Lord to give the grant of land owned by our brother Zelophehad to his daughters. But if they marry men from another tribe, their grants of land will go with them to the tribe into which they marry. In this way, the total area of our tribal land will be reduced. Then when the Year of Jubilee comes, their portion of land will be added to that of the new tribe, causing it to be lost forever to our ancestral tribe.”

So Moses gave the Israelites this command from the Lord: “The claim of the men of the tribe of Joseph is legitimate. This is what the Lord commands concerning the daughters of Zelophehad: Let them marry anyone they like, as long as it is within their own ancestral tribe. None of the territorial land may pass from tribe to tribe, for all the land given to each tribe must remain within the tribe to which it was first allotted. The daughters throughout the tribes of Israel who are in line to inherit property must marry within their tribe, so that all the Israelites will keep their ancestral property. No grant of land may pass from one tribe to another; each tribe of Israel must keep its allotted portion of land.”

10 The daughters of Zelophehad did as the Lord commanded Moses. 11 Mahlah, Tirzah, Hoglah, Milcah, and Noah all married cousins on their father’s side. 12 They married into the clans of Manasseh son of Joseph. Thus, their inheritance of land remained within their ancestral tribe.

13 These are the commands and regulations that the Lord gave to the people of Israel through Moses while they were camped on the plains of Moab beside the Jordan River across from Jericho.

∆ ∆ ∆

Questions & Observations

Q. (Numbers 34:1-15): I found a good map of the land division of Canaan.  Go to: http://www.bible-history.com/geography/maps/map_canaan_tribal_portions.html  I made it my screen saver so I can refer to it.  Rob, the land perimeter of current-day Israel looks a little smaller than the time frame we are reading about in Numbers.  It looks like Jordan has taken over where the tribes of Reuben, Gad and half of Manasseh resided.  Is this because it wasn’t officially Canaan?

A. Hum.  You’ve asked a complicated question.  I don’t know exactly how the borders were created in present day Israel, but I suspect it had little to do with the divisions that you see here, and what was or was not “Canaan” at the time.

I would be very careful about drawing parallels between the two nations, since Numbers informs us that God devised the borders you see in the picture above, and the modern nation of Israel was born out of (rightly noble) human endeavor to create a new home of for displaced European Jews.  And though the Jews remain very clearly God’s chosen people, I have deep concerns about thinking of the modern nation is anything other than a human state.  This is at least partly because in order to create this new nation, the powers (mostly Britain) who formed Israel in the 1940s did so by driving out (or sadly, encamping) the people who lived there, including many Arab Christians.  Many Palestinians remain in those camps to this day.  One of the saddest ironies of the creation of Israel is the number of people that had to be oppressed to do so.  There was very little of it that honored God in my mind.

Q. (35:1-8): So the Levites will still live among the tribes, but in their own towns in the tribe’s area?

A. You got it, if by “tribe’s” you mean the other 12’s territory.  The Levites were given small towns to live in amongst the other tribes in order to facilitate the Law with the various tribes.

Q. (35:11): It seems like there are more “accidental” deaths spoken of in the Bible than today.

A. The main reason for this was for a person to avoid being killed by a family avenger, who was seeking to apply “a life for a life”.  Honestly, I think part of the reason for this is that killing a person accidently in our country is no longer a death sentence, as it would have most likely been during this time.  Though there certainly are penalties, such as the charge of manslaughter, a person who accidentally kills someone does not have to worry (usually!) about that person’s family coming to kill you.  I think that is part of the reason we focus less on the concerns about accidental death.

Q. (35:25): Why would the death of a high priest signal that it was OK for a slayer (by accident) to not be threatened by an avenger?

A. While it is not certain, it appears that the text is implying that the death of the high priest makes an atonement for those who have committed accidental manslaughter.  You can read more about cities of refuge, which will be established in Joshua 20, here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cities_of_Refuge

O. (36:5-9): God’s wisdom is amazing!

Day 63 (March 4): Korah challenges Moses, Moses puts Korah and followers to a test, Aaron’s staff shows he’s chosen, priests and Levites duties defined, tithing

Welcome to BibleBum where we are exploring the entire Bible in one year to better learn how to follow God’s instructions and discover the purpose for our lives.  The BibleBum blog uses The One Year Chronological Bible, the New Living Translation version.  At the end of each day’s reading, Rob, a cultural history aficionado and seminary graduate, answers questions from Leigh An, the blogger host, about the daily scripture.  The blog started on Jan. 1, 2013, but you can start at any time.   To start from the beginning, click on “index” to find Day 1.  We hope you enjoy this time of discovery as much as we do!  Take the challenge.  You won’t regret it.

