Numbers 25 – Reading Note

This chapter is an important one to remember for when you read Numbers 31

  • The men of Israel began sinning against God again, committing sexual immorality with the Moabite women, and worshipping the god of Moab (Baal of Peor). The sexual immorality led to the idolatry. God became angry with them. Interestingly, the women of Israel are not said to have participated (25: 1 -3).
  • The suggestion that the women of Moab lead the men of Israel into sexual immorality and idolatry was actually made by Balaam (31: 16). So, it was a plot rather than a chance happening.
  • The leaders of Moab and Midian conspired to get Balaam to curse the Israelites and when that failed, they resorted to this (22: 2 – 5, 7).
  •  Moses, following God’s commands, instructs the leaders of the people to kill all the men who had joined in worshipping Baal (25: 4, 5).
  • Before all the men who participated were killed, God had already sent a plague that killed 24,000 Israelites (25: 6 – 9).
  • This incident involved leaders of the people. Zimri, son of Zalu, the leader of a Simeonite family was with Cozbi, daughter of Zur, a tribal chief of a Midianite family. They were both killed by Phinehas the priest and son of Aaron (25: 14, 15).
  • Zimri and Cozbi are both introduced as ‘an Israelite man’ and ‘a Midianite woman’ (25:6). Their names are not given until later (25: 14, 15). A similar thing was done in the story of Moses, where his parents are introduce as ‘a Levite man and a Levite woman’ (Ex 2:1) and their names given much later in a genealogy (Ex 6: 20).
  • God tells the Israelites to take justice (or vengeance) on the Midianites, treat them as enemies and kill them because they treated the Israelites as enemies and killed 24,000+ of them. Nothing is said about the Moabites (25: 16 – 18) but Balaam had already prophesied that they would be destroyed by the Israelites (24: 15 – 19).

Numbers 24 – Reading Note

  • The third time, Balaam did not try to consult God. He concluded that since God had wanted to bless Israel the other times and since he had not changed his mind, he would still give them a blessing. So he blessed them without consulting God (24: 1, 2). He did this even though he knew Balak wanted him to curse them.
  • The narrator refers to what Balaam had done in consulting the LORD the previous times as ‘sorcery’ and from what I remember, sorcery was severely frowned upon in the laws. However, commentaries suggest that sorcery here is not used in the way it was used when condemned by those other laws. It might simply refer to the act of consulting God for knowledge of future events (as opposed to consulting demons and the dead in other passages). (24: 1)
  • Balak was angry that Balaam had blessed the Israelites but he blamed God, not Balak. He also did not punish Balaam but simply refused reward Balaam because he had not cursed Israel like he was supposed to. These suggest that he believed that Balaam was actually acting on God’s orders (24: 10, 11).
  • Balaam’s quote of him previous statement in 24: 13 is not word for word what he said in 22:18
  • Balaam warned Balak of what Israel would do to his people in the future. How did he come to know this and what purpose did telling Balak serve (24: 14)?
  • Balaam’s prophecy was that Moab would be destroyed, along with certain other places. I wonder what the status of that prophecy is.

 

Numbers 23 – Reading Note

  • When Balak wanted God to speak to him, he went off alone (23: 3, 15).
  • God met him (23:4, 16).
    • Balaam told God that he had offered sacrifices. Why did he feel the need to tell God this? Did he not know that God knew (23: 4)?
    • Balaam said that the Israelites did not consider themselves one of the nations (23:9).
    • Was Balaam calling Israel righteous (23: 10)?
    • Instead of sending Balaam away after he blessed the Israelites the first time, Balak asked him to try to curse them again. He was hoping that God would let Balaam curse them from another location (23: 11 – 13, 27, 28)?
    • Both the first and second oracles follow the same pattern:

Balak takes Balaam to a place where he can see the Israelites

They make offerings.

Balaam goes away to speak with God

Balaam returns and finds Balak standing near his offering.

Balaam blesses Israel

  • God does not change his mind. If he says he will do something, he will do it. If he makes a promise, he keeps it (23: 19).

Numbers 21 & 22 – Reading Note

  • The King of Sihon refused to let the Israelites pass through his territory. Instead, he led an army against them. The King of Og too was agressive towards them. They won both battles. In neither case were they the first aggressors (21: 21 – 26, 33 – 35).
  • Balak, the king of Moab, was scared because the Israelites were so powerful. So he sent for Balaam to curse them (22: 4 – 6).
  • Balaam worshipped Israel’s God, Yahweh (22: 7 – 9, 18).
  • When the king of Moab wouldn’t relent, God allowed Balaam to go to him. Yet, as he went, God was angry. The text does not say who he was angry with or why (22: 21, 22).
  • I wonder why Balaam’s donkey saw the angel (22: 33).
  • This is another one of the angel of the LORD passages.
  • I wonder what sin Balaam was referring to. Was it that he kept going even though the angel was trying to stop him (22: 34)?
  • God is referred to as Elohim and Yahweh in this passage. Both names are used interchangeably.
  • Balaam was a good prophet. He refused to speak anything besides what God had told him (22:38).

