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

 

Purification. Woman with newborn child must set out to be purified for a set amount of time in order to be deemed ceremonially clean.

Day 51 (Feb. 20): Purifying after childbirth, skin disease decrees, suspicious spots (mildew, leprosy, etc.)

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 12
(1445 BC) Click here for a timeline of the whole Bible.

Questions & Observations

Q. (Leviticus 12:1-8): Lots of questions here.  What does it mean to be unclean?  Why are women unclean after childbirth, something that I would think be a blessing!  Maybe it has something to do with the blood, as we discussed before?  Why the difference in wait time between having a boy and having a girl before a mother can be ceremonially clean?

A. Remember that the sacrifice system only allowed for two options: you were either ceremonially clean or unclean.  If you were unclean, you could not fully participate in the religious life of the community — you couldn’t enter the courtyard of the Tabernacle, for example — and you would have been forced to live outside the safety of the community, as this text alludes to.  It was a powerful incentive for families to maintain clean dwellings and bodies.

While the kosher section is a bit tougher to pin down the “reason” for some animals and not others, the reasoning here is pretty simple: this is basically a system of public health.  Blood, mold, open wounds, and other such things could spread disease, which could spread disease among the whole camp (keep in mind that there is no basic sanitation at this point).  So for the childbirth, it is indeed the bleeding, not the birth itself, that caused the uncleanliness.  The menstrual blood from either monthly cycles or the after effects of giving birth was a great hazard for disease.  The reason for a shorter “quarantine” for baby boys than girls has been lost to history.

Q. (13:1-46): Rob, can you tell us the significance here?  In the NT, Jesus heals so many people.  Here, anyone with an affliction, must be examined to see if they are pass all of these tests to see if they are worthy of what?  What does it mean to be ceremonially unclean?  They can’t worship God?  In 12:44, those with serious skin diseases must live outside camp and holler “unclean, unclean” to passers-by.  Where is God’s love here?  Or, am I likely missing a big point?

A. I confess that this passage is difficult to understand, but we have to understand that it is God setting these rules, and we can trust that He had good reason to do so.  This is a legal system God is building here: it will have its imperfections — when in comes to individuals verses the group safety — and things that look unfair to us from a distance.   While there was a process involved, it is important, I think, to note that there were very few conditions — save leprosy — that would have made people PERMANENTLY separated from the tribe.  Most people with skin disorders or similar problems (we will see more of this coming, so hang in there!) would get over them eventually, and could regain full status in the tribe.

The big idea here is that since the presence of God is set in the camp, the camp itself must be a place of ceremonial cleanliness: this is ultimately why all of the restrictions, rules, and procedures that sound harsh and ridiculous to us were put into place.  The presence of God will not stand the presence of things that are unclean (including people) in the midst of Himself, which is central to our understanding of how God relates to sin (which of course makes us ritually unclean).  One other note: many of these rules will be shifted a bit when the camp moves into the Promised Land and the Temple specifically, so there is something to monitor.

Perhaps something else to think about is that by the power of God through Jesus Christ, no one ever has to be unclean again — that certainly puts a different spin on His healing of lepers, doesn’t it?

Q. That brings me to another question.  Only the priests and Levites were allowed inside the Tabernacle, right?  Where were the Israelites — non-priests and non-Levites — supposed to worship?

A. The Tabernacle was not a place of worship for the general population, and it wasn’t really a place of worship for the Levites either: it was the meeting place with God where the Law was upheld and sin atoned for.  As to where the people did worship, I honestly don’t have a good answer to that.  It does not appear that there were other locations for worship, so my assumption would be that the people would worship near the Tabernacle — which was at the center of camp remember — but I see no reason that the people could not worship from their own tent homes.

Q. (13:47): My footnotes say that “mildew” actually means “leprosy.”  Why would the NLT version change it to mildew?

A. OK, this is a tricky answer.  So let’s try to thread the needle.  Basically, the Hebrew word used in these passages, sara’at, is a word with a much broader definition than either mildew or leprosy alone.  The word refers to various skin diseases of which leprosy is only one (we actually run into this same problem in the Greek of the NT), but the word ALSO is used to refer to spots on clothing, what we would call mildew or fungal growth. The mold/mildew/fungal growth that takes place in a house — think of dirty bath tub mildew/mold — or other dwelling, which comes up in our next section.  So basically, I disagree with the footnotes assessment that the word used “means” leprosy.  It is actually a broad word with many different definitions, some of which we probably do not even know, and the NLT translators — it’s the same with NIV — have done their best to use the context clues to give our “best guess” as to what the rules have in mind in each instance.

