Day 64 (March 5): Purifying with water, Miriam dies, water from rock, Moses punished, King refuses Israel, Aaron dies, victories, manna woes, bronze snake, Moab

Credit: 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 19-21
(1426-1407 BC) Click here for a timeline of the whole Bible.

Questions & Observations

Q. (Numbers 19:1-22): We have talked about how Israelites would be ceremonially unclean if they touched a dead person and would need purification to become clean again.  We have said that the reason for this is a hygienic issue.   God did not want disease to enter the Tabernacle.  Is there anything more?

A. The hygiene is the underlying issue to consider when it comes to the purification, but ultimately, God is providing instructions for obedience, and part of it was not having the Tabernacle come in contact with things that were unclean because they had been in various forms of contact with the dead.  God WAS interested in helping the community not suffer from disease, especially among the priests, but the reason the people were required to obey didn’t just have to do with the spread of disease, but because God was teaching them to trust and follow His commands.  If God declared that contact with dead bodies (including animals, as this passage reminds us) caused people to be unclean, that was all they needed to know in order to obey.  We can see considerations of community hygiene, but they were simply expected to obey because that is what God told them.

Q. (20:1): Not much is made of Miriam’s death.

A. That is true.  Something that I read is that because of her proclamation of victory after crossing the Red Sea (Exodus 15), she became a figure associated with water.  Thus, the next section of the story, the provision of water in the wildnerness, even with the cost to Moses and Aaron, was a way of honoring her spirit.  Miriam remains an important figure to Jewish women, and one of the most well-known and commonly used Jewish names.  Mary, Jesus’ earthly mother, and what seems like a dozen other women in the New Testament, bear the same name, Mary.  Mary is the English version of the translation of the same name in Greek, the Hebrew name Miriam.  So while the story does not seem to honor her, she remains to this day a very revered Jewish figure.

Q. (20:2-5): In a reading a couple days ago, you mentioned that because of the disrespect and disbelief that this generation of Israelites had that God intentionally made them wander in the desert for 40 years, long enough for that rebellious generation to die off.  Here they are grumbling again.  Did God reveal to them why they keep wandering?

A. I think the previous texts made the matter pretty clear (Numbers 14 tells them that their time in the desert matches the time in days the spies were in the Promised Land: 40 years for 40 days.  But it appears they didn’t get the message, and rather then seeking to repent, they tried to force God’s hand by going into the land anyway, and continuing to complain about Moses and God’s provision.  Some people learn hard.

Q. (20:6-13): I know this story, so I know that God was upset with Moses because Moses struck the rock instead of just speaking to it.  But, if you don’t know this story and are just reading along, you may be confused because Moses got water for the people from the rock as God told him to.  It’s the specific instructions that Moses does not follow.  Do we know if this is intentional on Moses part, or just a misunderstanding?  I guess we take it that Moses did it intentionally, because God knows his heart and Moses did write this book, as best to our knowledge.  Maybe Moses is upset with God: His sister just died?  So, now Moses and Aaron will not see Canaan, just like the rest of that generation of Israelites.

A. Moses will see the Promised Land, just not enter it.  You’ll see how.  I’m sure the death of his sister had something to do with his frustration, but ultimately he directly disobeys God, and joins his generation in being kept out of the Promised Land.  There’s a lot of speculation about what Moses actually did, clearly it wasn’t just a misunderstanding, but rather willful intent on his part.  He is clearly angry with the people, and very likely at the end of his rope in frustration with their complaining.  Personally, I think that what God reacts to is Moses claiming credit for the provision of water (“must I provide it for you”), when God was the one who had made the provision.  It is never a good thing when we claim personal credit for things that we know are the will and provision of God alone.

Q. (20:14-21): The descendants of Esau comprise Edom, right?  Jacob and Esau parted on good terms years ago.  Why would the king of Edom not let the Israelites pass through?  Do we know how other nations view the Israelites at this time?  They are a huge traveling group.  There must have been talk.