Numbers 19 & 20 – Reading Note

  • Foreigners were included in Israelite practices as we have seen in the previous chapters (19: 10).
  • The people complained again when they had no water just like they had been doing (20: 2- 5).
  • God instructed Moses and Aaron to perform a miracle to produce water in front of the people (20: 7, 8).
  • God said to take the staff. What staff (20: 7, 8)? The commentaries I have read say it was not the staff of Aaron that had blossomed, but the staff with which Moses had performed miracles in Egypt
  • Moses and Aaron did something wrong and God said they would not enter the land of Canaan (20: 9 – 12). Once again, I consulted several commentaries and they say Moses did several things wrong.
    1. He struck the rock rather than speak to it as God commanded seemingly because he did not think that speaking to it would be enough and he did it twice apparently because he was angry
    2. He spoke angrily to the people “Hear now, you rebels”.
    3. He suggested in his speech that he was the one bringing water from the rock rather than God, “Must we bring you water out of this rock?”, which of course does not honor God.

I think those are speculative, but they might be pretty good guesses.

  • Moses said that God sent and angel and rescued them from Egypt (20:16).
  • The Edomites would not let the Israelites pass through their territory, for unstated reasons (20:18, 20). Israel did not attack them, but went their own way.
  • I wonder whether Moses asked God for directions about such things.
  • When God said it was time for Aaron to die, because of what he and Moses had done at Meribah, there are no recorded protests from either of them, no pleas, nothing. They just did as they were instructed (20: 23 – 27).
  • Aaron died on Mount Hor, but it is not said what killed him (20: 27 – 29).

Numbers 18 – Reading Note

  • God gave Aaron, his sons and his father’s family the responsibility for offenses against the sanctuary and he gave Aaron and his sons alone the responsibility for offenses against the priesthood (18:1).
  • God said if the Levites went near the furnishings of the sanctuary (not just the sanctuary itself but the things in it), they wouldn’t just die, Aaron would die too (18:2, 3).
  • There’s that repetition again. Verse 2 says, “Bring your fellow Levites from your ancestral tribe to join you and assist you when you and your sons minister before the Tent of the Testimony.” Aaron’s fellow Levites were from the tribe of Levi – why repeat it? (18:2)
  • God gave Aaron and his sons the priesthood as a gift. Aaron was definitely a good enough man to receive it. He was not perfect, but neither was Moses. The priesthood was a position of great responsibility. There were lots of things that needed to be done in a certain way so no one would die. It was also a position of great power and wealth. Everything in Israel that was given to God belonged to the priest. A great part of the sacrifices that the Israelites brought belonged to the priest as did the firstfruits of the harvest and the firstborn of man and animals. The sons were to be redeemed as were the unclean animals. (18:7, 9, 11 – 19).
  • This is funny: The price for redemption for firstborn sons and animals was the same: 5 shekels (18:15, 16).
  • The Most holy offerings could be eaten by every male in the priest’s family but the other offerings (including the holy offerings) could be eaten by everyone, both male and female, as long as they were ceremonially clean. I wonder why (18: 11 – 19).
  • The firstborn of oxen, sheep and goats were not to be redeemed because they were holy. They were to be sacrificed (18: 17). Their necks were to be broken, if I remember correctly.
  • God said Aaron wouldn’t have any share inheritance among the Israelites because he (God) was Aaron’s share and inheritance (18: 20). Is that code for “I have blessed you so much you don’t need any more” or does it mean something else? I really should invest in a commentary.
  • Oh, and the Israelites were not to go near the Tent of Meeting or they would die (18:7, 22).
  • The Levites were the ones allowed to work near the tent of meeting and they bore the responsibility for offenses against the Tent of Meeting. God gave them things in return for the work – their inheritance. It was the tithe that the Israelites brought. They would get no other inheritance (18: 21 -24).
  • The Levites had to give their tithe from what they received too – 10% to Aaron, the priest. Their tithe had to be the best 10% of everything they were given. It was actually a tithe to God, but it was given to Aaron just as the Israelite’s tithe to God was given to the Levites. If they gave this 10%, they would not be guilty (in that matter) of defiling the offerings of the Israelites and they won’t die (18: 25 – 32).

Numbers 17 – Reading Note

  • God said he was going to put an end to the grumbling against Moses and God once and for all by making Aaron’s staff sprout. This would mean that the people were not going to doubt Moses’ leadership again (17: 1 -5, 10, 11).
  • God didn’t just make Aaron’s staff sprout like he said it would; he made it produce almonds.
  • I don’t know where the people got the idea that anyone who went near the tabernacle would die.