Numbers 36:1-13 (The Inheritance of Zelophehad)

Numbers 36:1-13
The Inheritance of Zelophehad

We have thirteen verses before us to close out the book of Numbers. In these thirteen verses, the idea of an inheritance is mentioned seventeen times. The inheritance, then, is an obviously important point that the Lord wants us to consider.

And, although this deals with only one family in one tribe, it actually possibly affects the inheritance of all of the people of Israel. This is because it is a conditional thing that could occur in any family, or to any person in Israel.

This is even more so, because the concept doesn’t just deal with a person who dies without having any sons. It would extend to a person who lost all his sons in battle. It would extend to a person whose only son was run over by a speeding donkey, or whose son fell off a cliff on a hike from Jericho to Jerusalem.

If any inheritance could likewise be called into question, then it actually means that every inheritance could be called into question. This is because we cannot see the day ahead of us. Not one person in Israel, even if he had seventy sons, could be sure all seventy of them would be alive the next day. If that sounds unlikely, then you have forgotten the story of Ahab –

“Now the king’s sons, seventy persons, were with the great men of the city, who were rearing them. So it was, when the letter came to them, that they took the king’s sons and slaughtered seventy persons, put their heads in baskets and sent them to him at Jezreel.” 2 Kings 10:6, 7

We can be so sure of our inheritance that we may forget a loophole that we might not have even considered. What if… Is the inheritance assured? Can it be lost? How can we know?

Text Verse: “…giving thanks to the Father who has qualified us to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in the light. 13 He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love, 14 in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins.” Colossians 1:12-14

Paul says that in Christ, the Father has qualified us to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in the light. He goes on to tell us of the riches of the glory of what God has done in Christ. The story is magnificent, the details are choice morsels of delight, and the hope is a blessed one.

Well… that is, unless you accept the premise that you can, in fact, lose your salvation. The joy of the guarantee then fades. The hope of salvation becomes only a “hope” of salvation. What if what Christ did was lacking something. Suppose there is some legal loophole which could jeopardize the inheritance. Then what?

Imagine being one of the poor, uninformed, or willfully uneducated people who actually believes that he has to help God along in order to stay saved! But the problem with that idea is that if a person needs to do something, or not do something, in order to keep being saved, then it was never of grace and by faith. It is, by default, of works.

And if of works, it is not of Christ. Such is not the case, however. There are no loopholes in the law of God which declares a person justified, sanctified, and glorified. It is a done deal, and it is all to be found in His superior word. And so, let’s turn to that precious word once again and… May God speak to us through His word today and may His glorious name ever be praised.

I. To Protect the Inheritance (verses 1-13)

Now the chief fathers of the families

The translation is not correct. It says, “And came near chiefs, the fathers of the families.” The article is before “fathers,” not “chiefs.” This sets the stage for what is to be conveyed. The house of the fathers is the next division below the families. They are chiefs, the fathers of the families, which are being referred to.

The specificity is necessary for the passage to be properly understood, because a conflict has arisen which seems to put a previous law concerning tribal land possession in jeopardy.

1 (con’t) of the children of Gilead the son of Machir, the son of Manasseh,

I won’t hide it from you, what is presented here is confusing, but it is important for those who desire to be precise. What transpires in this passage concerns land belonging to the tribe of Manasseh. However, Manasseh has been divided into two halves. One half would reside on the eastern side of Jordan in Gilead, and one half would reside on the western side, in Canaan.

As this is dealing with land belonging to Machir, it would seem to involve land on the eastern side, outside of Canaan proper. This would seem to be so from what is seen in Numbers 32 –

“And the children of Machir the son of Manasseh went to Gilead and took it, and dispossessed the Amorites who were in it. 40 So Moses gave Gilead to Machir the son of Manasseh, and he dwelt in it.” Numbers 32:39, 40

However, this is not the case. Rather, the sons of Gilead who are listed in Numbers 32 are named again in Joshua 17 in the division of the land for the half-tribe of Manasseh who settled in Canaan. There it says –

“There was also a lot for the tribe of Manasseh, for he was the firstborn of Joseph: namely for Machir the firstborn of Manasseh, the father of Gilead, because he was a man of war; therefore he was given Gilead and Bashan. And there was a lot for the rest of the children of Manasseh according to their families: for the children of Abiezer, the children of Helek, the children of Asriel, the children of Shechem, the children of Hepher, and the children of Shemida; these were the male children of Manasseh the son of Joseph according to their families.
But Zelophehad the son of Hepher, the son of Gilead, the son of Machir, the son of Manasseh, had no sons, but only daughters. And these are the names of his daughters: Mahlah, Noah, Hoglah, Milcah, and Tirzah. And they came near before Eleazar the priest, before Joshua the son of Nun, and before the rulers, saying, “The Lord commanded Moses to give us an inheritance among our brothers.” Therefore, according to the commandment of the Lord, he gave them an inheritance among their father’s brothers. Ten shares fell to Manasseh, besides the land of Gilead and Bashan, which were on the other side of the Jordanbecause the daughters of Manasseh received an inheritance among his sons; and the rest of Manasseh’s sons had the land of Gilead.” Joshua 17:1-6

The way that ten shares are counted is first by counting the six named sons – Abiezer, Helek, Asriel, Shechem, Hepher, and Shemida. But as Hepher’s son Zelophehad is dead, he is removed from the counting and in his place are listed his five daughters – Mahlah, Noah, Hoglah, Milcah, and Tirzah.

Thus, there are five plus five, or ten total shares which will be given to the family of Gilead west of Jordan in Canaan. The inheritance of these five daughters is raised to the level of the family of their grandfather due to the death of their father.

Each of these five noble and wise daughters received a one-tenth inheritance, or a total of fifty percent of that which is named, of the half-tribe of Manasseh in Canaan.

The division of land for their great-great-grandfather Machir is on both sides of the Jordan – one half in Gilead and one half in Canaan, but it is his descendants from Hepher and through Zelophehad who now are referred to. It is they who are…

1 (con’t) of the families of the sons of Joseph,

This note almost seems superfluous. The tribe in question is that of Manasseh, and so it doesn’t seem necessary to mention the genealogy all the way up to Joseph, but it is.

First, if this addition wasn’t made, then there could be a later problem between Joseph’s two sons – Ephraim and Manasseh. The word “sons” here is, in fact, plural. There are two sons of Joseph.

However, they were adopted by Jacob and thus reckoned as his. But someone might say that they are both sons of Joseph, and so this didn’t actually apply between the two of them. This will be seen as incorrect in verse 5.

Secondly, the name Joseph was given is based on the very words these men who have come forward will use. That was seen in Genesis 30 –

“Then God remembered Rachel, and God listened to her and opened her womb. 23 And she conceived and bore a son, and said, ‘God has taken away my reproach.’ 24 So she called his name Joseph, and said, “The Lord shall add to me another son.” Genesis 30:22-24

The word for “shall add” which she exclaimed is yasaph. It is the root of the name Joseph, or “He shall add.” In verse 3, they will use the same word, yasaph, to show that what they possess will be added to another tribe’s possession while it is taken away from them. Naming their father here is undoubtedly to make an intentional connection concerning what is going on.

1 (con’t) came near and spoke before Moses and before the leaders, the chief fathers of the children of Israel.

In this, there is no article before “fathers.” It says, “chiefs, fathers of the children of Israel.” This then would probably be referring to the seventy designated as a ruling council, or the chiefs of the named tribes of Israel. Following where and when the definite article is supplied is important to understand the details of what is being presented.

It is a matter which must go to the very top of the governmental structure in Israel because it is a matter which – by its very nature – cannot be handled without bias at a lower level. It involves inheritance between tribes which are already considered as permanent and fixed grants in perpetuity.

