Joshua Levites Cities of Refuge Israelites overlooking Canaan, the Promised Land

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

Sweet Publishing / FreeBibleimages.org

Welcome to Livin’ Light’s Bible-In-A-Year challenge of discovering God’s love for us and His purpose for our lives. Here is the format for this great adventure: The daily reading assignment is posted at 5 a.m. After each day’s reading, Leigh An Coplin, the blog host, shares observations and poses questions about difficult passages to Rob Fields, who studied Christian Education at Asbury Seminary and currently teaches Biology in the Orlando area. To start from the beginning, click on 365 Bible Readings and scroll down to Day 1. The reading schedule is taken from The One Year Chronological Bible NLT. 

Today’s Reading
Joshua 19:49-21:45
1 Chronicles 6:54-81
(1399 BC) Click here for a timeline of the entire Bible.

Questions & Observations

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 of refuge 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.

For further reading: Why was the Promised Land the goal of the Israelites? https://www.biblestudytools.com/bible-stories/the-promised-land.html

Shop: Christian shirts get noticed.  Check out these conversation starters: https://livinlight.org/shop/

Tomorrow’s reading: Joshua 22:1-24:33

Judges and officers appointed in towns charged to judge fairly in the Israel tribes

Day 76 (March 17): Judge fairly, choosing a king, gifts for priests and Levites, avoid foreign sin, future prophets, battle regulations, unsolved murders

Wong Chim Yuen

Welcome to Livin’ Light’s Bible-In-A-Year challenge of discovering God’s love for us and His purpose for our lives. Here is the format for this great adventure: The daily reading assignment is posted at 5 a.m. After each day’s reading, Leigh An Coplin, the blog host, shares observations and poses questions about difficult passages to Rob Fields, who studied Christian Education at Asbury Seminary and currently teaches Biology in the Orlando area. To start from the beginning, click on 365 Bible Readings and scroll down to Day 1. The reading schedule is taken from The One Year Chronological Bible NLT. 

Today’s Reading
Deuteronomy 16:18-21:9
(1406 BC) Click here for a timeline of the whole Bible.

Questions & Observations

Q. (Deuteronomy 16:21-22): This seems kind of random.  I read that Asherah was a Canaanite goddess?  Did God not like these pillars because they resembled some goddess?

A. You assessed this female deity correctly.  Asherah was worshipped as a fertility goddess, and archeological records indicate that she was worshipped at sites of tall trees or carved poles (we don’t know exactly what the Hebrew word for “pole” refers to).  Some scholars think they may have been carved figures like totem poles in Native American worship, but we do not know how large they were.  The pillars were the sites of worship of Asherah, not necessarily a physical resemblance, though in some instances the image of Asherah may have been carved into the pillar, pole, or tree.

One of the most interesting archeological discoveries from this period are a number of engravings, which name “Yahweh and his Asherah,” as well as figurines of her image, with the implication that Asherah was the wife of Yahweh after the Israelites settled in the Promised Land.  This would indicate that the people FAIL to not worship this other goddess, despite God’s strict command not to.  We shall surely revisit this issue.

Q. (17:5): I notice, for the first time, that the text refers to “the gates of town.”  Were most towns walled and gated?  It really sounds like hostile times all around.

A.  In this era, a city is defined by its walls and gates.  It was the easiest way to ensure protection against bandits and wild animals, both of which were huge problems outside of camps and cities.  The mindset that these people would have held was that if it didn’t have a wall, it wasn’t a city.

Q. (17:8-13): Would you say that our current justice system has roots in these passages?

A. Like many other nations, there is some limited influence on the system of justice that comes from the system created here, but I would hesitate to say that such laws “come” from this text.  They have been adopted from concepts laid out here, however.  We might call it a foundation for future judicial systems.

Q. (18:9-14): Fortune telling today seems almost like a circus act.  It’s hard for me to believe that anyone can “channel the dead.”  I am naïve to any practices.  But, I would suppose, that God would still consider these practices detestable today, just like He was with the Israelites?

