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.

Numbers 34-36

Questions & Observations

Q. (Numbers 34:1-15): I found a good map of the land division of Canaan.  Go to:  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:

O. (36:5-9): God’s wisdom is amazing!

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