O. (14:14): The blood on the right ear lobe, the right thumb and the right big toe is explained in Day 41 (Feb. 10) questions.  You can find it by clicking on the index tab.

Q. (14:1-7): Why the two birds, cedar stick, scarlet yarn and hyssop branch?  Why was one bird released?

A. Certain rituals — including the Day of Atonement from chapter 16 — involved two animals: one was killed, symbolizing the penalty for the sin, and one was released, symbolizing the removal of the sin/purification of the person or people in question.  All three of the other items were used in cleansing and washing rituals, so that the entire procedure involved both sacrifice and cleansing elements.

Q. (Leviticus 14:1-32): In this law, why would someone with a cured skin disease have to make a sin sacrifice?

A. There is probably a mentality that those who have caught a skin disease were being punished for their sin (Job anyone?), and therefore they needed to make a sacrifice for their presumed sin.  When it came to being ritually pure and getting your life back, better safe than sorry!

Q. How did the priests keep all of these rules straight?  There are so many.  Maybe, because of the culture of the times then, they were able to make more sense of all the steps to make offerings and be pure?

A. I don’t have an exact answer for you here, but I’ve read about the process of becoming a priest in Jesus’ day (NT), and these men began learning about the Law almost from birth, so that by the time a person was actually a “career” worker for God, he would have known the Law inside and out.  It was their very life!  We tend to see this as “so many commands,” how could they remember it all.  But most of us know someone who can tell you entire lines from movies, or practically entire chapters from their favorite books.  It is remarkable what the human brain can fully remember when we are driven to learn or remember something because it has such an impact on us.

Quite frankly, we don’t know nearly as much about the Bible (any part really) as the first Christians because there was LITERALLY nothing more important to them to knowing God’s word.  We choose not to spend vast amounts of time learning the Scriptures, so perhaps we — and I include myself here — should be very careful about judging the memories or intent of a people who were so literally close to God.

Q. (14:21-32): This doesn’t really sound like a cheaper offering to me?

A. It’s less if you double check and do the math.

For further study: What to do with the Bible’s Purity Laws, https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/purity-laws/

Shop: Following God and not our own will proves wise, as we seen with the Israelites.  Wear and share that knowledge at Livin’ Light: https://livinlight.org/product/wise-owl-t-shirt-gray/

Tomorrow’s reading: Leviticus 14:33-16:34

Offering procedures. A summary graphic of the burnt offering

Day 48 (Feb. 17): Offering procedures, sins that require an offering, procedures for ordination offering

Marian van der Kruijt

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 4-6
(1445 BC) Click here for a timeline of the whole Bible.

Questions & Observations

Q. Do the OT priests have any duties like the duties of the priests today?  All we know that they do is prepare and offer sacrifices.

A. As you can see from the shear number of instructions, the role of priest was a full time job for Aaron’s family.  They had an incredibly important job: to keep the people in good standing with God through the use of sacrifices.

The priesthood here is focused on a very different task from “our” priesthood (the Christian office of priest/pastor), and we will see other duties mentioned: Leviticus notes that it is the priest’s responsibly to declare people unclean so that they could seek purification, and to deliver the blessing of the priest, which comes from Numbers 6.  So while Christian priests do give blessings, I think that’s pretty much the end of the similarity.

Q. (Leviticus 4:3-12) Here it says the High Priest prepares the young bull.  We can assume he has some help from the other priests or the Levites?  He couldn’t possibly handle one bull by himself.  These preparations sound arduous

A. I think we can assume he has help, but I would take the instruction to mean that the High Priest was in charge of the effort, and could not delegate it, since it was his sin involved.

Q. It’s interesting how all of these sin sacrifices say that if you don’t know you have sinned, you are still guilty.  When whomever sins becomes aware of it, they must make an offering.  It sounds like a lot of their sinning refers to touching things that are ceremonially unclean or others mentioned in Leviticus 5:1-4, so can we can apply this rule to today?  I know there are a lot of times when I don’t realize I have sinned until I have one of those quiet moments without little noisemakers around, that I realize I have done wrong.

A. There’s a principle of our modern law that is at work here: what is in Latin called Ignorantia juris non excusat (Ignorance of the law is no excuse).

I think that this reading points to a huge flaw in the system of the Law for these people.  The “solution” of the sacrificial system is that it is very legalistic: you have to be sure you are dotting every “I” and crossing every “t”, or the system doesn’t work, and your guilt and sin can affect the entire community – we will see instances of this at work in later books such as Joshua.  As Christians, we have moved beyond the elaborate demands of the Law into a better system of being declared right with God through our faith in Christ.  So even if we are not aware of our sins, we can still be “covered.”