A. As I think we have discussed (I don’t recall where), consorting with the dead or fortune telling is always about trying to gain an advantage over future events, and when you do that, you have moved beyond faith in God to provide for your needs.  There will be various references to speaking to the dead in future readings (of all the people, a king of Israel will do it, yikes!).  So to me, it would appear that the Bible says it IS possible to consort with the dead, but that we should not.  Let’s revisit this when our unfortunate king actually does so in 1 Samuel.

Q. (18:15-22): What future prophet is God referring to, or is it a surprise?

A. The language used is plural, indicating that Moses is talking about a series of prophets, which will provide guidance for the people in each generation.  Having said that, the language is also indicative of a final capital “P” Prophet, which is why many Christian scholars believe that it has Messianic expectation, which would of course point to Jesus as THE Prophet.  Jesus refers to himself as a prophet in Luke 13, and prophet is one of the three anointed offices in the OT, along with priest and king.  Jesus, in some form or another, fulfills each of these roles, but we’ll get to that at some point.

O. (19:1-13): This passage shows how much God strives to keep the purity in Israel.  If someone is killed and it’s a true accident, no more blood should be shed by an avenger.  He reserves some cities as refuges for those innocent offenders.  If they are not, it is better to purge them from Israel.  I like that word, “purge.”  That word gave me this clear visualization of Israel’s purity for the first time.

Q. (20:5-7): I don’t understand this passage.  If you haven’t eaten from your vineyard, you may die?  And the other scenarios.

A. Nope.  You’ve got it backwards.  The officer is saying that under each of the scenarios, the person is exempt from military service.  It appears that these were scenarios (getting married, buying new property, etc.) that were considered more valuable to their society than fighting for the nation, and therefore you could get out of service.  So it’s not “if you haven’t eaten from your vineyard, you might die,” it’s “if you die in combat, someone else gets your vineyard.”

Q. (20:15-18): Can we assume that the inhabitants of the towns God instructs the Israelites to destroy worship idols and act immoral?

A. Yes, I think that is a fair interpretation of the purpose of the task: they were ordered to entirely destroy the nations that occupied the Holy Land, not merely to drive them out and let them settle elsewhere.  We will see what happens when they fail at this task in Joshua.

For further study: How were city walls and buildings built in Bible times? https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/hbd/a/architecture-in-the-biblical-period.html

Shop: Luckily, today we don’t have to remember all of these commands.  These laws of the Old Testament were designed to set the Israelites apart as God’s people.  Today, loving God and loving others as much as you love yourself, is the way to identify Christians.  https://livinlight.org/product/love-rules-t-shirt/

Tomorrow’s reading: Deuteronomy 21:10-25:19

Israel's land divided Map of Israel's land divisions by tribe.

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

BibleOdyssey.org / FreeBibleimages.org
The shaded areas in this map represent the 12 tribal territories. Levi did not receive land and the territory of Joseph was divided between his two sons. The cities included in the map are mentioned in the Bible as important during the pre-monarchic period, and many of them were used to define boundaries between tribes.

Welcome to Livin’ Light’s Bible-In-A-Year challenge of discovering God’s love for us and His purpose for our lives. Here is the format for this great adventure: The daily reading assignment is posted at 5 a.m. After each day’s reading, Leigh An Coplin, the blog host, shares observations and poses questions about difficult passages to Rob Fields, who studied Christian Education at Asbury Seminary and currently teaches Biology in the Orlando area. To start from the beginning, click on 365 Bible Readings and scroll down to Day 1. The reading schedule is taken from The One Year Chronological Bible NLT. 

Today’s Reading
Numbers 34-36
(1407 BC) Click here for a timeline of the whole Bible.

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.  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 who were 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 accidentally 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!