And they said: “The Lord commanded my lord Moses to give the land as an inheritance by lot to the children of Israel,

This was recorded in Numbers 26:52-56 –

“Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying: 53 To these the land shall be divided as an inheritance, according to the number of names. 54 To a large tribe you shall give a larger inheritance, and to a small tribe you shall give a smaller inheritance. Each shall be given its inheritance according to those who were numbered of them. 55 But the land shall be divided by lot; they shall inherit according to the names of the tribes of their fathers. 56 According to the lot their inheritance shall be divided between the larger and the smaller.’”

But there is more to consider…

2 (con’t) and my lord was commanded by the Lord to give the inheritance of our brother Zelophehad to his daughters.

This is exactly as it occurred, and as is recorded in Numbers 27 –

“And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying: ‘The daughters of Zelophehad speak what is right; you shall surely give them a possession of inheritance among their father’s brothers, and cause the inheritance of their father to pass to them.’” Numbers 27:6, 7

The words spoken in this verse are in the singular to Moses. He says adoni, or “my lord.” Thus, there is one person speaking for, and on behalf of, the whole. This person brings up a logical difficulty which must be presented before land inheritances are granted, or there could immediately be problems.

What precipitated this isn’t known. It could be that one person simply thought it through after hearing the news about Zelophehad’s daughters. Or, it could be that one of the daughters is already being considered for marriage to someone and the realization of the difficulty suddenly came to light because of that.

Whatever brought this to light, it cannot be left unaddressed due to the permanent rights of land grants to each tribe. That difficulty is now seen with the words which follow…

Now if they are married to any of the sons of the other tribes of the children of Israel, then their inheritance will be taken from the inheritance of our fathers, and it will be added to the inheritance of the tribe into which they marry; so it will be taken from the lot of our inheritance.

This is an interesting set of words. The irregular construction of the verse is noted by scholars, but it is acknowledged that the sense is clear, nonetheless.

First, two words for “tribe” are used. The first is shevet, which signifies a scepter. It indicates rule, coming from a word which signifies “to branch off.” One can think of those below the main tribe as branching off.

The second word is matteh. It comes from the word natah, also meaning to branch off. It is used to indicate support, as a walking staff, and thus figuratively to indicate support of life, meaning bread which sustains.

The use of the two words is probably intentional in order to say something like, “If they are married to any of the sons of another authority of the children of Israel, their inheritance will be added to the inheritance of the support into which they marry.” Thus, the support for their tribe would be diminished.

The reason for this is that the sons born to the women would be reckoned not as sons of Manasseh, but as sons the tribe of the fathers. Therefore, the inheritance to the sons, meaning the land, which is within the boundaries of Manasseh, would no longer belong to Manasseh.

If no sons were born to the father, then the rules of inheritance found in Numbers 27 would prevail, but that would be the exception, not the rule.

However, as there is already the precedent of a father having daughters and no sons, it would be sure to arise from time to time. Eventually, the inheritance rights throughout Israel would become extremely complicated as land moved from one tribal inheritance to another.

The term “the land of Judah,” or “the land of Zebulun,” and so on, would no longer have the intended meaning it once did. Further, this would then violate another precept which has already been laid down in the law…

And when the Jubilee of the children of Israel comes,

The law of the Jubilee is recorded in Leviticus 25, with some specific details being conveyed in Leviticus 27. The term Jubilee comes from the Hebrew word which signifies a ram’s horn. The reason for this name is because of what the blowing of this ram’s horn signified –

“And you shall count seven sabbaths of years for yourself, seven times seven years; and the time of the seven sabbaths of years shall be to you forty-nine years. Then you shall cause the trumpet of the Jubilee to sound on the tenth day of the seventh month; on the Day of Atonement you shall make the trumpet to sound throughout all your land.” Leviticus 25:8, 9

The yobel, or ram’s horn, is only mentioned four times outside of Leviticus, here and three times in Joshua. However, the three uses in Joshua refer not to this special event, but simply to the literal blowing of a ram’s horn.

In other words, apart from the instructions given in Leviticus, this is the only time that the Jubilee is mentioned in Scripture. And more, this is not even referring to it in its actual occurrence, but only in a hypothetical possibility which could occur on the Jubilee.

4 (con’t) then their inheritance will be added to the inheritance of the tribe into which they marry; so their inheritance will be taken away from the inheritance of the tribe of our fathers.”

Technically, the inheritance belonging to the daughter would transfer immediately to the tribe of the husband once the marriage took place. However, through other technical aspects of the law, it could potentially revert back to Manasseh.

If there was a divorce before children were born, if there were no children in the marriage, or if the inheritance was purchased in some manner, it may return to Manasseh, but the normal cycle of life would say otherwise.

But, the law of the Jubilee says that all landed property was to revert to its original owner, or to his legal heir. Any title to land which was not legally and successfully challenged would be confirmed.

And because the title of the children of one of the daughters of Zelophehad could not be challenged, then regardless as to what happened to the land after they inherited it, at the Jubilee, it would become permanently theirs as the landed title holders, even though they were not of Manasseh.

Regardless as to whether Israel ever observed the Jubilee or not, the precepts which surrounded the Jubilee are what matter. And the precept is that the land of a tribe was to never transfer out of that tribe – forever.

To understand this from an imperfect example, if the great state of Florida were to use its public funds to buy land in the less great state of, say, Hawaii, that land would still belong to Hawaii. The taxes owed to it would go to Hawaii. It would not become a part of Florida, except in the sense of any other ownership by an individual, a company, or whatever – we could say a company that prints Bibles.

The laws of Hawaii would still apply in the sale of that property to Florida, and they would have to be considered by the purchaser. With this understanding, that a law is necessary in order to protect the permanent ownership of a land granted by lot to a tribe, a law is needed for the security of that tribe to resolve this issue…

Then Moses commanded the children of Israel according to the word of the Lord, saying: 

In Numbers 27, when this issue was first raised by the daughters of Zelophehad, it said –

“So Moses brought their case before the Lord.
And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying: 7 ‘The daughters of Zelophehad speak what is right; you shall surely give them a possession of inheritance among their father’s brothers, and cause the inheritance of their father to pass to them.’” Numbers 27:5-7

It is possible that this account in Numbers 36 actually happened at the same time as that account in Numbers 27, but it is recorded separately according to content, not as a chronology of events.

Or, it could be that Moses went in again to the Lord at this time, without it being stated. Either way, Moses now gives a command based on the word of the Lord, to the children of Israel.

5 (con’t) “What the tribe of the sons of Joseph speaks is right.

ken, matteh bene yoseph doberim – “Rightly so, tribe sons Joseph speakings.” Again, as before, the matter is elevated to the “tribe of the sons of Joseph,” or “He shall add,” rather than simply saying “Manasseh.” The word “tribe” here is singular.

This could ostensibly be taken in one of two ways. Joseph is a single tribe, and what the sons of that tribe have brought forward is correct. Or, it could be that this single tribe of Joseph, which is comprised of two separate tribes, has brought forward a premise which is correct.

The latter is certainly the case based upon the adoption of the two sons by Jacob, based upon the selection of Levi out of the tribes, and based upon the conducting of two census which included the counting of both Ephraim and Manasseh as separate tribes. In other words, Manasseh is a separate tribe from Ephraim, despite both being sons of Joseph.

But again, there is the subtle play on words which is being conveyed as well. Joseph means, “He shall add.” The men here do not want their land being added, at their expense, to that of the other tribes, despite the meaning of the name of their forefather.

This is what the Lord commands concerning the daughters of Zelophehad, saying, ‘Let them marry whom they think best, but they may marry only within the family of their father’s tribe.’

akh, l’mishpakhat matteh avihem tihyenah l’nashim – “surely to family of tribe of their father they may become married” Verses 6 and verse 8 are complicated. Most translations add in definite articles not found in the Hebrew, and scholarly comments say that this means they can only marry in the tribe, and also only in the family of their father.