One of the things that the NT describes as a crucial role of the Holy Spirit is to convict the believer of sin that they may not be aware of.  This is not so that our place in heaven can be assured (we’re not under that system), but rather so that we can remove the cancer of sin from our lives.  Sin, even unintentional sin, always has consequences, so it is in our interest in our walk with God if we seek His guidance about any sin that we might be missing or conveniently ignoring!  I knew a minister in my seminary who had a daily habit of praying Psalm 139:23-24, which asks God to search our heart in order to lead us in the right path.  I would say it’s a very good habit.

Q. (5:17) I notice that God differentiates violating one of God’s commands from other sins.  Are sins all equal or are some worse than others?

A. Actually, it appears to me that all of the sins and categories described in today’s reading had one thing in common: unintentional action.  The intentional violations of God’s Law — we will see some — had the same effect on the person: they were guilty of sin whether big or small, but in terms of “worse” consequences, there were some.  Intentional offenses carried the death penalty in some cases — though we don’t have much record of this actually being carried out — so I will leave it up to you to determine if that is “worse”.  In the grand scheme of things as it relates to God, it does not matter if we sin little — like gossip or lying — or big —murder or adultery.  The only two categories in the eyes of God are sinner or non-sinner.  This doesn’t mean that bigger sins don’t have larger consequences in the current life, but we should be aware that the “little” sins we have a habit of doing can be just as deadly to our soul if we don’t have faith in Christ.

For further study: The importance of Tabernacle offerings in Leviticus: https://waynestiles.com/blog/offerings-in-leviticus-what-they-were-and-why-they-mattered

Shop: Jesus atoned for our sins so we no longer need to make sacrifices on an altar.  However, we still must lay down our life and live for the Lord.  When we do that, we will see Him, know Him and understand even though He is so mighty and powerful, He loves us like no other.  Livin’ Light helps you share your faith with others so they can realize the same joy! https://livinlight.org/product/live-for-the-lord/

Tomorrow’s reading: Leviticus 7-8

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

Shop: Check out apparel at Livin’ Light so you can show God’s Word to everyone around you.  You may get some second looks! https://livinlight.org/shop/

Tomorrow’s reading: Leviticus 4-6

 

Tabernacle offerings. All offerings from the tribes of Israel to the Tabernacle where God resided were laid on a silver platter.

Day 46 (Feb. 15): Offerings for the Tabernacle dedication

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. 

If you have been reading along, congrats, you have finished Exodus!  That’s three books down.  Today we start a new book, Numbers (actually Numbers 9:15-23 was yesterday).  Because we are reading chronologically, soon, the text will be flopping back and forth between Numbers and Leviticus.  For background information about Numbers, go to http://www.biblestudytools.com/nlt/numbers/ and for Leviticus, go to http://www.biblestudytools.com/nlt/leviticus/.  We will be referring to this link before every new book to provide information about the author, time it was written, and other scene-setting material.

Today’s Reading
Numbers 7:1-89
(1445 BC) Click here for a timeline of the whole Bible.

Questions & Observations

Q. (Numbers 7:10): I would imagine that the Tabernacle looked like a treasure storehouse after all of these gifts.  These gifts were presented and remained right outside the Tabernacle?  All the animals were sacrificed?

A. I’m not sure where things were “stored”, but yes, they were presented outside the Tabernacle.  Yes, the poor animals were sacrificed.

Q. The silver offerings were just a matter of what each was sacrificing?  Did the grain symbolize anything?

A. They are part of the grain offering, which will be explored in Leviticus.

Q. Incense?  Just an aroma pleasing to God?  Was it used for cleansing at all?

A. Incense was used to generate pleasant aromas (you can imagine all the sacrifices would smell bad), but I don’t think it was used in a cleaning manner.  The smoke of burning incense has come to represent the presence of the Spirit of God, and I suspect they would have thought of it in this way as well.

Q. What is the difference between a burnt offering a sin offering and peace offering?

A. Honestly, this is one place where I disagree with the order of the presentation of the material.  If we were reading the books in the order they were put together, we would see already what the different types of offerings were and what they were used for.

Hang in there: the first few chapters of Leviticus make it very clear about the five or so types of offerings, so this is an answer I will defer until we’ve reached the relevant materials.