Day 63 (March 4)

New Living Translation, Biblegateway.com

Numbers 16-18

Korah’s Rebellion

16 One day Korah son of Izhar, a descendant of Kohath son of Levi, conspired with Dathan and Abiram, the sons of Eliab, and On son of Peleth, from the tribe of Reuben. They incited a rebellion against Moses, along with 250 other leaders of the community, all prominent members of the assembly. They united against Moses and Aaron and said, “You have gone too far! The whole community of Israel has been set apart by the Lord, and he is with all of us. What right do you have to act as though you are greater than the rest of the Lord’s people?”

When Moses heard what they were saying, he fell face down on the ground. Then he said to Korah and his followers, “Tomorrow morning the Lord will show us who belongs to him[a] and who is holy. The Lord will allow only those whom he selects to enter his own presence. Korah, you and all your followers must prepare your incense burners. Light fires in them tomorrow, and burn incense before the Lord. Then we will see whom the Lord chooses as his holy one. You Levites are the ones who have gone too far!”

Then Moses spoke again to Korah: “Now listen, you Levites! Does it seem insignificant to you that the God of Israel has chosen you from among all the community of Israel to be near him so you can serve in the Lord’s Tabernacle and stand before the people to minister to them? 10 Korah, he has already given this special ministry to you and your fellow Levites. Are you now demanding the priesthood as well? 11 The Lord is the one you and your followers are really revolting against! For who is Aaron that you are complaining about him?”

12 Then Moses summoned Dathan and Abiram, the sons of Eliab, but they replied, “We refuse to come before you! 13 Isn’t it enough that you brought us out of Egypt, a land flowing with milk and honey, to kill us here in this wilderness, and that you now treat us like your subjects? 14 What’s more, you haven’t brought us into another land flowing with milk and honey. You haven’t given us a new homeland with fields and vineyards. Are you trying to fool these men?[b] We will not come.”

15 Then Moses became very angry and said to the Lord, “Do not accept their grain offerings! I have not taken so much as a donkey from them, and I have never hurt a single one of them.” 16 And Moses said to Korah, “You and all your followers must come here tomorrow and present yourselves before the Lord. Aaron will also be here. 17 You and each of your 250 followers must prepare an incense burner and put incense on it, so you can all present them before the Lord. Aaron will also bring his incense burner.”

18 So each of these men prepared an incense burner, lit the fire, and placed incense on it. Then they all stood at the entrance of the Tabernacle[c] with Moses and Aaron. 19 Meanwhile, Korah had stirred up the entire community against Moses and Aaron, and they all gathered at the Tabernacle entrance. Then the glorious presence of the Lord appeared to the whole community, 20 and the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, 21 “Get away from all these people so that I may instantly destroy them!”

22 But Moses and Aaron fell face down on the ground. “O God,” they pleaded, “you are the God who gives breath to all creatures. Must you be angry with all the people when only one man sins?”

23 And the Lord said to Moses, 24 “Then tell all the people to get away from the tents of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram.”

25 So Moses got up and rushed over to the tents of Dathan and Abiram, followed by the elders of Israel. 26 “Quick!” he told the people. “Get away from the tents of these wicked men, and don’t touch anything that belongs to them. If you do, you will be destroyed for their sins.” 27 So all the people stood back from the tents of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram. Then Dathan and Abiram came out and stood at the entrances of their tents, together with their wives and children and little ones.

28 And Moses said, “This is how you will know that the Lord has sent me to do all these things that I have done—for I have not done them on my own. 29 If these men die a natural death, or if nothing unusual happens, then the Lord has not sent me. 30 But if the Lord does something entirely new and the ground opens its mouth and swallows them and all their belongings, and they go down alive into the grave,[d] then you will know that these men have shown contempt for the Lord.”