For further study: Maps of Levitical cities and cities of refuge
https://www.foundationsforfreedom.net/References/OT/Historical/Joshua/Joshua13-24/Joshua21.8-42_Special%20Service.html
— Clear map of the cities of refuge: https://inspiredscripture.com/bible-studies/numbers-35#gsc.tab=0

Shop: God is our refuge!  In Him, we can have a good life!  https://livinlight.org/product/overflow-t-shirt/

Tomorrow’s reading: Deuteronomy 1-3:20

Rebellion. The rebellion of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram. Moses said, ‘By this you shall know that God has sent me to do all these things that I have done… if the Lord does a miracle and the ground opens up and swallows them and everything that belongs to them… then you will know that these men have despised the Lord.’ He had hardly finished speaking the words when the ground suddenly split open beneath them, and a great fissure swallowed them up, along with their tents and families and the friends who were standing with them, and everything they owned.

Day 63 (March 4): Korah challenges Moses, Moses tests challengers, Aaron’s staff shows he’s chosen, priests and Levites duties defined, tithing

Wong Chim Yuen

Welcome to Livin’ Light’s Bible-In-A-Year challenge of discovering God’s love for us and His purpose for our lives. Here is the format for this great adventure: The daily reading assignment is posted at 5 a.m. After each day’s reading, Leigh An Coplin, the blog host, shares observations and poses questions about difficult passages to Rob Fields, who studied Christian Education at Asbury Seminary and currently teaches Biology in the Orlando area. To start from the beginning, click on 365 Bible Readings and scroll down to Day 1. The reading schedule is taken from The One Year Chronological Bible NLT. 

Today’s Reading
Numbers 16-18
(1426 BC) Click here for a timeline of the whole Bible.

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 without 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 priests 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. 13).  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.

For Further reading:
— Dispelling doubts of Christianity. https://livinlight.org/blog/dispelling-doubts-of-christianity/

Tomorrow’s reading: Numbers 19-21

More laws and instructions. Map of Israelite tribes and clans placed around Tabernacle. Rev. Yves Langevin/FreeBibleimages.org

Day 59 (Feb. 28): God assigns Tabernacle duties to Levite clans, clans counted, keeping camp pure, marital faithfulness

Rev. Yves Langevin/FreeBibleimages.org

Welcome to Livin’ Light’s Bible-In-A-Year challenge of discovering God’s love for us and His purpose for our lives. Here is the format for this great adventure: The daily reading assignment is posted at 5 a.m. After each day’s reading, Leigh An Coplin, the blog host, shares observations and poses questions about difficult passages to Rob Fields, who studied Christian Education at Asbury Seminary and currently teaches Biology in the Orlando area. To start from the beginning, click on 365 Bible Readings and scroll down to Day 1. The reading schedule is taken from The One Year Chronological Bible NLT. 

Today’s Reading
Numbers 4-5
(1445 BC) Click here for a timeline of the whole Bible.

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.

For further study
— More information on the ritual of protecting marital faithfulness (Numbers 5:11-31): https://www.gotquestions.org/Numbers-abortion.html
— God spends a lot of time talking about sin because temptations are everywhere.  Sin is like weeds, it comes in all shapes and sizes, but all of it is ugly. https://livinlight.org/blog/pull-those-weeds/

Tomorrow’s reading: Numbers 6, 10

 

Israel gets organized. NLT Bible open to the introduction of Numbers. Tribes assigned place in camp, Levites to serve priests, Levites register, Firstborn sons redeemed through Levites

Day 58 (Feb. 27): Tribes assigned place in camp, Levites serve as priests, Levites register, Firstborn sons redeemed through Levites

Welcome to Livin’ Light’s Bible-In-A-Year challenge of discovering God’s love for us and His purpose for our lives. Here is the format for this great adventure: The daily reading assignment is posted at 5 a.m. After each day’s reading, Leigh An Coplin, the blog host, shares observations and poses questions about difficult passages to Rob Fields, who studied Christian Education at Asbury Seminary and currently teaches Biology in the Orlando area. To start from the beginning, click on 365 Bible Readings and scroll down to Day 1. The reading schedule is taken from The One Year Chronological Bible NLT. 

Today’s Reading
Numbers 2-3
(1445 BC) Click here for a timeline of the whole Bible.