Q. Any significance to the 12 offerings of platters, basins and containers other than it stood for the 12 tribes?  Is there any reason God chose 12 tribes other than that’s how many son’s Jacob had?  How about significance of 60?

A. 12 is a Biblical number of completeness, though I confess I suspect the reason we see it as such is because of the number of tribes (and also the number of Jesus’ disciples in the NT) is 12.  Basically, 12 became a symbolic number of completeness for Jews because there were 12 tribes of Israel, rather than 12 already being a symbol of completeness that just happened to be the number of sons Jacob had.

Q. Why are the offerings all the same?

A. I would presume so that each of the tribes would be equally invested in the Tabernacle, and everyone would have some “skin in the game” as it were.

Tomorrow’s reading: Numbers 8-9:14; Leviticus 1-3:17

God's glory fills Tabernacle in the form of a cloud.

Day 45 (Feb. 14): Tabernacle complete, God’s glory fills Tabernacle, Fiery Cloud

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
Exodus 39:32-40:38; Numbers 9:15-23
(1446 BC) Click here for a timeline of the whole Bible.

Questions & Observations

Q. A side-note question, since it is Valentines’ Day: Does the Bible say anything about secular holidays?  I know some of them have roots with saints.  And, what about the secular ways of Christian holidays, Santa Clause and the Easter Bunny, in particular?

A. Holidays (our modern version of HOLY days) are an important part of the Old Testament, as we will read about in Leviticus.  Unfortunately, many of the holidays we celebrate are often detached from their religious origins, and while I don’t think there’s anything inherently wrong with that, that detachment is just one more example of our society becoming more secular — to its detriment.  The Bible doesn’t, as far as I know, say anything about secular holidays, instead choosing to focus on the ways that we should follow God.  I think that’s a good standard: Don’t fret the “fake” holidays, and pay attention to the real ones of the church.  For Jews (most of our Christian holy days will have to be examined later), each of the holy days that will be set up in the next volume will be of particular significance.  For example, we’ve already learned about one: Passover, one of the most important holy day seasons in Jewish culture to this day.  There will be more to come.

Q. (39:32): Any idea how long it took the Israelites to construct everything for the Tabernacle?

A. If we track the math, we get a figure of something like nine months.  In Exodus 19, we have the people receiving the Law three months after leaving Egypt, and in this reading, God instructs Moses to set things up on the first day of the new (second) year.  That gives us a period of roughly nine months, which I would say is a good educated guess.

Q. Can you tell us exactly what went on inside the Tabernacle with all of its parts.  Utensils are something I never thought about being there?

A. 39:33-41 gives a good summary, but here goes.  Working our way in: the cloth certain/ fence was the outside layer, which opened in one place to the inner courtyard.  The courtyard contained the brass: the altar and its grate, and the washbasin for the priests.  The courtyard was where most of the sacrifices were made.  That brings us to the sacred tent, which in the outer section (called the holy place), contained the menorah, the table and utensils, and the altar of incense.  ONLY priests were allowed to enter this after they had washed in the bronze basin to be ritually clean. Finally, we have the inner section of the tent, which was covered by the curtain. This is where the Ark resided and cover resided (called the mercy seat).  And this final section is called the Most Holy Place or Holy of Holies.  ONLY the High Priest was permitted to enter into what was considered to be God’s very presence, and even then it was only at a certain time, which we shall read about.  There you go: the Tabernacle in a nutshell.

Q. (40:9): What does it mean to make something holy?  Anointing just means to pour oil over something, right?

A. The word holy means “set apart” for a particular purpose of God, which was often done with oil or other fragrant liquids such as perfume.  We will see three instances where oil is used for offices: the priest, the king, and the prophet.  Also, its worth pointing out here that the term “Christ” or “Messiah” means “anointed one”; that is, one chosen to do God’s work.  So keep this anointing in the back of your mind, as we will see it on a regular basis.

Q. (40:31): I was wondering about what they washed.  I think God had told us before.  It’s just the feet and hands?  Maybe it’s washing the feet because it’s holy ground.  And wash the hands because anything they touch inside would be holy?

A. You’ve got the right idea on the reasons for the particular parts that were washed.  The washing was technically just a symbolic gesture: they’re not instructed to scrub or use soap.  Keep in mind there is no such thing as basic sanitation at this point, and the water was very likely not pure or clean itself.  (Side note: wine and fermented drinks were safer for consumption than water itself in this era!)  Anyway, it was not the “cleanliness” of the water itself that was important in this case, it was the act of washing in submission to God’s commands in order to do His service as a priest.