A. Remember that Esau’s other name was Edom, related to his red hair and foolish desire for red stew (Genesis 25:30).  We do not know exactly what motivated the king’s decision, but the antagonism between Jacob’s descendants and Esau’s is one of the things we noted back in Genesis was something we would follow throughout the narrative.  As you mention, the group was probably quite intimidating, so perhaps there is little surprise that various nations refused to let them enter their territory.

Q. (20:29): I wonder here if mourning means observance of death or actual mourning.  The reason I bring this up is that the Israelites yo-yo between respecting Moses and Aaron and rebelling against them.  To mourn for 30 days must mean they respected him at this time?  They also seem to be following in the next passage, Numbers 21:1-3.

A. Most ancient societies had standard operating procedures for honoring the dead, which appears to be what the text is describing.  I do think that it is a powerful tribute to the respect they had for Aaron, even as they refused to listen to him.  Aaron, along with Moses, certainly did a lot for the people in terms of, you know, keeping the people alive and out of God’s wrath, and I think the people knew it.

Q. (21:4-9): I must say, I would think that if I had the same thing to eat over and over again that I would complain about it.  Is the lesson that the Israelites are not getting that they have made bad choices (complaining, doubting, being envious) and thus have brought this long journey in the desert on themselves?  If they would have trusted in God, they may have already been enjoying the Promised Land?

A. I think you’ve put it well.  Note the tone of the complaint: we hate this horrible manna, the very provision God made for His people day after day.  No wonder God was angered!  This isn’t, “Moses can we have quail or something else”, this is, “I hate what you are providing for me God,”  That’s very dangerous territory for any of us!

Q. (21:35): So after the Israelites destroyed these cities (God was with them), they could settle in those houses instead of using their tents?

A. I honestly don’t know if they used the territory; the text doesn’t tell us.  I would say it is a fair assumption that they (temporarily- they would be moving soon) used some of the buildings they conquered.

For further reading
— All about manna https://www.biblestudytools.com/bible-study/topical-studies/what-is-manna.html 
— See a map of the Israelites 40-year journey in the desert. https://bible-history.com/maps/route-exodus

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Tomorrow’s reading: Numbers 22-24

Israelites settle: So at the Lord's bidding, the Israelites made camp at a broad plain at the foot of Mount Sinai.

Day 37 (Feb. 6): Food from God, rock water, teamwork defeats Amalekites, Jethro shares wisdom with Moses, Lord prepares Moses for giving laws

Moody Publishers / 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 16-19
(1446 BC) Click here for a timeline of the whole Bible.

Questions & Observations

Q. (Exodus 16:19-20): In Exodus 15:26, God told the Israelites to “obey his commands.”  But, in 16:19-20, they are breaking God’s rules already.  God must be frustrated!  This is just a start of a long, long journey, right?  And they are complaining already?

A. I once gave a message where I talked about the only sure thing when it came to the relationship between God and humanity is that we break our promises.  Only God is faithful; it is simply beyond us.  Which is why we need His grace and mercy so badly.  Wait until you see what they will do while Moses is away…

Q. (16:25): Is keeping the Sabbath the Lord’s Day still a law or is it one that has been replaced by the new covenant?  Also, can you explain in a nutshell what the “new covenant” is?

A. Like Passover, we are not required to keep the Law to have good standing with God (the sacrifice of Jesus Christ provides that).  This does not mean, however, the keeping a Sabbath is a bad idea.  Part of the understanding of the wisdom of Sabbath is that it is the gift of rest: we were not designed to be people who worked endlessly without rest (though we in the modern West frequently think we know better!)  This applies to each of the Ten Commandments (coming soon to a daily reading near you): there is wisdom in following them even today, despite our lack of obligation to do so.

Jesus described the New Covenant as the relationship between God and human beings who put their faith in His sacrifice (death and resurrection) to overcome their sin.  You hear about the New Covenant every time you take Communion or Eucharist: The body and blood of Christ broken and shed for the forgiveness of sins.  So rather than using the blood of animals to merely cover up sin (as the Law did, and frankly, still does), the power of the sacrifice of Jesus, our own spotless lamb (1 Peter 1:19), removes the stain and power of sin from our lives in order to establish a new, better relationship with God.