This is not correct. They may marry anyone within the tribe. This will be seen as we go. In other words, instead of “within the family of their father’s tribe,” it means “within a family of the tribe of their father.”

They were not forced to marry anyone, but they could not marry outside of the tribe. Their inheritance was from their father Zelophehad, and his was from Manasseh. And therefore, they had to remain within that tribe. This restriction is only imposed upon heiresses and not upon daughters in other circumstances.

As stated earlier, this precedent was a part of the law and would have been adhered to as such. Even if Israel never celebrated a Jubilee, the codes which were set for such an event would not have been violated. Such an occurrence is actually recorded in 1 Chronicles –

“The sons of Merari were Mahli and Mushi. The sons of Mahli were Eleazar and Kish. 22 And Eleazar died, and had no sons, but only daughters; and their brethren, the sons of Kish, took them as wives.” 1 Chronicles 23:22

As seen earlier, there is nothing that says a state must buy land in another state, but the principle behind such a purchase would be binding if it did. The logical reason for this law continues to be explained with…

So the inheritance of the children of Israel shall not change hands from tribe to tribe, for every one of the children of Israel shall keep the inheritance of the tribe of his fathers.

That which was assigned by lot to the tribe was to forever remain joined to that tribe. The word translated here as “keep” is dabaq. It means to cleave or be fastly joined together. It is the word used in Genesis 2 when it says that a man would be joined to his wife and they would become one flesh. There was to be no separation between a tribe and its land forever.

This precept here is why even today the land of Asher in Israel is noted as such, and the land of Judah is noted as such, and so on. There were specific prophecies made over the sons of Israel which speak of the land of the sons of Israel.

In order for them to be fulfilled, the land would have to remain within the tribe. Otherwise, those prophecies would have no value. As an example, we read this in Deuteronomy 33 –

“Asher is most blessed of sons;
Let him be favored by his brothers,
And let him dip his foot in oil.
25 Your sandals shall be iron and bronze;
As your days, so shall your strength be.” Deuteronomy 33:24, 25

By strictly maintaining these inheritances in accord with the word of the Lord through Moses, right now in Israel a Christian oil company is in the traditional land of Asher, drilling oil wells. This could not have been possible if the laws we are looking at right now were not put in place.

And every daughter who possesses an inheritance in any tribe of the children of Israel shall be the wife of one of the family of her father’s tribe,

The translation is misleading. It says, l’ekhad mi-mishphakhat matteh abiha – “to one from family of tribe of her father.” This rule only applies, as it says, to every daughter who possesses an inheritance. If this is the case, she was to marry within a family of her father’s tribe. As he was of the tribe of Manasseh, they must marry someone descended from him. Thus, the family would be maintained in accord with the word of the Lord. This was…

8 (con’t) so that the children of Israel each may possess the inheritance of his fathers.

The land itself is governed by the tribe to which it belongs. Therefore, a female who was to inherit property had to maintain that tribe’s property through marriage.

This did not apply to women who were not set to inherit land. They were free to marry outside of tribe, without restriction. Thus, it is seen that Elizabeth, who was of the daughters of Aaron, meaning of the tribe of Levi and of the priestly class of Israel, was related to Mary, the mother of Christ Jesus.

How their relationship was connected is unknown. It could be that the mother of Mary, and the mother of Elizabeth, were sisters descended from Aaron, but Mary’s mother could have married a man of Judah. If so, then Mary would be reckoned as being of the tribe of Judah through her father.

That is just one possible scenario for how the two could be related despite being reckoned to different tribes. It is through the father that the tribe and family are reckoned. And therefore, unless the inheritor is a male, these special restrictions came into play in order to protect the possession of the tribe.

Thus no inheritance shall change hands from one tribe to another, but every tribe of the children of Israel shall keep its own inheritance.”

This verse rewords what was just stated in verse 7, confirming what was said there. The inheritance of the tribe would cleave to the tribe without fail, as long as these provisions were maintained.  This was the intent of the year of Jubilee, but it would not have been possible without the addition of this provision now given.

The thing about this precept is that it plays upon the greed of the human heart. Where countless precepts of the law were constantly violated by Israel, and where there is not a single recording of a Jubilee having been conducted in Israel showing it probably wasn’t carefully adhered to – admittedly an argument from silence – the fact that land, and thus wealth, was at stake, it is certain that the precepts of this law now being given were never violated.

Despite flagrant violations of almost every precept handed down to the people by the Lord through Moses, this is one of the laws that would have been meticulously watched over by the leaders of the land. And to get things started in that vein of obedience we read…

10 Just as the Lord commanded Moses, so did the daughters of Zelophehad;

There is nothing stated in this law, now or afterward, about the possible effects and consequences of love. In other words, if one of these five daughters fell in love with a guy from Zebulun, could she have given up her inheritance and married him? The answer is probably, “Yes,” but it is not even addressed. What this passage is concerned with is the integrity of the tribal and family inheritances.

The matter here is simply stated as an act of obedience to the precept by the daughters of Zelophehad. In this, it sets the stage for the rest of the record of the Bible. Nothing is later recorded where there was some type of deviation from the precept.

11 for Mahlah, Tirzah, Hoglah, Milcah, and Noah, the daughters of Zelophehad, were married to the sons of their father’s brothers.

The names of these five are recorded in the same order in Numbers 26:33 and 27:1 and in Joshua 17:3. However, in this listing, here in Chapter 36, the names of Tirzah and Noah are exchanged in the order. There is no reason given, but one commentator speculates that this is the order in which they were married.

As this particular verse is speaking of marriage, that sounds like a satisfactory reason for the matter, and we will go with it. The word translated as “father’s brothers” is dod. It means “uncle.” Thus, it means they married their cousins, first or otherwise.

There is no prohibition for this in the law, and thus it was acceptable and proper to maintain the inheritance within the family. It would also mean that the inheritance of those particular men would be rather large. They would have been willing accomplices in such an endeavor.

12 They were married into the families of the children of Manasseh the son of Joseph, and their inheritance remained in the tribe of their father’s family.

For the third time in the chapter, Joseph, or “He Shall Add,” is again named. This time it is in relation to the families of Manasseh, confirming again that the marriage was to take place within the single tribe, not within one of the two tribes descended from him.

Nothing was to be taken away from “He Shall Add.” But that which was to be added to him would be through the development of the tribe from within, or from without through marriages which would not bring a liability to the inheritance rights of themselves or another tribe.

From there, the words further define their marriages as al matteh mishpakhat avihem – “over tribe of family their father.” Without support, the NIV translates this as, “their inheritance remained in their father’s tribe and clan.” There is no “and” in the words. It is may be a true statement, because they married their uncles’ sons, but the verse itself is concerned with the tribal inheritance, that of Manasseh, only. The meaning of “uncle” is not defined, first or otherwise, and based on Joshua 17, it is certainly otherwise.

The precepts for protection of the inheritances have been laid down, and obedience to those precepts has been noted. From there we come to the closing verse of the passage, of the chapter, and of the book of Numbers.

*13 (fin) These are the commandments and the judgments which the Lord commanded the children of Israel by the hand of Moses in the plains of Moab by the Jordan, across from Jericho.

The words here are a mixture of that which was seen in Leviticus 26:46 and of those which closed out Leviticus one chapter later –

“These are the statutes and judgments and laws which the Lord made between Himself and the children of Israel on Mount Sinai by the hand of Moses.” Leviticus 26:46

&

“These are the commandments which the Lord commanded Moses for the children of Israel on Mount Sinai.” Leviticus 27:34

The Lord spoke out commands, and He made judgments which were commanded to the children of Israel, meaning all people of the nation, by the hand of Moses. This means that what is recorded was written as it was spoken. It is thus an expression of the Lord in written form for all to read, understand, and apply to their lives.