Q. (40:34-38) So, on their journeys, they carried the Ark and all the other parts to the Tabernacle and reconstructed it when the cloud — God — stopped?

A. We will see this in action later, I think in Numbers. But yes, that’s right.

Q. I’m also wondering about food.  God still gave them manna and quail every day?  Is this all they ate or did they have to go dig roots and other vegetation?  And, what about the cattle?  Are these just questions that are not important to the message?  I’m just trying to picture their ways of life and sustenance.

A. It appears that He did provide the manna, but I don’t think it says anything about providing quail every day.  Besides the manna provision, there is really no other way they could have fed that many people otherwise.  But it appears it got old for the people.  We can see an example of this in Numbers 12, when the people begin to complain about being sick of eating manna.  Bad things happen when the people start complaining in Numbers.

For further reading: How elaborate should church buildings be today? https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/should-churches-spend-money-on-nice-buildings/

Tomorrow’s reading: Numbers 7

Tabernacle pieces. Other skilled workers joined them to make everything that God required. Sweet Publishing / FreeBibleimages.org

Day 44 (Feb. 13): Ark underway, a table, lampstand, altars, wash basin, courtyard, and priest attire

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
Exodus 37-39:31
(1446 BC) Click here for a timeline of the whole Bible.

Questions & Observations

Q. (Exodus 37:1-29): Can you remind us again what the significance is to all the gold?

A. It was the most valuable material available, and therefore required the greatest sacrifice on the part of God’s people.

Q. (37:17-24): What is the significance of the almond blossom design for the lampstand?  The one that comes to my mind is maybe God is the stem and we are the branches.  And from us, with God as our stronghold, the stem, we can spread his word to others, the buds?  Or, in this case it may be just Israelites?  Am I in the ballpark?

A. There are two significances to the almond tree (which will prominently appear again in Numbers and also in Jeremiah).  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, as the shape and form of an almond tree, with ever burning candles, the Menorah would have been a powerful symbol of God’s protectiveness and watching over His people day and night.  Cool, huh?

Q. (37:24): Where could the Israelites find 75 pounds of gold to make this.  Is gold easy to find in the desert?  If they used gold they already had, then where did they get it.  What I’m asking is where did the gold come from originally?  I always think of gold in Alaska and the West Coast.

A. They got it from the Egyptians when they left Egypt, in addition to whatever the people had themselves before they left.  There is no indication that the people were mining gold at this point.

Q. (37:25): Any significance to the horns?

A. The horn is an ancient symbol of power, and it still is to some extent.  It’s another symbol to watch for in subsequent stories.

Q. (38:1-7):  Why bronze?  Is it because it has a higher melting point needed for the burnt offerings?

A. Yes, Israel was in the midst of the Bronze Age during this time.  (We will see how other tribes enter the iron age as the story progresses.)  Bronze was the primary material used to make tools and other items during this time.  While not as tough as iron, bronze is tough stuff that can stand up to high heat.  Generally, items that went inside the tent were made of gold and silver — though silver is used both places— and items in the courtyard — the altar, washbasin, etc. — were made of bronze.

Q. (38:9-20) Is linen symbolic?

A. While not as expensive as the precious metals or stones, there would have been intense effort put into making the twisted linen, making it a valuable material.  It is just another example of the people (probably women in this case) making important sacrifices for God and the greater good of the tribes.

Q. (38:24-31): The inventory is to show how much the Israelites sacrificed their own belongings to make the Tabernacle as God instructed?

A. Yes.  And, also to show the investment that the people made for God.

Q. (39:30): The trust God has in Aaron after he pulled his shenanigan has me baffled.  Also, can you tell us the difference between Aaron’s and Moses’ duties?  Moses did not wear all of this fancy attire, right?

A. Aaron never seems to be punished for his role in the calf incident, kind of like other folks in our story so far that weren’t punished for their deceit — Jacob and Abraham — or other sins.  I don’t really know why.

Moses’ role in liberating the people is unique and won’t be carried on by someone else — though technically Joshua will become the leader — where as Aaron’s role as high priest will be an ongoing role for the people, hence the fancy duds.  The high priest will be THE person chosen to go into God’s presence on the Day of Atonement, (What is that, you ask?  The answer is coming up soon!) which will make that person the most important person in the entire nation, even more important than the leader or king.  I’d say he deserves something nice for that level of responsibility.