31 He had hardly finished speaking the words when the ground suddenly split open beneath them. 32 The earth opened its mouth and swallowed the men, along with their households and all their followers who were standing with them, and everything they owned. 33 So they went down alive into the grave, along with all their belongings. The earth closed over them, and they all vanished from among the people of Israel. 34 All the people around them fled when they heard their screams. “The earth will swallow us, too!” they cried. 35 Then fire blazed forth from the Lord and burned up the 250 men who were offering incense.

36 [e]And the Lord said to Moses, 37 “Tell Eleazar son of Aaron the priest to pull all the incense burners from the fire, for they are holy. Also tell him to scatter the burning coals. 38 Take the incense burners of these men who have sinned at the cost of their lives, and hammer the metal into a thin sheet to overlay the altar. Since these burners were used in the Lord’s presence, they have become holy. Let them serve as a warning to the people of Israel.”

39 So Eleazar the priest collected the 250 bronze incense burners that had been used by the men who died in the fire, and he hammered them into a thin sheet to overlay the altar. 40 This would warn the Israelites that no unauthorized person—no one who was not a descendant of Aaron—should ever enter the Lord’s presence to burn incense. If anyone did, the same thing would happen to him as happened to Korah and his followers. So the Lord’s instructions to Moses were carried out.

41 But the very next morning the whole community of Israel began muttering again against Moses and Aaron, saying, “You have killed the Lord’s people!” 42 As the community gathered to protest against Moses and Aaron, they turned toward the Tabernacle and saw that the cloud had covered it, and the glorious presence of the Lord appeared.

43 Moses and Aaron came and stood in front of the Tabernacle, 44 and the Lord said to Moses, 45 “Get away from all these people so that I can instantly destroy them!” But Moses and Aaron fell face down on the ground.

46 And Moses said to Aaron, “Quick, take an incense burner and place burning coals on it from the altar. Lay incense on it, and carry it out among the people to purify them and make them right with the Lord.[f] The Lord’s anger is blazing against them—the plague has already begun.”

47 Aaron did as Moses told him and ran out among the people. The plague had already begun to strike down the people, but Aaron burned the incense and purified[g] the people. 48 He stood between the dead and the living, and the plague stopped. 49 But 14,700 people died in that plague, in addition to those who had died in the affair involving Korah. 50 Then because the plague had stopped, Aaron returned to Moses at the entrance of the Tabernacle.

The Budding of Aaron’s Staff

17 [h]Then the Lord said to Moses, “Tell the people of Israel to bring you twelve wooden staffs, one from each leader of Israel’s ancestral tribes, and inscribe each leader’s name on his staff. Inscribe Aaron’s name on the staff of the tribe of Levi, for there must be one staff for the leader of each ancestral tribe. Place these staffs in the Tabernacle in front of the Ark containing the tablets of the Covenant,[i] where I meet with you. Buds will sprout on the staff belonging to the man I choose. Then I will finally put an end to the people’s murmuring and complaining against you.”

So Moses gave the instructions to the people of Israel, and each of the twelve tribal leaders, including Aaron, brought Moses a staff. Moses placed the staffs in the Lord’s presence in the Tabernacle of the Covenant.[j] When he went into the Tabernacle of the Covenant the next day, he found that Aaron’s staff, representing the tribe of Levi, had sprouted, budded, blossomed, and produced ripe almonds!

When Moses brought all the staffs out from the Lord’s presence, he showed them to the people. Each man claimed his own staff. 10 And the Lord said to Moses: “Place Aaron’s staff permanently before the Ark of the Covenant[k] to serve as a warning to rebels. This should put an end to their complaints against me and prevent any further deaths.” 11 So Moses did as the Lord commanded him.

12 Then the people of Israel said to Moses, “Look, we are doomed! We are dead! We are ruined! 13 Everyone who even comes close to the Tabernacle of the Lord dies. Are we all doomed to die?”

Duties of Priests and Levites

18 Then the Lord said to Aaron: “You, your sons, and your relatives from the tribe of Levi will be held responsible for any offenses related to the sanctuary. But you and your sons alone will be held responsible for violations connected with the priesthood.

“Bring your relatives of the tribe of Levi—your ancestral tribe—to assist you and your sons as you perform the sacred duties in front of the Tabernacle of the Covenant.[l] But as the Levites go about all their assigned duties at the Tabernacle, they must be careful not to go near any of the sacred objects or the altar. If they do, both you and they will die. The Levites must join you in fulfilling their responsibilities for the care and maintenance of the Tabernacle,[m] but no unauthorized person may assist you.