Q. (17:9,10): Joshua comes into the picture?  I don’t remember reading about Hur?  Who is he?

A. Joshua does appear to drop out of the sky, doesn’t he?  It appears from this story (and the subsequent stories) that Joshua was already an established commander and representative of his tribe (Ephraim, one of Joseph’s sons).  The writer appears to have no interest in introducing him to the reader.

Regarding Hur, it appears (according to 1 Chr. 2) that Hur is a son of Caleb (though the language is ambiguous — he might actually be Caleb’s FATHER!), who will be one of the 12 spies sent into the Promised Land who is faithful (the other being Joshua).  Other than that, we have no information about who this person from the Bible.  There are apparently Jewish traditions that can provide some insight into who he is, and you can read about them on Hur’s Wikipedia page (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hur_(Bible)).

Q.  (17:14): Joshua is gaining power.  God gives him a leadership role.  What does “I will erase the memory of Amalek from under heaven” mean?

A. It appears to mean that Amalek’s race (the Amalekites) will not survive.  (Note that Amalek is the grandson of Esau — the rivalry continues!)  They will, however, continue to be thorn in the side of Israel even after the monarchy is established under Saul and David.

O & Q. (18:1): I can imagine what Jethro thought.  Moses told him that he had to go rescue his people from Egypt — all 2 million of them.  Now they are camped by a mountain.  I can’t imagine a picture of that many tents.  Any idea why Moses didn’t keep his wife and sons with him through the deliverance?

A. Perhaps he thought it was safer that way.

Q. (18:10-12): It’s wonderful to see two families coming together supporting one another and praising the Lord for all of their blessings.  Can you tell us from whom Jethro was a descendant?  They were obviously blessed.

A. He does not appear to be descended from any party we have established.  He was not an Israelite, but was a priest, and it appears he believed in his son-in-law’s God.

Q. Just a background question.  Does the Bible say anything about the relationship of Moses with Pharaoh’s daughter who adopted him?  They had spent years together and then, poof, Moses fled.  I guess it’s not important to God’s message?

A. Nope.  She is not mentioned again.

O. (18:21): This verse made me chuckle.  Jethro tells Moses to select leaders who are “capable, honest men who fear God and hate bribes.”  Fast forward to today …

Q. (19:1): So this is the second time the Israelites have been in the Sinai wilderness?

A. No.  The story implies that Moses was called from Sinai, but only he was there.  The narration is telling us how long after they left Egypt that all those people you spoke of arrived at Sinai.

Q. (19:15): Sorry, couldn’t resist.  Bible times seem to be a lot less modest.  I guess if they are living in tents, things might be a little less private.  Today, many may be offended by pastors talking so freely of sexual intercourse, circumcision, etc.  Is there any Biblical reason why we are a bit more modest today?  I guess I’m just thinking of Christians, the media seem to talk about it.  Comments, Rob?

A. The request to abstain from sex was part of the purification ritual (that will be something like a marriage ceremony — you’ll see).  Other than that, I have no comment.

Q. Is there any reason God choose Mount Sinai to speak to the Israelites?  Is Mount Sinai known today?  If so, how tall was it?  I’m just trying to get a picture of how long it took Moses to climb the mountain.

A. Sinai (or Horeb as it will be called later) appears to be a particular place where God chooses to make His presence especially known (Elijah will come for a visit in a few hundred years).  As with a lot of matters like this one, there is what is known as a “traditional” site for the mountain in what is now Saudi Arabia, and (as you can imagine) it draws people of Jewish, Christian, and Muslim faiths (there’s a Greek Orthodox Chapel at the top).  You can read about it here and see some pictures: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mt_Sinai

A. Look it up on youtube too.  There are different ideas of where Mount Sinai is.

For further reading
All things manna: https://www.christianity.com/wiki/christian-terms/what-is-manna-and-its-significance-in-scripture.html
— All about Mount Sinai: https://www.crosswalk.com/faith/bible-study/what-is-the-significance-of-mount-sinai-in-the-bible.html