For further study: What was the fate of the Ark of the Covenant? https://www.crosswalk.com/faith/bible-study/things-you-may-not-know-about-the-ark-of-the-covenant.html

Shop: Share your faith by wearing God’s Word! https://livinlight.org/shop/

Tomorrow’s reading: Exodus 39:32-40:38

CloseHide While the Israelites were in the wilderness, God told Moses to build a special tent called a tabernacle where the people could worship Him. Nobody had built a tent like this before, so God told them what to do. The Israelites listened carefully and made pieces of furniture to go inside the tent. The most important piece they made was a wooden box covered in gold. Inside it held God’s Words, which was His covenant with His people. The box was known as the Ark of the Covenant. God put Aaron in charge of the tabernacle and called him the High Priest. As part of this special assignment, Aaron and his sons wore different clothes and helped the people worship God. God told Moses to build a special tent called a tabernacle where the people could worship Him. God told them what to do. The Israelites listened carefully and made pieces of furniture to go inside the tent. The most important piece they made was the Ark of the Covenant, a wooden box covered in gold. Inside it held God’s Words. God put Aaron in charge of the tabernacle and called him the High Priest. When the Israelites finished making the special tent, a large cloud descended over the area and the tabernacle was filled with God’s presence. From that time on, whenever the cloud moved, the Israelites knew it was time to pack up and continue their journey.

Day 43 (Feb. 12): Offerings for Tabernacle construction, God gives skills to some to guide the construction

BiblePathwayAdventures.com

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
Exodus 35-36
(1446 BC) Click here for a timeline of the whole Bible.

Questions & Observations

Q. (35:3): No fire?  What’s the deal with that?

A. Keep in mind that we mostly use fire for entertainment today, so we’re a long way from the original context of this question.  We also have the ability (usually) to start a fire with just the push of a button or the strike of a match; the Israelites didn’t have that option.

There are a few particular reasons why the act of making the fire was forbidden within a dwelling (which is important).  First, you wouldn’t build a fire like that to keep warm.  God isn’t trying to freeze anybody out.  Secondly, a fire like that would require a lot of work: gathering the wood, setting it up, and kindling the flame, which defeated the whole purpose of the command in the previous verse: they were not supposed to work!  Building a fire was work.  The other thing is that, in this context, a fire built like this inside a house or tent would have been for the purpose of doing more work: cooking, cleaning, washing things, etc.  Here again, more work.  So in saying “no” to fire, God is really saying, “don’t build a fire whose only purpose is for you to be able to work inside your home.  That defeats the purpose of Sabbath.”

Q. (35:13): Rob, do you know anything about the Bread of the Presence?

A. According to my sources, even Jewish authorities on the subject don’t know exactly what this part of the ritual was about.  We know that Leviticus 24:5-9 gives instructions on how to make it, and 1 Chronicles 9:32, we see which of the Levites were responsible for making it.  There was mention of a very specific recipe that has been lost to history.  The huge bread loaves — weighing around 13 pounds each — were to be placed on the table in the holy section of the Tabernacle, across from the Menorah.  Since God ordered for there to be 12 loaves presented each Sabbath, it would appear that the purpose was for the Israelites to be reminded on God’s daily provision for each of the tribes.

Q. (35:21, 22): I notice the Bible said those “whose hearts were stirred and whose spirits were moved” and “all whose hearts were willing” brought offerings to make the things the Lord commanded.  Thus, there were those who did not care to bring offerings?  The Israelites were like any other society as far as some followed God and some didn’t?

A. I don’t have a good answer to this question.  There’s really no way to tell.  The story only tells us that God put it on the hearts of certain people — perhaps the ones that benefitted the most when the looted the Egyptians? — and they responded.

O. By the way, an ephod is a sleeveless garment worn by Jewish priests.  See what it looks like at http://raykliu.wordpress.com/2012/01/28/ephod/

Q. (35:35): The Bible says that the Lord has given Bezalel and Oholiab special skills for making all of the Lord’s requests.  Can you tell us in the Bible where it talks about skills that God has given every person, even us?

A. As far as craftsmanship goes, this passage, and these people, are unique.  It appears that God created them for this purpose, and in their responding to God, they are answering their life’s calling.

The Bible doesn’t talk much about the type of skills mentioned here.  It doesn’t say “God created some people to be incredible athletes, some to be great piano players, and some to be brilliant thinkers.”  But what it does say, the NT in particular, is that we must use whatever talents God has given us for His glory, like the Parable of the Talents in Matthew 25.  Now that means different things to every one of us.  But the cool thing is, as Paul talks about in 1 Corinthians 12, is that when we each use our gifts for the benefit of the community, we become unified and form the Body of Christ: the living presence of God on the face of the earth.  When we are called to be the hands and feet of Christ, this is the concept that the person has in mind: coming together, sharing our talents for the common good rather than personal glory, living sacrificially, and inviting others to be a part of it.  That is what it means to be a community living as the Body of Christ.