“You yourselves must perform the sacred duties inside the sanctuary and at the altar. If you follow these instructions, the Lord’s anger will never again blaze against the people of Israel. I myself have chosen your fellow Levites from among the Israelites to be your special assistants. They are a gift to you, dedicated to the Lord for service in the Tabernacle. But you and your sons, the priests, must personally handle all the priestly rituals associated with the altar and with everything behind the inner curtain. I am giving you the priesthood as your special privilege of service. Any unauthorized person who comes too near the sanctuary will be put to death.”

Support for the Priests and Levites

The Lord gave these further instructions to Aaron: “I myself have put you in charge of all the holy offerings that are brought to me by the people of Israel. I have given all these consecrated offerings to you and your sons as your permanent share. You are allotted the portion of the most holy offerings that is not burned on the fire. This portion of all the most holy offerings—including the grain offerings, sin offerings, and guilt offerings—will be most holy, and it belongs to you and your sons. 10 You must eat it as a most holy offering. All the males may eat of it, and you must treat it as most holy.

11 “All the sacred offerings and special offerings presented to me when the Israelites lift them up before the altar also belong to you. I have given them to you and to your sons and daughters as your permanent share. Any member of your family who is ceremonially clean may eat of these offerings.

12 “I also give you the harvest gifts brought by the people as offerings to the Lord—the best of the olive oil, new wine, and grain. 13 All the first crops of their land that the people present to the Lord belong to you. Any member of your family who is ceremonially clean may eat this food.

14 “Everything in Israel that is specially set apart for the Lord[n] also belongs to you.

15 “The firstborn of every mother, whether human or animal, that is offered to the Lord will be yours. But you must always redeem your firstborn sons and the firstborn of ceremonially unclean animals. 16 Redeem them when they are one month old. The redemption price is five pieces of silver[o] (as measured by the weight of the sanctuary shekel, which equals twenty gerahs).

17 “However, you may not redeem the firstborn of cattle, sheep, or goats. They are holy and have been set apart for the Lord. Sprinkle their blood on the altar, and burn their fat as a special gift, a pleasing aroma to the Lord. 18 The meat of these animals will be yours, just like the breast and right thigh that are presented by lifting them up as a special offering before the altar. 19 Yes, I am giving you all these holy offerings that the people of Israel bring to the Lord. They are for you and your sons and daughters, to be eaten as your permanent share. This is an eternal and unbreakable covenant[p] between the Lord and you, and it also applies to your descendants.”

20 And the Lord said to Aaron, “You priests will receive no allotment of land or share of property among the people of Israel. I am your share and your allotment. 21 As for the tribe of Levi, your relatives, I will compensate them for their service in the Tabernacle. Instead of an allotment of land, I will give them the tithes from the entire land of Israel.

22 “From now on, no Israelites except priests or Levites may approach the Tabernacle. If they come too near, they will be judged guilty and will die. 23 Only the Levites may serve at the Tabernacle, and they will be held responsible for any offenses against it. This is a permanent law for you, to be observed from generation to generation. The Levites will receive no allotment of land among the Israelites, 24 because I have given them the Israelites’ tithes, which have been presented as sacred offerings to the Lord. This will be the Levites’ share. That is why I said they would receive no allotment of land among the Israelites.”

25 The Lord also told Moses, 26 “Give these instructions to the Levites: When you receive from the people of Israel the tithes I have assigned as your allotment, give a tenth of the tithes you receive—a tithe of the tithe—to the Lord as a sacred offering. 27 The Lord will consider this offering to be your harvest offering, as though it were the first grain from your own threshing floor or wine from your own winepress. 28 You must present one-tenth of the tithe received from the Israelites as a sacred offering to the Lord. This is the Lord’s sacred portion, and you must present it to Aaron the priest. 29 Be sure to give to the Lord the best portions of the gifts given to you.

30 “Also, give these instructions to the Levites: When you present the best part as your offering, it will be considered as though it came from your own threshing floor or winepress. 31 You Levites and your families may eat this food anywhere you wish, for it is your compensation for serving in the Tabernacle. 32 You will not be considered guilty for accepting the Lord’s tithes if you give the best portion to the priests. But be careful not to treat the holy gifts of the people of Israel as though they were common. If you do, you will die.”