What this verse conveys speaks, of course, of the contents of this chapter, but they are an overall summary of everything that has been conveyed to the people since their arrival at this spot.

And the spot itself speaks of the coming Messiah. The Lord is the Source of what is presented. The words come by the hand of Moses, or “He who draws out.” Thus, it anticipates Christ.

The hand is what accomplishes things. It is given to man to complete the tasks set before him, just as Christ was sent to accomplish the tasks set before Him by the Father. It is He who draws out the will of the Lord and who embodies that will, pictured by Moses.

The words then say, “in the plains of Moab.” The word “plains” is arbot, which speaks of the deserts. That comes from arav meaning “to grow dark,” but it is identical with the word arav, meaning “surety” because a surety or a pledge covers over something. Arav is the basis for the magnificent word eravon used in Genesis 38 and which speaks in type of the sealing of the Holy Spirit.

Moab means “From Father.” And thus, it is in the place of sureties, From Father, which is said to be “by the Jordan.” As we have seen, Jordan, meaning Descender, pictures Christ who descended from heaven to earth to redeem man. He is the surety from the Father that this law drawn out from the Lord will be fulfilled.

And finally, it says, across from Jericho, or Place of Fragrance. To pass over Christ is to pass into the promise of heaven, the place of the fragrance of the knowledge of God in Christ. Like when Leviticus closed out at Sinai, each word of the verse here anticipates Christ and His mission to bring restoration between God and man.

But before His coming, these statutes and judgments would be given in order to anticipate Him and to be fulfilled by Him.

Giving thanks to God who has qualified us
To be partakers of the inheritance
It is a done deal through our Lord Jesus
And of losing this, there is just no chance 

He has delivered us from the power of darkness
And He has conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love
Without Christ, there would be no hope; we would be in a mess
But because of Christ, assurances of glory rain down from above 

In Him we have redemption through His blood
And in Him there is the forgiveness of all of our sins
So come to Christ, and be immersed in the cleansing flood
Come to Christ who for you, the victory He wins

II. Restoration, Not Loss, at the Jubilee

What must be considered when reading this final chapter of Numbers is “What is the main purpose of what we are reading?” The answer is, as has been seen throughout this marvelous book, to discover Christ and what He would do.

The final verse of the chapter has shown that to us. Everything in that verse spoke in veiled terms of what God would do in and through Christ. In this chapter, the preservation of the land within the tribes was designed to protect the state of those families and tribes.

If mixture was allowed in, the defined lines leading to Messiah would be mixed and suspect. But, to ensure to each tribe that the land of the tribe remained consistent, these laws were given.

That way, when Messiah came, it would be clear and without question that He was of such a given place and that He belonged to such a given tribe. By closing out this marvelous book, filled with typological and pictorial hints of Christ, with the precepts of this chapter, that would remain possible.

Outside of ensuring the inheritances, the two other main points of what was seen in this chapter are the noting three times of Joseph, or “He Shall Add,” and of the mentioning of the year of Jubilee as the point in which no hope of retaining the inheritance would remain.

The idea of an inheritance is mentioned seventeen times in this one chapter. It is the main subject of everything conveyed. Adding in the name of Joseph was because of what his name, “He Shall Add,” signifies.

At his birth, it was seen that the account pictured the taking away of man’s reproach, meaning his sinful state, but that Christ would do it for both Jew and Gentile. Thus, “He Shall Add.”

Christ is the One who doubles through His work, because it is effective for all, not just those under the law. The stress on Joseph here is to remind us of that.

Mentioning the Jubilee means that we need to remember the significance of the Jubilee as it points to Christ. The Jubilee is based on God’s provision of Sabbaths. The Sabbath was a time where the people would rest and not work. That was the first marker in an amazing and intricate cycle of life.

The Sabbath day was given to be the great reminder of God’s creative and redemptive hand among the people. Every aspect of the Sabbath, as was detailed in Exodus and Leviticus, gave insights into what Christ would do.

From the Sabbath day, the next marker in the cycle was to be the Sabbath-month, the seventh month, which detailed the three fall Feasts of the Lord. In order, they pictured Christ’s birth into humanity, His atoning death, and His dwelling among and in His people.

After that, the next great marker was the Sabbath year. It anticipates a time when the Lord would tend to the people’s needs apart from any work. They could rest in Him and find that He would provide for them apart from their effort.

From there, those Sabbath years were to accumulate into the great year of Jubilee where debts would be released, properties would be restored, the land would produce on its own, and captives would be set free.

A total restoration of all things was prefigured in the great year of Jubilee. That year of Jubilee is reflective of the words of Paul concerning the position of believers in Christ –

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” 2 Corinthians 5:17

And yet, that position in Christ for us now is only an anticipatory taste of what will be realized in its fullness at the restoration of all things. That is described in Revelation 21:5 –

Then He who sat on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.” 

So, understand – the seventh day Sabbath acknowledges the Lord’s Creation and Redemption. The seventh month anticipates His incarnation, atoning death, and dwelling in His people. The seventh-year Sabbath looks ahead to His millennial reign. And the year of Jubilee anticipates total restoration of what was lost at the beginning.

Everything, leading up to the Jubilee looks to the Lord and His work in the grand plan of redemption. Each step is fulfilled in Jesus, until we are again in the presence of God.

However, if the inheritance can be confounded, then the success of that great plan is put into question. That is what is being seen here. There is, until a law is given to correct it, a chance that this inheritance can be lost for God’s people. If it can be lost, and if that is solidified through the year of Jubilee, then it is lost forever.

And so, in order to ensure that this could not come about, the chapter today is given. A seeming difficulty is presented, and the Lord explains how to remedy it, which is that the female inheritor may only marry within the tribe of the father. The inheritance is granted through faith in Christ. That is spoken of by both Paul and Peter –

“In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory.” Ephesians 1:13, 14

&

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.” 1 Peter 1:3-5

There, and elsewhere, the inheritance is spoken of, and the surety of it is conveyed. The word used by Paul in Ephesians 1, and translated as “guarantee” is arrabón. It is the same word found in Genesis 38, eravon, and which comes from arav, meaning surety, which we just looked at a moment ago. However, the chapter now speaks of a loophole which could jeopardize the inheritance of God’s people. Is it a guarantee or not?

In order to correct this seeming deficiency, the rite of marriage is brought in, stating the limitations on it to ensure that the inheritance cannot be lost.

In the Bible, a betrothal confirms a marriage. As we saw in Numbers 30, the betrothed husband has the rights over his spouse to confirm or annul vows and the like. She is bound to him in a permanent bond once the betrothal is made. This is what Paul then speaks of for those who now possess the inheritance –

“For I am jealous for you with godly jealousy. For I have betrothed you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ.” 2 Corinthians 11:2

For the believer, the inheritance is given, it has been promised with a seal which is our guarantee, and it has also been assured, once and forever, through our betrothal to Christ. The consummation of that is simply a formality of which we now await. The guarantee has been made, and the inheritance is forever secured for the people of God.

The chapter today anticipates the doctrine known as “eternal salvation.” Where there are seeming loopholes in any person’s salvation and the granting of the inheritance, the Bible completely closes them up through Christ.

What He has done is sufficient to save, but even more, what He has done, and who He is in relation to us, is our guarantee that we are saved and will remain that way. If there was another note and point of rejoicing that could surpass this idea and which could have ended the book of Numbers, I don’t know what it could have been.

The patterns and pictures of what Christ would do have been many, but to know that what He has done for us in them is assured for all eternity is like sprinkles on top of the ice cream in the cone.

The chapter and the book close out with the words that this account came from the Lord by the hand of Moses in the plains of Moab by the Jordan, across from Jericho.