Questions & Observations

Q. (Numbers 2-3): Why is the number of people and the number of eligible warriors important to Bible readers?

A. Honestly, there’s not a great answer to that question for us today.  To the original readers (ancient Jews), this section would have been important as it relates to their own genealogy, something we have established is an important purpose of the OT.  This section — I’ll count chapters 1-3 — provides information on the current tribal leaders in the wilderness (1:5-15), the marching order for the army (note who’s out in front, Judah’s tribe, not Reuben’s), the arrangement of the camp, and a section for the genealogy of the Levites.  These are important considerations for this early post-Exodus nation.  Jews to this day use the Exodus as a marker or divider of time and history, the way Christians do with the Incarnation in the move between BC and AD.  So to them, this is a very crucial period between their ancestor’s freedom and the establishment of their own kingdom.

Q. (3:14): Can you tell us why the Levites were chosen for holy work?

A. No, I can’t tell you, because I don’t know.  God does not ever fully reveal the reason He selected the Levites for this task, only that He has chosen them.  It might be because Moses and Aaron were of that tribe, but ultimately, it is an issue of God’s sovereign choice.

But this passage (v. 11-13) does provide some interesting insight into the mindset that God is using: the Levities are designated to be the “first born” of the tribe, which from the Passover God tells us that the “first borns” belong to Him.  They were to be a people set apart, as a representation of the entire nation, in the same way that the entire nation was to be set apart from the world around them.  So you could say the Levites were “chosen” by God in the same representative manner that the entire nation was “chosen”  Why them?  Only God knows!

Q. (3:43): The number of firstborns in this verse (22,273) seems much too small for a population of that many people.  What gives?

A. Actually, you’ve hit on one of the major problems of this text: what to do with the large numbers the text presents.  If added together (I looked it up, I didn’t calculate this number myself), you get a population of somewhere around 2 million people, which seems a bit too large for this period.  There are a few ways of looking at how the number is reached, but ultimately there is no definitive answer.  One way, for example, is that the Hebrew word for “thousand” is not actually what the word means here.  I wouldn’t get too hung up on the numbers: the most important thing that we can discern from this census is that the population had grown substantially in Egypt from the 12 sons of Jacob, and they will use this growth and mustered army to become a powerful nation, with God’s help, in the book of Joshua.

For further study: God choosing Levites rooted in loyalty: https://www.dubiousdisciple.com/2012/10/numbers-310-12-why-were-the-levites-selected-for-the-priesthood.html 

Shop: Realizing that God speaks TRUTH, fuels a desire to follow him. https://livinlight.org/product/truth-pepper/

Tomorrow’s reading: Numbers 4-5

 

Offering instructions priest guidelines, The Costume of the High Priest. The Jewish Museum / A gift of the heirs of Jacob Schiff.

Day 49 (Feb. 18): More instructions for guilt offering, peace offering, blood and fat is forbidden, priests’ portions, priests’ ordination

The Jewish Museum / A gift of the heirs of Jacob Schiff.

Welcome to Livin’ Light’s Bible-In-A-Year challenge of discovering God’s love for us and His purpose for our lives. Here is the format for this great adventure: The daily reading assignment is posted at 5 a.m. After each day’s reading, Leigh An Coplin, the blog host, shares observations and poses questions about difficult passages to Rob Fields, who studied Christian Education at Asbury Seminary and currently teaches Biology in the Orlando area. To start from the beginning, click on 365 Bible Readings and scroll down to Day 1. The reading schedule is taken from The One Year Chronological Bible NLT. 

Today’s Reading
Leviticus 7-8
(1445 BC) Click here for a timeline of the whole Bible.

Questions & Observations

Q. (Leviticus 7:23-27): Why the strict requirements for blood and fat?  Those are two laws I would have no problem following.

A. There are two separate reasons for the restrictions.  The fat was used as fuel for the altar, and at least in the fellowship offering, the section in question, the fat was the portion that belonged to the Lord.  There is some debate as to whether this was a universal restriction, or only in the instance of this offering.  I couldn’t find a definitive answer.