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Tomorrow’s reading: Exodus 20-22:15

Noah's ark dove

Day 3 (Jan. 3): Flood, Noah, Shem, Ham, Japheth, murder

Image by Carolyn Dyk/Wycliffe Bible Translators

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
Genesis 7-10:5
1 Chronicles 1:5-7
Genesis 10:6-20 
1 Chronicles 1:8-16
Genesis 10:21-30 
1 Chronicles 1:17-23
Genesis 10:31-32 
(Before 2500 BC) Click here for a timeline of the whole Bible.

Questions & Observations

Q. (7:4): I saw a skit in church that told of how many years it took to build the ark, but here it’s saying 7 days?  Also, I’m starting to see a lot of 7’s.  What is significant about the number 7?

A. (7:4) doesn’t say the Noah build the ark in seven days; it says God told Noah to be ready, because the flood was coming in seven days.  7:1 tells us that the boat was already ready when God spoke to Noah and told him the flood was approaching.

Regarding you noticing the significance of seven, you have definitely hit upon something.  Seven is one of the most significant numbers in the Bible.  It signifies completeness and fulfillment, and traces its roots back the seven days of creation.

A few other numbers to watch for (some of which are shown in this reading): 3) Either representing the Trinity (which we established is strictly a NT concept), or also a form of emphasis. Things that the Bible repeats three times (Holy, Holy, Holy from Isaiah 6 is just one example of many), it is to draw attention to something important.  So if you see a portion of narration repeated, its not because the author screwed up and forgot what he wrote, it is to show that the thing repeated is really important.  4) Four is also a number you see frequently, and it tends to identify a completed set of something important (the four living creatures of Ezekiel and Revelation 4-6, the four horsemen of Zechariah 6 and Revelation 6).  6) Six represents humanity, incompleteness (as in not seven), and inferiority to God.  40) Forty represents a trial period or time of cleansing.  You have the flood which lasts forty days and nights, the Israelites in the wilderness forty years, and Jesus in the desert for forty days.

O. (8:3-14): The childhood accounts of Noah and the flood usually say it lasted 40 days and 40 nights.  I always thought that after that time Noah and the boat’s inhabitants walked off after 40 days.  But as the Bible describes, the total time from when the flood started to when they walked on dry ground was more like a year.

Q. (9:5-7): God says if someone kills, they should be killed.  This changes after Jesus dies on the cross where all sins are forgiven?

A. This is the subject of some debate.  Here we see clearly God’s command to avenge murder (along the lines of eye for an eye, Leviticus 24:20), but this command is honestly not consistent throughout the Old and New Testaments.  While the (capital L) Law (which we get from the next few books of the Old Testament) prescribed retribution killing — a death for a death, it is unclear if the Jews actually practiced this as their standard of law.  Certainly by Jesus’ time (First Century AD), it is quite clear that the people did not have the stomach to kill people for the sins prescribed in the Law.  Thus we see the seeds of mercy that Jesus preached (Matthew 5-7) already taking shape in the world into which He was born.

O. (9:24): To me, passing a punishment to someone else almost makes it worse for the offender, especially if it is passed on to your own sons or daughters.  Also, this seems to foreshadow Jesus taking on all of our sins.

For further reading: We can see that God can get pretty angry. This article deciphers God’s wrath. https://www.biblestudytools.com/bible-study/topical-studies/what-is-gods-wrath.html

Check out this video! The Ark Experience videos explain how the this venture actually happened.  And if you go there, you will see an amazing, detailed life-size display of the humongous project that God gave Noah: https://arkencounter.com/noahs-ark/

Shop: God tells us to spread the Gospel — Good News.  Livin’ Light helps make you a walking billboard for the Lord.  Shop at livinlight.org.

Tomorrow’s reading: Genesis 11:1-26; 1 Chronicles 1:24-27; Genesis 11:27-14:24