As we saw, every word of that speaks of what God would do in Christ. The Lord is the Source. By the hand Moses, or “He who draws out,” anticipates Christ, because Christ is the right hand of God who accomplishes the tasks set before Him by the Father. He draws out the will of the Lord and embodies that will.

“In the plains of Moab” speak of the pledge, or surety – meaning the giving of the Holy Spirit – Who is From Father, which is the meaning of “Moab.”

This was said to be “by the Jordan,” meaning the Descender – the Lord Jesus (See Ephesians 4:9, 10). And in passing though Him, one is in Jericho, the Place of Fragrance. To pass through Christ is to pass into the promise of heaven, the place of the fragrance of the knowledge of God in Christ.

God, in His infinite wisdom, took us through pictures of rejection of Him by His people, to their sentencing of them by Him to die in the wilderness, to pictures of simply looking to Him in faith in that wilderness and being saved from the viper, and through so many other varied hints of temporary difficulty and yet anticipated glory.

And through it all, He brought them right to the border of the Land of Promise, right to the Descender Himself. And along with them, He also brought along the Gentile people of the world. All are standing at the border, and all are welcome to come in.

And to finish off His anticipatory look into the inheritance, He ends with a note of surety that the inheritance is, it will be, and it will never pass away. One must pity those who believe they can lose their salvation. They are stuck in a hopeless condition of constant failure intermixed with a trembling but uncertain hope.

The name Tselophekhad means “Shadow of Fear.” Because of his family situation, there was a shadow of fear hanging over the inheritance of God’s people. But in Christ, that shadow of fear is forever removed.

Christ did not come to provide us with eternal insecurity. And He did not come to offer us an inheritance that can be lost. Rather, we are betrothed to Him to ensure that the inheritance will never pass away. This is the message of God in Christ, and it is a marvelous, glorious part of His superior word.

Closing Verse: “And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, 24 knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ.” Colossians 3:23, 24

Next Week: Don’t be a clod, so to you I saith… The Word of God – The Basis of our Faith (First Doctrine Sermon)

The Lord has you exactly where He wants you. He has a good plan and purpose for you. It may seem at times as if you are lost in a desert, wandering aimlessly. But the Lord is there, carefully leading you to the Land of Promise. So, follow Him and trust Him and He will do marvelous things for you and through you.

The Inheritance of Zelophehad

Now the chief fathers of the families
Of the children of Gilead, yes, these ones
The son of Machir
The son of Manasseh, of the families of Joseph’s sons

Came near and spoke before Moses
And before the leaders, with words to tell
To the chief fathers of
The children of Israel

And they said: “The Lord commanded my lord Moses
To give the land as an inheritance by lot
———-dividing among one another
To the children of Israel, and my lord was commanded
———-by the Lord
To give the inheritance to the daughters of Zelophehad our brother

Now if they are married to any of the sons
Of the other tribes of the children of Israel
Then their inheritance will be taken
From the inheritance of our fathers; this just doesn’t sit well

And it will be added to the inheritance
Of the tribe into which they marry
So, it will be taken from the lot
Of our inheritance, thus the borders will vary

And when the Jubilee of the children of Israel comes
Then their inheritance will be added, as we now describe
To the inheritance of the tribe into which they marry
So, their inheritance will be taken away
———-from the inheritance of our father’s tribe

Then Moses commanded the children of Israel
According to the word of the Lord, saying:
“What the tribe of the sons of Joseph speaks is right
Here now the words to you I am conveying

This is what the Lord commands
Concerning the daughters of Zelophehad
———-saying as to you I now describe
‘Let them marry whom they think best
But they may marry only within the family of their father’s tribe

So, the inheritance of the children of Israel
Shall not change hands from tribe to tribe
For every one of the children of Israel
Shall keep the inheritance of the tribe of his fathers
———-to where the Lord did first ascribe

And every daughter who possesses an inheritance
In any tribe of the children of Israel, such shall be the stance
Shall be the wife of one of the family of her father’s tribe
So that the children of Israel each may possess
———-his father’s inheritance 

Thus, no inheritance shall change hands
From one tribe to another
But every tribe of the children of Israel
Shall keep its own inheritance
———-it is by father and not by mother

Just as the Lord commanded Moses
So did the daughters of Zelophehad, obeying the Lord’s druthers
For Mahlah, Tirzah, Hoglah, Milcah, and Noah
The daughters of Zelophehad
———-were married to the sons of their father’s brothers 

They were married into the families
Of the children of Manasseh, the son of Joseph, as it was said to be
And their inheritance remained
In the tribe of their father’s family

These are the commandments and the judgments
Which the Lord commanded the children of Israel
———-as we now know
By the hand of Moses in the plains of Moab
By the Jordan, across from Jericho

Lord God, we are even now in a wilderness
And we are wanting to be led by You
Without You to direct, our lives would be a mess
And so, be our guide, O God; You who are faithful and true

We long for the water in this barren land
May it flow forth from the Rock, our souls to satisfy
Give us this refreshing, spiritual hand
And may we take it, and to our lives daily it apply

And we shall be content and satisfied in You alone
We will follow You as we sing our songs of praise
Hallelujah to You; to us Your path You have shown
Hallelujah we shall sing to You for all of our days

And Lord God, thank you for this wonderful book
Numbers! What a marvel to have studied it
Into every detail possible we took a look
And to You our thanks and praise we now submit!

Hallelujah to Christ our Lord!
Hallelujah for Numbers, a marvelous part of Your superior word!

Hallelujah and Amen…

 

 

 

 

Numbers 35:22-34

Numbers 35:22-34
Until the Death of the High Priest

Concerning the passage before us, Albert Barnes says –

“The atoning death of the Saviour cast its shadow before on the statute-book of the Law and on the annals of Jewish history. The high priest, as the head and representative of the whole chosen family of sacerdotal mediators, as exclusively entrusted with some of the chief priestly functions, as alone privileged to make yearly atonement within the holy of holies, and to gain, from the mysterious Urim and Thummim, special revelations of the will of God, was, preeminently, a type of Christ. And thus the death of each successive high priest presignified that death of Christ by which the captives were to be freed, and the remembrance of transgressions made to cease.”

What he says is not far off from most other scholars, and it is true. But… it doesn’t explain the mechanics of what is being relayed in this passage. Without the mechanics, it is simply a guess that this is what is being pictured. Without knowing “how” it is, it actually doesn’t help us to understand the passage.

Here we have people in a particular category – they have shed blood without sanction. That is divided into two more categories. The first is one who did it intentionally, he is a murderer, and he must die. The second did it unintentionally, and he is still guilty of blood, but he can be freed from the guilt.

What we will do today is find out the “how” of the matter as it points to Christ. But we need to do so by understanding how it first works for the person who fled to the place of refuge. If we cannot do that, then we cannot – truthfully – say that we understand “how” this points to Christ.

And before we do, we should probably define what a murderer is in its most basic form. The reason for this is that if we take the Bible’s strictest definition of the words, we are all guilty of it. As this is so, we all need to understand the mechanics of what is going on in our verses today.

Text Verse: “Do not marvel, my brethren, if the world hates you. 14 We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love his brother abides in death. 15 Whoever hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.” 1 John 3:13-15

John says that whoever hates his brother is a murderer. I could be wrong, but I’m guessing that everyone has fallen into this category at one time or another. God looks at the intent of the heart and that is the standard which is brought to bear on the human soul. John was simply citing what the law he grew up under already spoke –

“You shall not hate your brother in your heart. You shall surely rebuke your neighbor, and not bear sin because of him. 18 You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the children of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.” Leviticus 19:17, 18

As the law is written and cannot be broken, to hate one’s brother in the heart means that the person has broken the law. In the breaking of the law, the law – meaning the entire law – is violated. This is why John could say this.