Q. (36:8-38): All of this work to build the Tabernacle makes me think of sewing all of that cloth together … in the desert.  How did they keep from getting it dirty?  And they didn’t have sewing machines.  I’m just wondering how they would go about such a task.  Then, this made me think of something we haven’t talked about yet: the climate.  Can you tell us what conditions they would have been faced with living in the desert for so, so long?

A. Well, if they lived in the desert for so many years, and especially if they had lived in Egypt, which is certainly mostly desert, the people must have become quite skilled at sewing and maintaining clothes in the midst of the desert climate.  I guess I would say that sand was just a part of life to them.  If their primary dwelling was tents rather than houses, then they probably faced the task of dealing with sand daily.  I couldn’t tell you very much about how they did so, but they would have been forced to make it work.

Regarding the climate: as anyone who has been to the beach can tell you, sand heats up really fast!  But it also loses that heat more quickly than rock.  So life in a desert is about dealing with extreme heat during the day, and (in certain seasons) the bitter cold at night.  But honestly, the reasons people don’t live in a desert have NOTHING to do with the climate: it’s the fact that there is no food.  Nothing much edible grows, and there aren’t many animals and no water outside of the occasional oasis.  God was providing these for His people so that they could make their home in the desert during this trial period.  We will soon see how they fail the test.  So basically, if you could come up with food and water, which they had, the Israelites were able to overcome the rest of the problems.

Shop: God is good!  He cares for those who Trust in Him. https://livinlight.org/product/god-is-good/

Tomorrow’s reading: Exodus 37-39:31

Priest prep sacrifices Sabbath Make the altar hollow, out of boards. It is to be made just as you were shown on the mountain.

Day 41 (Feb. 10): Priests’ dedication, Tabernacle hygiene, consecrations, incense, God names builders, God’s ‘to do’ list, Sabbath instructions

Jeremy Park, Bible-Scenes.com

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
Exodus 29-31(1446 BC)
Click here for a timeline of the whole Bible.

Questions & Observations

Q. (Exodus 29:10-28): I for one, am glad that we don’t have to do all of these animal sacrifices today.  I am surprised at all the specifics of these instructions.  I guess I shouldn’t be after seeing the instructions for the Tabernacle.  I’m just wondering what some of the specifics mean, like blood on the right ear lobes, right thumbs, right toes.

A. This ritual symbolized the cleansing of the priesthood of their own sin (by offering the sin offering of the bull and other animals), so that they would be ritually pure in order to accept the offerings of the rest of the community.  We will see this explained further in the next book, Leviticus.  The blood on the ear lobes represented a discerning ear for what God desired of the priests, and the blood on the hands and feet (thumbs/toes) represented the life of service that the priesthood would carry out on behalf of the Israelite community.

Q. (30:8) … from generation to generation.  I notice that many of these instructions are not for a week or two.  The Lord’s instructions imply, to me, that they will be wandering for years and years and years and more.

A. Yes, they will wander for an entire generation (one of the things 40 represents in the Bible is a generation).  But more importantly, these instructions are given for the community for ALL time!  Thus, they will still be true in the time of David and Solomon (though the offerings are made at the temple instead of the tabernacle), and also in the time of Jesus.  For reasons that we will — I’m sure — learn about, Jews today treat the sacrifice system differently, and offer prayers to make their atonement.

Q. (31:16) Gotcha, I think.  Rob, you said the Sabbath was no longer a law, but here it says, “The people of Israel must keep the Sabbath day by observing it from generation to generation.” This is a covenant obligation for ALL time.

A. That’s true, as we talked about in the last question.  But we as Christians are no longer bound to follow this Law, whereas devout Jews ARE.  This is a big parting of the ways between Jews and Christians: observant Jews still hold to what we call the Old covenant (they of course hold that it is the ONLY covenant!), where as Christians are under the freedom that Christ offers by His eternal sacrifice.  We will see how this gets explained in the NT when writers like Paul and whomever wrote the book of Hebrews start to explain why we are different because of Christ.  So hang on, the answers are coming. You’ll just have to wait until late in the year to get them.  So, there’s your reason to keep reading!