∆ ∆ ∆

Questions & Observations

Q. (Numbers 16:1,6): I guess Korah did not learn from God’s punishment to Miriam when she and Aaron also became envious of Moses being the one God talks to and has chosen to lead the Israelites (Numbers 12:1-16).  What is the significance of burning incense before the Lord?  Is it a way that the Lord can identify those who were challenging Moses (really God) and know which ones to punish?  The idea of burning incense in front of the Tabernacle just seemed to have popped out of Moses’ mouth with out him thinking about it as a way to see whom God chooses.  Many times, as I recall, Moses confers with God before he doles out a punishment.  God is really talking through Moses.

A. This is a literal trial by fire for the 250 men who were among the group that challenged Moses and Aaron.  They were attempting to offer incense to the Lord, a duty of the priest, to test whether the Lord would except them as priest instead of Aaron’s family.  Obviously, God did not.

O. (Numbers 16:12): How easily the Israelites forget their enslavement in Egypt!  We are supposed to remember our past and learn from our ancestors’ accomplishments and mistakes.   Here their memory is so short they can’t even remember that Miriam had leprosy from questioning God’s choice of Moses.

Q. (16:22-35): Moses is always interceding for the Israelites and pleading for God to forgive them.  I like this plan that just destroys the ones at fault.  I would think it would be very effective, especially since God appeared before the whole community.  So all of these men who were swallowed and burned were Levites?

A.  Some where Levites of the house of Kohath, which chapter 4 told us was the group of Levites responsible for moving and caring for (but not touching!) the sacred objects of the altar.  But the text also says that there were members of Reuben’s clan as well, which would mean they were not Levites.  These men were not satisfied with Moses’ rule, and appear to have longed for the “paradise” of Egypt.

Q. (16:40): So, these men were not authorized to burn incense at the Tabernacle — not Levites?  Moses knew this and knew they would be destroyed?

A. Well, that was the test.  If these men desired to be the true priests, they had to carry out the priestly duties, and we can recall the careful instructions that God has given to Moses and Aaron about the priestly role.  So, basically, Moses probably knew that such a move was foolish for these men, but there was no other way for them to demonstrate that they had been chosen by God.

Q. (16:46-50): Does Moses actually have power here or is he using power God gave him to control God’s wrath?

A. As we have seen several times, and will see again soon, it appears that Moses and Aaron act on behalf of the people in order to spare them, or in this case spare MORE of them, God’s wrath.

Q. (17:8): We have seen the almond symbol before when God was instructing the Israelites on how to make the lampstand (Exodus 25:33).  What is the significance of almonds here?

A.  It is the same.  We looked at this question on Day 44 (Feb. 13th).  Here’s what I noted there: There are two significances to the almond tree.  First, the almond tree was the first tree to bloom in the Middle East after the winter, making it a symbol of new life and renewal.

The other symbolism of the almond tree is a word play.  The word for almond (shâqêd) in Hebrew is very similar to the word for “lookout”, “watchful”, or “unresting”.  So in this case, the staff itself becomes a symbol of God’s provision and His watching over His people.

It is also possible, we are not told, that Aaron’s staff could have been from an almond tree, and so the miraculous growth seen was related to the “original” trunk of the tree it came from.

O.  (17:12): I think the Israelites are missing the point.  Destroying these unbelievers was a sign to learn from.  They think that they are cursed if they go near the Tabernacle instead of realizing that the actions of those who were destroyed caused their doom.

Q. (18:8-24): I would think that the Levites getting all of the offerings and tithes would cause some jealousy.  I understand that God righted this by not allowing the Levites to own land.  Any insight?

A. God was asking a great deal of Aaron and the Levites.  It only seems fair that they are compensated for this sacrifice.  And while the text says “these offerings are yours,” they don’t mean, “so that you can get rich at My expense.”  The Levites were expected to tithe upon the tithe (as we read), but also use the funds to care for the equipment and various parts of the Tabernacle, and later the Temple.  I honestly doubt if very many people got wealthy, God is simply making a provision for His carefully selected people.