Jesus said as much concerning intent. In Matthew 5, he said that if you look at a woman with lust in your heart, you’ve already committed adultery with her. Intent… it’ll get you every time. But there is good news too. We can be freed from the law and we can be given grace.

This is the marvel of what God has done in Christ. The mechanics of a part of how that can happen are found in today’s verses. It’s a marvelous part of His superior word. And so, let’s turn to that precious word once again and… May God speak to us through His word today and may His glorious name ever be praised.

I. A Statute of Judgment to You (verses 22-34)

So far in this chapter, verses 1-8 were given concerning the designation of Levitical cities throughout the land given to Israel. However, there was a stress upon there being six cities of refuge which was seen in verse 6.

After that, the placement and purpose of these cities of refuge were seen in verses 9-15. The main point was that they were to be a place of refuge from the avenger of blood for one who accidentally killed another person.

Then from verses 16-21, the passage spoke of a person who intentionally killed another. For this, the city of refuge was not applicable. Rather, the murderer was to be taken and killed by the avenger of blood.

With that directive properly disposed with now, the details of who could seek refuge, how that refuge was to be determined, and the responsibilities and restrictions upon such a person are now given.

The logical and orderly way that the chapter is laid out ensures that every detail is stated and then explained so that no confusion or ambiguity would result. With that in mind, the instructions for the innocent manslayer are now precisely defined, starting with…

22 ‘However, if he pushes him suddenly 

v’im b’feta – “and if suddenly.” The word petha comes from a root signifying “to open the eye,” and thus a wink. What occurs happens so fast that it cannot be misconstrued as with malice aforethought. There could have been a fight or flight reflex that simply took over the situation. This is probably what occurred with poor Uzzah in 2 Samuel 6:6 –

“And when they came to Nachon’s threshing floor, Uzzah put out his hand to the ark of God and took hold of it, for the oxen stumbled.”

Unfortunately for Uzzah, his act was one which cost him his life because he touched a most holy object which was strictly forbidden by the Lord.

22 (con’t) without enmity,

Here the word evah, or enmity is used for only the second time in Scripture. The only other time it has been seen was in Genesis 3 –

“And I will put enmity
Between you and the woman,
And between your seed and her Seed;
He shall bruise your head,
And you shall bruise His heel.” Genesis 3:15

It signifies hostility, or hatred. In other words, it is obvious from the surrounding interactions of the lives of the two, either because of close friendship, or from not having known one another at all, that there was no reason for there being hostility between the two.

Such a state would be evident to any who knew the relationship, or lack of it, and could see that there was nothing which would impel someone to instantly push another person, causing his death.

A possible example would be two people walking on a trail with a steep cliff next to them. One stumbles, reaches out towards the other, and accidentally pushes the other over the side. It would be obvious to any and all that the act was wholly unintentional.

22 (con’t) or throws anything at him without lying in wait,

Towards the end of the previous sermon, in verse 20, the word tsediyah, or lying in wait, was introduced. Now, this is its second and last use in Scripture. In verse 20, there was an intentional lying in wait to do harm. Here that is lacking.

Instead, the person throws something toward or at another and it causes death. It could be as simple as two people throwing a baseball. The one catching misses it and it donks him in the head, killing him.

Or, it could be that the two were in a traveling show, where one throws knives at the other who is on a big spinning wheel. Unfortunately, the knife thrower missed his sleep the night before and his aim was off. The knife hits the femoral artery, the blood gushes forth, and the life is over.

The same holds true with William Tell and his one day of poor marksmanship. Instead of hitting the apple, he accidentally hits the frontal lobe of his rather dull apple holder.

As loony as it is to even do this type of thing, it was not a deliberate act, and both were in agreement in the performance. Thus, the act is one which is unintentional.

23 or uses a stone, by which a man could die, throwing it at him without seeing him, so that he dies, while he was not his enemy or seeking his harm,

The word “throwing” is not actually correct. The Hebrew word is naphal, meaning “to fall.” One might think of a person working on a brick building. He loses hold of the brick and it goes careening over the wall. Unfortunately, someone happens into the work area and the brick plunks down on his head, killing him.

The person who dropped the brick had no intention of killing anyone. After all, he was just laying another brick in the wall. But his action has caused death, and the avenger could, legally, take action against him.

Another example might be a person practicing his aim by throwing  stones up at a target. If someone happens by and gets clunked in the head with one of the rocks as it comes down, it might kill him.

There was nothing intentional, and the person had no malice aforethought. It was simply time and chance which stepped in and brought about the death. With the lack of evil intent, the person is a manslayer, but not a murderer. Deuteronomy 9 gives a bit of a different view of such things –

“And this is the case of the manslayer who flees there, that he may live: Whoever kills his neighbor unintentionally, not having hated him in time past— as when a man goes to the woods with his neighbor to cut timber, and his hand swings a stroke with the ax to cut down the tree, and the head slips from the handle and strikes his neighbor so that he dies—he shall flee to one of these cities and live.” Deuteronomy 19:4, 5 

If such unfortunate accidents occur…

24 then the congregation shall judge between the manslayer and the avenger of blood according to these judgments.

Here, the word “manslayer” is not appropriate. It is not the standard word ratsakh, or “manslayer,” that is used so frequently in this chapter. Rather, it uses the word nakah, to strike. Thus, it should say, “the striker.” He is being set in contrast to the avenger of blood through the use of this descriptive word.

The congregation is brought together in order to hold an official trial which is conducted according to the precisely stated wording which is found here, and which is expanded upon in Deuteronomy.

The words, “according to these judgments,” mean that these are examples by which to guide any other similar situations. If the striker is deemed guilty, he is a murderer. If he is deemed innocent, he is only a manslayer without advance intent to kill.

25 So the congregation shall deliver the manslayer from the hand of the avenger of blood,

Here, the judgment is made, and so the usual word, ratsakh, is given. He is a manslayer, but he is deemed to have done it unintentionally. Because of this, he is given legal protection from the manslayer. If this provision were not given in the law, then any act of homicide, intentional or unintentional, would be deemed as acceptable for the avenger of blood to take revenge.

25 (con’t) and the congregation shall return him to the city of refuge where he had fled,

It is apparent that this means that the people of the city of refuge where the manslayer went had sent him, probably under Levitical guard, back to the city where the killing had taken place. There would have been a preliminary trial at the Levitical city to see if he even qualified to be taken in.

Once summoned for a trial he would have been conducted to the city for that trial. If guilty, he would have been executed. However, being found innocent, he is then returned to the Levitical city for refuge which would last for a set but indeterminate amount of time, which was…

25 (con’t) and he shall remain there until the death of the high priest who was anointed with the holy oil.

One can see the providence of God in this. If what he did was the day when a new and young high priest was ordained, he may be there for the remainder of his life. If what he did was a week before the current high priest died, he would only have to be in refuge for that one week.

The reason for this mandate and this provision is two-fold. The first reason is that ha’kohen ha’gadol, or “the priest, the great,” represented the nation before God. He did this with the holy offerings, and he did it in his mediatorial role on the Day of Atonement. This is seen several times, but two pertinent examples are found in Exodus and Leviticus –

 “So Aaron shall bear the names of the sons of Israel on the breastplate of judgment over his heart, when he goes into the holy place, as a memorial before the Lord continually. 30 And you shall put in the breastplate of judgment the Urim and the Thummim, and they shall be over Aaron’s heart when he goes in before the Lord. So Aaron shall bear the judgment of the children of Israel over his heart before the Lord continually.” Exodus 28:29,30

&

“Why have you not eaten the sin offering in a holy place, since it is most holy, and God has given it to you to bear the guilt of the congregation, to make atonement for them before the Lord? 18 See! Its blood was not brought inside the holy place; indeed you should have eaten it in a holy place, as I commanded.” Leviticus 10:17, 18

The high priest bore the judgment of the children of Israel, and the priest bore the guilt of the congregation through the eating of the sin offering. As the high priest was ultimately responsible for this, and for the rites of atonement on the Day of Atonement, he bore the guilt of the people. In the case of the manslayer, another thought, however, comes into play. Two more verses are needed to see this. Both are found in this chapter in just a few more verses –

“Moreover you shall take no ransom for the life of a murderer who is guilty of death, but he shall surely be put to death.” Numbers 35:31

&

“So you shall not pollute the land where you are; for blood defiles the land, and no atonement can be made for the land, for the blood that is shed on it, except by the blood of him who shed it.” Numbers 35:33

The guilty must be put to death. Period. Nothing else was acceptable. But the innocent is also guilty of shedding blood, for which no atonement could be made, except by the blood of the one who shed it. Therefore, the Day of Atonement, where all other sins were atoned for, could not atone for his act.