For further study
— How much did the Ark of the Covenant weigh? https://blog.warrenmyers.com/2012/06/the-dimensions-and-approximate-weight-of-the-ark-of-the-covenant/
— All about anointing oil and is it practiced today? https://www.biblestudytools.com/bible-study/topical-studies/why-is-anointing-oil-important-in-the-bible.html

Shop: Another shirt that gets noticed: https://livinlight.org/product/truth/

Tomorrow’s reading: Exodus 32-34

 

All things Tabernacle. Tabernacle of the Israelites while they were wondering in the desert.

Day 40 (Feb. 9): Tabernacle offerings, blueprints for Ark of the Covenant, table, lampstand, Tabernacle, altar, courtyard, light, priests’ apparel

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
Exodus 25-28
(1446 BC) Click here for a timeline of the whole Bible.

Questions & Observations

Q. (Exodus 25:1-40): Do we learn anything from God’s instructions on how to construct the Ark?  Is it just that God knows what he wants to be comfortable?  Any significance to the cherubim?  Also, I notice that 27 inches is repeated many times.

A. God is asking His people to sacrifice in order to create a place of gathering that will serve His people for the next several decades.  The Tabernacle will dwell within the center of the community — putting God in the midst of His people — and will be a point of gathering.  The items requested would have made a beautiful gathering — which was very functional as well, it could be folded together and loaded up any time — that would have served the entire community.

I think we’re on the wrong track when we think of God desiring “comfort” as though He wanted a Lay-Z-boy to recline in.  This is not an incarnational presence, like Jesus.  This is the presence of God becoming the literal center of the tribes while they are in the wilderness.  We will see how the instructions for the ark and tabernacle will come into play as we move along, but watch for the importance of the poles and rings when it comes time to move.  There is a very special reason for the rings and poles on the ark.

The cherubs — a name for what we think is a classification of angel, but no one knows for sure — were seen in the OT as symbolic attendants to the throne of God, what we call the mercy seat, the cover to the ark.  And in a throne room, the attendees of a king would have been at his left and right.

Don’t pay much attention to the dimensions, if for no other reason than the NLT uses modern units to help us more clearly understand the dimensions of the items being built.  If you look at the NIV or King James, they give the units in “cubits” rather than feet and inches.  For reference, a cubit equals 1.5 feet, or 1 foot, six inches.  Obviously, there were no “inches” and “feet” as measures in ancient times, and generally there were very few standards of measure.

Q. (28:6): Is there any significance to the thread colors chosen — blue, purple and scarlet?

A. Yes.  These colors were symbolic of royalty and were incredibly expensive.  Like the gold and jewels for the task, God is seeking the best that His people have to offer.  He is requesting them to sacrifice in this instance, as one would do for a human monarch.

Q. We see this lavishness that God commands for himself.  No question, he deserves it all.  I just wondered what kind of philosophy the Bible says churches should have when building their places of worship.  Some churches are lavish, others are basically four walls and a roof.  I have had the mindset that if churches spend a lot on their buildings, they are not using their money wisely.  They could be using it for missions.  But, then, are they showing disrespect for God by not having the best possible place of worship?

A. You’ve obviously asked a complicated question, as you can tell by the various ways that churches and individuals have answered it.  Some churches are much more comfortable with “four walls and a roof” (I’m thinking of the of those pre-fab metal roofed churches that you see in rural areas), while others (I’m thinking of an absolutely amazing Catholic Basilica I visited in St. Louis) desire to create real beauty and glorify God through craftsmanship.  I think that both decisions honor God in different ways: we can say, “Lord be glorified by this place” or “Lord be glorified by what we will do within this place” and be perfectly right in both cases.  In this instance, God required the people to sacrifice their best in order to create something that would benefit everyone in the community.  Overall, I would say there is no one “right” way to build a building for God — unless He gives you one as He did here — and we must be discerning to what God desires of us.

Q. I shouldn’t say this, but this reading is a yawner.  Not much action.  But, I do glean several things from it.  1) There are things made for Aaron’s attire that will remind him who he is, a representative to all the people of Israel.  2) God asks for a beautiful place to dwell among the people.  I would love to see it!!!  3) Anything else I’m missing?

A. Seems like you’ve got the general idea.  The instructions given here are just the groundwork: we will still see these things built later in Exodus, and put into action in the next few stories.  So hang in there.

If you (or anyone else) wants to see what this would have looked like, I find that there are various groups on the internet who have built life-size replicas.  Like this one: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Stiftshuette_Modell_Timnapark.jpg

For further study: What is the significance of the Ark of the Covenant? https://www.compellingtruth.org/What-Ark-of-the-Covenant.html

Tomorrow’s Reading: Exodus 25-28