Q. (18:30-32): So the people gave the Levites their tithing.  From this, the Levites fed their families and gave the best portion to the priests, which is how the priests ate.  When, God says to offer and tithe, the priests and Levites receive it and use it?  It goes to God through the Israelite leaders?

A. This passage is saying that even though the Levites were receiving the tithe of the other tribes, they themselves were not exempted from tithing.  In fact, this passage is telling them that they must give God back, if you will, the very best of the things they received (oil, wheat, etc.).  In this way, the Levites were held to the same standard as the rest of the tribes: God expected the best, and the first fruits, even if it was indirectly.

Thanks for reading along!  See you tomorrow.

Day 59 (Feb. 28): God assigns Levite clans various duties for carrying the Tabernacle and it’s sacred objects, Clans counted, keeping the camp pure, marital faithfulness

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New Living Translation, Biblegateway.com

Numbers 4-5

Duties of the Kohathite Clan

4 Then the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “Record the names of the members of the clans and families of the Kohathite division of the tribe of Levi. List all the men between the ages of thirty and fifty who are eligible to serve in the Tabernacle.[a]

“The duties of the Kohathites at the Tabernacle will relate to the most sacred objects. When the camp moves, Aaron and his sons must enter the Tabernacle first to take down the inner curtain and cover the Ark of the Covenant[b] with it. Then they must cover the inner curtain with fine goatskin leather and spread over that a single piece of blue cloth. Finally, they must put the carrying poles of the Ark in place.

“Next they must spread a blue cloth over the table where the Bread of the Presence is displayed, and on the cloth they will place the bowls, pans, jars, pitchers, and the special bread. They must spread a scarlet cloth over all of this, and finally a covering of fine goatskin leather on top of the scarlet cloth. Then they must insert the carrying poles into the table.

“Next they must cover the lampstand with a blue cloth, along with its lamps, lamp snuffers, trays, and special jars of olive oil. 10 Then they must cover the lampstand and its accessories with fine goatskin leather and place the bundle on a carrying frame.

11 “Next they must spread a blue cloth over the gold incense altar and cover this cloth with fine goatskin leather. Then they must attach the carrying poles to the altar. 12 They must take all the remaining furnishings of the sanctuary and wrap them in a blue cloth, cover them with fine goatskin leather, and place them on the carrying frame.

13 “They must remove the ashes from the altar for sacrifices and cover the altar with a purple cloth. 14 All the altar utensils—the firepans, meat forks, shovels, basins, and all the containers—must be placed on the cloth, and a covering of fine goatskin leather must be spread over them. Finally, they must put the carrying poles in place. 15 The camp will be ready to move when Aaron and his sons have finished covering the sanctuary and all the sacred articles. The Kohathites will come and carry these things to the next destination. But they must not touch the sacred objects, or they will die. So these are the things from the Tabernacle that the Kohathites must carry.

16 “Eleazar son of Aaron the priest will be responsible for the oil of the lampstand, the fragrant incense, the daily grain offering, and the anointing oil. In fact, Eleazar will be responsible for the entire Tabernacle and everything in it, including the sanctuary and its furnishings.”

17 Then the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, 18 “Do not let the Kohathite clans be destroyed from among the Levites! 19 This is what you must do so they will live and not die when they approach the most sacred objects. Aaron and his sons must always go in with them and assign a specific duty or load to each person. 20 The Kohathites must never enter the sanctuary to look at the sacred objects for even a moment, or they will die.”

Duties of the Gershonite Clan

21 And the Lord said to Moses, 22 “Record the names of the members of the clans and families of the Gershonite division of the tribe of Levi. 23 List all the men between the ages of thirty and fifty who are eligible to serve in the Tabernacle.

24 “These Gershonite clans will be responsible for general service and carrying loads. 25 They must carry the curtains of the Tabernacle, the Tabernacle itself with its coverings, the outer covering of fine goatskin leather, and the curtain for the Tabernacle entrance. 26 They are also to carry the curtains for the courtyard walls that surround the Tabernacle and altar, the curtain across the courtyard entrance, the ropes, and all the equipment related to their use. The Gershonites are responsible for all these items. 27 Aaron and his sons will direct the Gershonites regarding all their duties, whether it involves moving the equipment or doing other work. They must assign the Gershonites responsibility for the loads they are to carry. 28 So these are the duties assigned to the Gershonite clans at the Tabernacle. They will be directly responsible to Ithamar son of Aaron the priest.