However, because the high priest bore the judgment and the guilt of the manslayer, his death alone could expiate those sins. When he died, because he bore the guilt of the act, the act of the law – and thus the law of the act – died with him. The manslayer was now free from his guilt.

This is why the same word is used for both murderer and manslayer. The guilt of bloodshed is the same for both, regardless if it is intentional or unintentional. As we saw already, the word which defines this act, ratsakh, is first found as a precept of the law itself in the Sixth Commandment, “You shall not murder.”

People question, if what Paul refers to in Colossians 2, and what the author of Hebrews says in Hebrews 7, 8, and 10 about the law being annulled in Christ, actually applies to the Ten Commandments or not. This verse right here answers it. The Ten Commandments are the basis for the law, and they are – along with the entire law – annulled, obsolete, and set aside in Christ.

The second reason is because in this there was a typological prefiguring of Christ. That will be explained later, but simply stated for now, the high priest was the mediator of the law. As this is so, the final judgment of the law, whether he officiated at the trial or not, was his.

As far as the person in the city of refuge, the time of his dwelling there would be solely up to that one determination – the death of the great priest – but it stood firm. At no time could he leave and be safe from the avenger of blood otherwise. This is seen with…

26 But if the manslayer at any time goes outside the limits of the city of refuge where he fled,

v’im yatso yetse – “And if going out, he goes out.” These words must be taken in connection with verse 28. “At any time” means “at any time before the death of the high priest.” The one who has shed blood is covered by this provision of the law only as long as he is in a city of refuge.

The city of refuge is a Levitical city, a city which represents for Israel the firstborn of Israel. This must be remembered from Numbers 8 –

“I have taken the Levites instead of all the firstborn of the children of Israel. 19 And I have given the Levites as a gift to Aaron and his sons from among the children of Israel, to do the work for the children of Israel in the tabernacle of meeting, and to make atonement for the children of Israel, that there be no plague among the children of Israel when the children of Israel come near the sanctuary.” Leviticus 8:18, 19

The cities of refuge, being Levitical cities, are thus – as it says in Numbers 8 – under the authority of Aaron and his sons. Therefore, the manslayer is represented by the firstborn, and he is under the protection of the life of the high priest. He is safe from the law because he is safe within the high priest who bore his guilt. To leave the city would then expose him to danger…

27 and the avenger of blood finds him outside the limits of his city of refuge,

The person has willfully left the only place of protection for his life. The city border is a sanctuary, and he has been provided asylum. But with the high priest still alive, he is not protected outside of its border. If the avenger hears of it and finds him…

27 (con’t) and the avenger of blood kills the manslayer, he shall not be guilty of blood,

The man has forfeit his life. He was found innocent of intentional murder, but he still bears the guilt of having shed blood. The act is still considered ratsakh. It was unsanctioned taking of human life, in contradistinction to harag, or killing, which can be sanctioned.

The blood is shed, there is no atonement for shedding of blood except by the blood of the one who shed it, and therefore, the avenger is not guilty of shedding further blood. Instead, he is justified in his taking of this life which bears bloodguilt. Not only is it his right to do so, it is his obligation if he finds him…

28 because he should have remained in his city of refuge until the death of the high priest.

Somebody must bear the responsibility and guilt for what occurred. The Lord accepted that the high priest would be the one to do this for the sins of His people. But the guilt of blood could only be borne by him, it could not be atoned for, as we have seen and will see. Therefore, as long as he lived, the guilt was either born by him, or by the one who had committed the act. The manslayer is only safe within the Levitical city of refuge. However…

28 (con’t) But after the death of the high priest the manslayer may return to the land of his possession.

The guilt is freed from him, and it has been lifted from the high priest because he has died. The blood has been avenged through death. Therefore, he who was the avenger of blood is no longer so. If he were to kill this man, whose bloodguilt has been removed, he would bear bloodguilt and would, himself, be liable to the avenger.

As the high priest bore the judgment and the guilt of Israel, and as he has died, the judgment, which was passed, and the guilt which he bore on behalf of his people, died with him. However, being a high priest of the law, the law did not die with him. It continued on to the next generation. If the freed man accidentally killed again, he would, once again, be bound by the provisions of this chapter.

29 ‘And these things shall be a statute of judgment to you throughout your generations in all your dwellings.

Here is the term l’khuqat mishpat, or “for a statute of judgment.” It is only found here and in Numbers 27:11 which dealt with inheritances of property. The idea of both is a statute of the Lord that entails a fixed, permanent, and authoritatively established judgment. It defines and determines a legal right.

In this case, it was a legally binding precept under the Law of Moses, and which would continue under that same law for all the generations to come, until the law would find its fulfillment and ending. The judgment was made, the statute was enacted, and it is legally and permanently binding for all under the law.

30 Whoever kills a person, the murderer shall be put to death on the testimony of witnesses; but one witness is not sufficient testimony against a person for the death penalty.

The intent here is obvious. Anyone can make a claim on another person, especially when it may involve family of the deceased, or when it involves someone who hates the person who is accused. In Deuteronomy 17:6, the number is set at “two or three witnesses” for anyone who could be put to death for a crime.

This is extended to all iniquity or sin in Deuteronomy 19:15. Jesus repeats the precept in John 8:17, Paul uses it as a precept in 2 Corinthians 13:1, and the author of Hebrews refers to this precept for anyone who rejected the Law of Moses in Hebrews 10.

It is a safeguard which is intended for the protection of all due to the obviously wicked heart of man, or the fallibility of man to properly discern what may have occurred in a matter his eyes witnessed.

31 Moreover you shall take no ransom for the life of a murderer who is guilty of death, but he shall surely be put to death.

What this means is that a person who has shed blood, and who has been judged guilty, thus identifying him as a murderer, cannot appeal for his life through some sort of payment, nor can anyone else offer a payment to buy back his life. This goes back to Exodus 21 where a person could redeem his life from a death sentence handed out for another reason –

“If an ox gores a man or a woman to death, then the ox shall surely be stoned, and its flesh shall not be eaten; but the owner of the ox shall be acquitted. 29 But if the ox tended to thrust with its horn in times past, and it has been made known to his owner, and he has not kept it confined, so that it has killed a man or a woman, the ox shall be stoned and its owner also shall be put to death. 30 If there is imposed on him a sum of money, then he shall pay to redeem his life, whatever is imposed on him.” Exodus 21:28-30

The man did not commit ratsakh, or unsanctioned bloodshed. Therefore, he could purchase his life back at whatever payment was imposed. If he could not pay, then he died. The person who has murdered, however, could not buy his life back. This is because of what it says coming up in verse 33. Further…

32 And you shall take no ransom for him who has fled to his city of refuge, that he may return to dwell in the land before the death of the priest.