The blood is a different matter, and there are a couple of reasons for not ingesting it.  First, blood sacrifice was a huge part of the pagan rituals in the Middle East at this time, so this was another example of the people being called to be set apart by not doing something their neighbors would have commonly done — drink blood from sacrifices — including human sacrifice.  But there’s more to it than that: One of the things that God instructs the people is that they are forbidden to drink blood because the blood is the life of the creature in question (Lev 17:11).  The blood belonged to God as the Creator of the being, and it appears God did not want the life of these creatures to be “taken” into His people.  Incidentally, this verse and concept are a big part of the reason that Jehovah’s Witnesses consider blood transfusions to be forbidden: you are, in their eyes, taking life from someone and giving it to someone else — an act they consider God to forbid.  While I think that blood transfusions were not what God had in mind, and I therefore reject that position for JWs, I think that this is a neat concept worth considering.

Q. From reading all of this, I can picture the priests eating a lot of sacrificial meat.  With all the thousands of people of Israel offering sacrifices, I would think that the altars would have been going 24/7, especially with all of the requirements for each sacrifice.  How could the priests keep up?

A. We don’t have any information about how much there were animal sacrifices in the wilderness, but according to what the ancient rabbis wrote about the Temple (where the sacrifice system will move after Israel settles in the Promised Land), the ritual system was a 24-hour a day process.  So yes, there would have been a lot of meat.  I suspect most of it was burned up to prevent it from rotting, but from this we can see that certain portions of the offered sacrifices could be taken home to feed the priests’ family.

Q. (8:14, 18, 22): What’s the reason for the priests putting their hands on the sacrificial animals’ heads?

A. The ritual of sacrifice for sin was a three-step system: offering, transference, and slaughter.  The person who made the offering — the priest in this case — would offer up an animal that would serve to pay the penalty (death) for the sin of the person.  The person would lay hands on the head of the animal, to symbolize the transference of the sin, and also to provide the person in question the clear understanding of what was happening.  The laying on hands was a way to honor this animal that would bear the penalty for the person’s sin, and then the animal would die in a fairly humane manner — if you can believe it — to this day that is a major emphasis of kosher butchering.  God wanted the sinner to be perfectly clear about the cost of sin.  And though the gore of such effort would surely have been nearly unbearable, I wonder if we are always better off by being sheltered from the true and ultimate cost of the sin that Jesus bore in our place.

Tomorrow’s reading: Leviticus 9-11

The Lord ordered Moses for all the Israelites to celebrate the Passover.

Day 47 (Feb. 16): Levites dedicated, Second Passover, rules for burnt, grain and peace offerings

Wong Chim Yuen

Welcome to Livin’ Light’s Bible-In-A-Year challenge of discovering God’s love for us and His purpose for our lives. Here is the format for this great adventure: The daily reading assignment is posted at 5 a.m. After each day’s reading, Leigh An Coplin, the blog host, shares observations and poses questions about difficult passages to Rob Fields, who studied Christian Education at Asbury Seminary and currently teaches Biology in the Orlando area. To start from the beginning, click on 365 Bible Readings and scroll down to Day 1. The reading schedule is taken from The One Year Chronological Bible NLT. 

Today’s Reading
Numbers 8
Leviticus 1-3
(1445 BC) Click here for a timeline of the whole Bible.

Questions & Observations

Q. (Numbers 8:5-26): Can you remind us of which of Jacob’s sons the Levites came from and any significance that has on them becoming the ones to work with the priests?  So, there were thousands of Levites that had to be purified?  I think you told us earlier that the Levites had to disperse among the other tribes.  What were there duties?

A. Actually, the term Levites tells us which son they were from: Jacob’s third son Levi.  Levi was one of the sons who got Jacob into trouble with the whole “wait until our enemies are circumcised and then kill them” bit from Genesis 34 (fun times).  Part of Jacob’s “blessing” for Levi was that his descendants would be dispersed among the other tribes, and here we see that played out.

Regarding their duties, that is, actually, what some portions of Leviticus are about, so let’s hang on to that one and see if we come to a sufficient answer.

Q. The Passover is just celebrated today by the Jewish community, right?  The new law of the New Testament makes us no longer under Passover requirements.  Is it still a good idea to practice them?