Duties of the Merarite Clan

29 “Now record the names of the members of the clans and families of the Merarite division of the tribe of Levi. 30 List all the men between the ages of thirty and fifty who are eligible to serve in the Tabernacle.

31 “Their only duty at the Tabernacle will be to carry loads. They will carry the frames of the Tabernacle, the crossbars, the posts, and the bases; 32 also the posts for the courtyard walls with their bases, pegs, and ropes; and all the accessories and everything else related to their use. Assign the various loads to each man by name. 33 So these are the duties of the Merarite clans at the Tabernacle. They are directly responsible to Ithamar son of Aaron the priest.”

Summary of the Registration

34 So Moses, Aaron, and the other leaders of the community listed the members of the Kohathite division by their clans and families. 35 The list included all the men between thirty and fifty years of age who were eligible for service in the Tabernacle, 36 and the total number came to 2,750. 37 So this was the total of all those from the Kohathite clans who were eligible to serve at the Tabernacle. Moses and Aaron listed them, just as the Lord had commanded through Moses.

38 The Gershonite division was also listed by its clans and families. 39 The list included all the men between thirty and fifty years of age who were eligible for service in the Tabernacle, 40 and the total number came to 2,630. 41 So this was the total of all those from the Gershonite clans who were eligible to serve at the Tabernacle. Moses and Aaron listed them, just as the Lord had commanded.

42 The Merarite division was also listed by its clans and families. 43 The list included all the men between thirty and fifty years of age who were eligible for service in the Tabernacle, 44 and the total number came to 3,200. 45 So this was the total of all those from the Merarite clans who were eligible for service. Moses and Aaron listed them, just as the Lord had commanded through Moses.

46 So Moses, Aaron, and the leaders of Israel listed all the Levites by their clans and families. 47 All the men between thirty and fifty years of age who were eligible for service in the Tabernacle and for its transportation 48 numbered 8,580. 49 When their names were recorded, as the Lord had commanded through Moses, each man was assigned his task and told what to carry.

And so the registration was completed, just as the Lord had commanded Moses.

Purity in Israel’s Camp

5 The Lord gave these instructions to Moses: “Command the people of Israel to remove from the camp anyone who has a skin disease[c] or a discharge, or who has become ceremonially unclean by touching a dead person. This command applies to men and women alike. Remove them so they will not defile the camp in which I live among them.” So the Israelites did as the Lord had commanded Moses and removed such people from the camp.

Then the Lord said to Moses, “Give the following instructions to the people of Israel: If any of the people—men or women—betray the Lord by doing wrong to another person, they are guilty. They must confess their sin and make full restitution for what they have done, adding an additional 20 percent and returning it to the person who was wronged. But if the person who was wronged is dead, and there are no near relatives to whom restitution can be made, the payment belongs to the Lord and must be given to the priest. Those who are guilty must also bring a ram as a sacrifice, and they will be purified and made right with the Lord.[d] All the sacred offerings that the Israelites bring to a priest will belong to him. 10 Each priest may keep all the sacred donations that he receives.”

Protecting Marital Faithfulness

11 And the Lord said to Moses, 12 “Give the following instructions to the people of Israel.

“Suppose a man’s wife goes astray, and she is unfaithful to her husband 13 and has sex with another man, but neither her husband nor anyone else knows about it. She has defiled herself, even though there was no witness and she was not caught in the act. 14 If her husband becomes jealous and is suspicious of his wife and needs to know whether or not she has defiled herself, 15 the husband must bring his wife to the priest. He must also bring an offering of two quarts[e] of barley flour to be presented on her behalf. Do not mix it with olive oil or frankincense, for it is a jealousy offering—an offering to prove whether or not she is guilty.