A. We should distinguish being required to celebrate Passover, as religious Jews are, and recalling/celebrating the way that God has acted in the past as Christians do to this day.  As we’ve mentioned, the sacrament of Communion was “born” at the satyr or Passover meal, so Jesus certainly desired us to know and understand both what had happened in Exodus, but also the ways that He was doing something new to forever change our status with God.

Q. (Leviticus 1:9) Do you know of any reason why God required that the legs and internal organs be singled out to be from the rest of the body to be washed before sacrificing?

A. I can’t find a particular reference to why those particular portions were required to be washed, no.

Q. (Leviticus 2:10-11,13) Why is the grain the most holy of all of the offerings?  Why no yeast?  To remind them of their deliverance from Egypt?  And, why no honey?

A. I’m not completely sure about why this was considered to be the most holy of offerings (that were burned), but part of the instruction to the priests were that grain offerings were to be eaten AT the altar, rather than taken home to their families.

Regarding yeast and honey: the yeast (as we’ve examined) was to remain out partly because of the reminder of Passover, but also because it is a cultivated product (i.e. human effort), where as the bread without yeast is purely a reminder of God’s provision and effort in Exodus.  There are a few guesses why honey was excluded, which include its use in brewing beer, but also possibly because it was part of the ritual sacrifice of the Canaanite tribes in the Promised Land.  The lack of honey in the religious ritual would have therefore set the tribe apart from its surrounding neighbors, a recurring theme in Leviticus.

Q. (2:13):  Why would salt remind the Isrealites of God’s eternal covenant?

A. There’s few references to salt in this capacity (see Numbers 18:19 for one), but the reason for this inclusion is not specifically given.  The best guess I came across is that when establishing a covenant in the ancient Middle East, there was frequently a meal served as part of the ritual, and salting the meat of sacrificed animals was a part of it.

Q. (2:15,16): I can’t believe I missed asking the significance of olive oil?  How about frankincense?

A. Olive oil would have been just about the only oil available in those days, but there does not appear to be anything special about it as far as I can tell.  The use of incense —frankincense being one example — was certainly a part of the rituals of the priesthood: incense was burned day and night, mixed in the showbread, and used here.  It would have been crucial in helping to deal with the overpowering smell of the animal sacrifices.

Q. (3:1-17): This sounds anything but peaceful!  I know I have spoken my ill feelings about sacrifices.  I know the times were very different.  It’s just that from the way we were brought up, this activity would be viewed as cult-like.  Also, what I view as violent coming from God in the OT seems opposite of the gentle love he shows in the NT.  I understand that sacrificing was for the people to give their best to the Lord.  But, why all the cutting up and talk of different organs and fat?

A. The term “peace offering” comes from the Hebrew word Shalom, and would have represented peace between God and His people, without, unfortunately, much consideration for the animals that were used.  It certainly was a different time, and honestly the consideration of animal slaughter would not have been a big deal to these people: they had to use and kill animals constantly to survive.  Don’t forget: these rituals  — which certainly can be called cult-like — were all about keeping the people in right relationship with God, i.e. to keep peace between God and men.  Animal sacrifice is, at this point, THE ONLY WAY to satisfy God’s requirements for atonement of sin.  We see it quite differently in light of Christ, but that was their reality.

One thought that might help: the ritual of animal sacrifice can be seen as a foreshadowing of the coming of Christ, which is how most church Fathers viewed it in ancient times.  So if we harness our disgust at the brutal nature of the whole matter of sacrificing animals, we can then imagine the significance and magnitude of a human being, Jesus, WILLINGLY laying down His own life for His people to forever give peace between God and people.  Yes it was, and is, brutal, but such is the cost of sin.

For further study: Who are the Levites? https://www.google.com/search?sca_esv=215339b64560bbc8&sca_upv=1&tbm=vid&q=who+were+the+Levites%3F&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwjz9pWL3eSDAxX1mbAFHcZCDNQQ8ccDegQIRRAI&biw=1204&bih=840&dpr=2.5#fpstate=ive&vld=cid:28bd3714,vid:-sBPxKPOgzY,st:0

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Tomorrow’s reading: Leviticus 4-6