16 “The priest will then present her to stand trial before the Lord. 17 He must take some holy water in a clay jar and pour into it dust he has taken from the Tabernacle floor. 18 When the priest has presented the woman before the Lord, he must unbind her hair and place in her hands the offering of proof—the jealousy offering to determine whether her husband’s suspicions are justified. The priest will stand before her, holding the jar of bitter water that brings a curse to those who are guilty. 19 The priest will then put the woman under oath and say to her, ‘If no other man has had sex with you, and you have not gone astray and defiled yourself while under your husband’s authority, may you be immune from the effects of this bitter water that brings on the curse. 20 But if you have gone astray by being unfaithful to your husband, and have defiled yourself by having sex with another man—’

21 “At this point the priest must put the woman under oath by saying, ‘May the people know that the Lord’s curse is upon you when he makes you infertile, causing your womb to shrivel[f] and your abdomen to swell. 22 Now may this water that brings the curse enter your body and cause your abdomen to swell and your womb to shrivel.[g]’ And the woman will be required to say, ‘Yes, let it be so.’ 23 And the priest will write these curses on a piece of leather and wash them off into the bitter water. 24 He will make the woman drink the bitter water that brings on the curse. When the water enters her body, it will cause bitter suffering if she is guilty.

25 “The priest will take the jealousy offering from the woman’s hand, lift it up before the Lord, and carry it to the altar. 26 He will take a handful of the flour as a token portion and burn it on the altar, and he will require the woman to drink the water. 27 If she has defiled herself by being unfaithful to her husband, the water that brings on the curse will cause bitter suffering. Her abdomen will swell and her womb will shrink,[h] and her name will become a curse among her people. 28 But if she has not defiled herself and is pure, then she will be unharmed and will still be able to have children.

29 “This is the ritual law for dealing with suspicion. If a woman goes astray and defiles herself while under her husband’s authority, 30 or if a man becomes jealous and is suspicious that his wife has been unfaithful, the husband must present his wife before the Lord, and the priest will apply this entire ritual law to her. 31 The husband will be innocent of any guilt in this matter, but his wife will be held accountable for her sin.”

∆ ∆ ∆

Questions & Observations

Q. (Numbers 4:4-13): God instructed them to cover everything in a blue cloth except for the altar, which was to be wrapped in purple.  Why blue and purple?

A. Blue and purple were the colors of royalty, and such materials would have been extremely precious for the people to sacrifice.

Q. (4:17-20): Just hearing the sacred objects described sounds like no big deal at face value.  I think, why can’t others see them?  Then, I realize that I am belittling the wishes of the Creator of the Universe.

A. I don’t think it had anything to do with the sight of the objects, and is instead a desire to protect the men who were responsible for carrying the sacred objects, which were wrapped up.  The text specifically says that if they touched the objects they died, so Aaron’s family had to make sure the sacred items were wrapped up to protect the carriers.

Q. (4:29-33): I’m picturing the men carrying all of these poles and structure parts.  Do they have to carry them themselves or can they load them on an animal?  Why is God so specific on who carries what?

A. I believe that the intention was that these objects, including the ark itself which went first when the nation moved, be carried by people and not by burden animals.  God is dividing up the responsibly for the various parts among the major families of the Levites, and providing a role for each of them.

Q. (4:47-48): Was carrying the Tabernacle and its contents the only job of these men?  I would think that 8,580 men could do the job with a lot to spare.  Do we have any idea how Israelite civilization was set up?  With that many people, I would think it would be like a big downtown with people selling things and offering services.  We were told which sides of the Tabernacle the cities would reside.  The Tabernacle doesn’t look that big compared to the size of Israelite’s population.  I picture each side being like a subdivision.  And then finding your tent …  I picture the scene in Fools Rush In where Matthew Perry counts the houses on his Las Vegas street to see which one is his.

A. There is a lot of speculation about what the tent camp must have looked like, and I don’t really have any good answers for you.  Basically, what I know about the camp is that the Ark/Tabernacle was set up at the center of camp, and then the other tents were setup in concentric circles: the Levites formed the first ring (actually more like the first square, four sides are assigned to the various tribes), and then the rest of the tribes — 12 of them with Joseph’s two sons — formed the outer ring in the divisions that we saw in the previous reading.

When the camp moved, which is coming up, the Ark — carried on poles by the Levites- no one touched the Ark! — came to the front to lead, and the various objects for the Tabernacle (sacred objects, tent cloths, poles, etc.) were carried at various points among the other tribes in the order they were assigned to march.

As I said, there’s a lot of speculation about what this all looked like, but not a ton for us to go on about whether or not this looked like all the matching houses in Vegas.