Of this, the Pulpit Commentary states –

“No one might buy off the enmity of the avenger before the appointed time, for that would give an unjust advantage to wealth, and would make the whole matter mercenary and vulgar.” Pulpit Commentary

This is not correct. The fact that a person could redeem his life from what his ox had done, as noted a minute ago, shows this. The reason for this will be explained in the final verses of the chapter. What is true here, is that a ransom may satisfy the avenging relative, but it cannot satisfy the justice of God.

For now, the same law applies to the person who committed unintentional ratsakh, or unsanctioned bloodshed, and it is for the same reason as verse 33 will explain. He could not buy his way out of what he did at any price.

Rather, he had to stay in the city of refuge as long as the high priest lived. No price, no matter how high, could be enough. The psalmist was referring to this general precept when he wrote these words about the surety of death –

“Those who trust in their wealth
And boast in the multitude of their riches,
None of them can by any means redeem his brother,
Nor give to God a ransom for him—
For the redemption of their souls is costly,
And it shall cease forever—
That he should continue to live eternally,
And not see the Pit.” Psalm 49:6-8

The reason that a ransom could not be paid for either was because there was unsanctioned killing – intentional or unintentional, it makes no difference. When the death was unsanctioned, there was a price assigned to that act…

33 So you shall not pollute the land where you are; for blood defiles the land, and no atonement can be made for the land, for the blood that is shed on it, except by the blood of him who shed it.

Here is a new word, khaneph. It signifies to pollute or profane. It comes from a primitive root, meaning to soil. This is especially so in a moral sense.

The intent of the words is obviously that of unsanctioned killing. Otherwise, Israel would be guilty of bloodshed anytime they went to battle. But David understood that this was not the case when he said this about Joab –

“Moreover you know also what Joab the son of Zeruiah did to me, and what he did to the two commanders of the armies of Israel, to Abner the son of Ner and Amasa the son of Jether, whom he killed. And he shed the blood of war in peacetime, and put the blood of war on his belt that was around his waist, and on his sandals that were on his feet.” 1 Kings 2:5

In unsanctioned killing, there was a polluting of the land which could not be atoned for except by the blood of the person who shed it. This same word is used by the psalmist with these words –

“And shed innocent blood,
The blood of their sons and daughters,
Whom they sacrificed to the idols of Canaan;
And the land was polluted with blood.” Psalm 106:38

As this is a standard which precedes the Law of Moses, it is an eternal standard, and thus it – like Israel under the law who sacrificed their children – applies to those who do so to the gods of self-convenience and wickedness through abortion.

It is just one more reason, on a heaped-up pile of reasons, why those who do such things desperately need to come to Jesus. And it is why this nation, among the many other nations who approve of this practice, will be plunged into complete destruction in the years ahead. Such bloodshed defiles the land…

*34 (fin) Therefore do not defile the land which you inhabit, in the midst of which I dwell; for I the Lord dwell among the children of Israel.’”

Of verses 31 and 32 which referred to not accepting a ransom for either the murder or the freeing of the manslayer, Cambridge says, “These prohibitions emphasize the extreme value of human life.” This is an incorrect statement. Humanity makes itself worthless through their actions, even to the point where God has destroyed, and He will again destroy, the entire planet, minus very few.

The reason for these provisions is because God is holy. Until we can understand the holiness of God, we cannot see sin, meaning our own sin, in its proper light. The Lord is teaching Israel that unholiness bears a weight of guilt, and that weight must be placed somewhere.

To defile the land where the Lord dwelt was to bring contempt upon the holiness of the Lord. For the one who innocently shed such blood and defiled the land, the Lord made provisions in the cities of refuge. But for the guilty, no provision could be made.

The nature of God demands that a violation of His holiness must be corrected through a judicial process. His righteous character demands that it must be so, and yet His mercy allows for it to be borne by another. This was the burden of the high priest.

The Lord was instructing the world, through the people of Israel, that these fixed and eternal standards must be met, but that provisions for how they can be met outside of the imposition of the penalty upon the guilty were available. Proof that this is so, not only for Israel, but for any and all who will acknowledge him, comes from the words of Paul, which reflect the sentiment of this final verse of the day –

“I will dwell in them
And walk among them.
I will be their God,
And they shall be My people.” 2 Corinthians 6:16

As I said earlier, there were two reasons for the mandate that the offender had to remain in the city of refuge until the death of the high priest. The second reason I gave was that these things anticipate Christ. That is what we will see next.

Do not defile the land in which you live
For among the midst of you, there I dwell
To you the blessings of heaven, I will give
Or, from Me will come the tortures of eternal hell

For I dwell among you; even I, the Lord
Therefore, be holy as I am holy – this you must be
In this, you will receive my promised reward
And there shall be peace between you and Me

Do not profane the land, but keep it pure and undefiled
And between us there will be a state of harmony
In this, upon you I shall have smiled
And together we shall dwell for all eternity


II. Our Great High Priest

Chapter 35 details the cities of the Levites. They were taken in place of the firstborn of Israel to minister between the priests and the people, but they stand as representative of the firstborn. It is the first typological point concerning Christ, who is the Firstborn they anticipate.

From their cities, six cities were named as places of refuge. In Scripture, six is the number of man, especially fallen man. It is five plus one, or grace plus man’s addition to it. It is seven minus one, or coming short of spiritual perfection.

The cities are given as a haven for such. They are a place of grace for those who fall short, but who seek refuge. The cities themselves do not save, they only protect. And they only do so by the voluntary act of the man staying in them.

Thus, the cities were anticipatory of Christ for Israel. One under the law still had the hope of Messiah, and in such a hope, the sin of the man was not imputed. This was spoken by David, and cited by Paul with these words –

“But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness, just as David also describes the blessedness of the man to whom God imputes righteousness apart from works:
7 ‘Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven,
And whose sins are covered;
Blessed is the man to whom the Lord shall not impute sin.’” Romans 4:5-8

David was a man under the law. It was a law that said sin was to be imputed. And yet David wrote that there was a blessedness for the man to whom the Lord did not impute sin. The law is of works, and yet a person could be deemed righteous by faith.

The city of refuge was such a place. The man was guilty, but his guilt could be taken away, but not by law. It could only be taken away by a provision of grace within the law – the anticipation of Messiah.

We saw that the priests ate the sacrifice of the sin offering in order to bear the sins of the people. But we are told in Hebrews that such sacrifices actually did nothing. The blood of bulls and goats could not take away sin. And so, these sacrifices were only anticipatory of the coming of Christ.

We saw this in each of the countless sacrifices of Leviticus and Numbers. Each detail anticipated Christ. And so, the sin animal offerings eaten by the priests did not actually take away the sin. The high priest only bore the sin of the people in an anticipatory way. That anticipation was of Christ to come.

And that takes us to the high priest. It specifically noted that it was he who was anointed with oil. The picture takes us back to Leviticus and what that anointing anticipated. The word mashakh, or anoint, is the root of mashiakh, Messiah, or Anointed One. In Isaiah 61, that Anointed One was anticipated –

“The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me,
Because the Lord has anointed Me
To preach good tidings to the poor;
He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted,
To proclaim liberty to the captives,
And the opening of the prison to those who are bound.” Isaiah 61:1

Luke says that Christ went into the synagogue, read that portion of Scripture, and stated that it was fulfilled in their hearing. He was proclaiming that He was the One anointed by God as Messiah.

Those who had transgressed the law through bloodshed found safe refuge in the Levitical city of refuge. When the high priest was alive, he bore the guilt of the judgment and guilt of the offender. But he didn’t actually bear the guilt because the animal which they ate to bear the guilt of the people could not be a suitable substitute to bear guilt. It was only a type of Christ.

But when Christ came, He could bear the guilt – and He did. He is the fulfillment of Levitical city of refuge, He is the fulfillment of the animal bearer-of-guilt substitute, He is also the fulfillment of the anointed high priest who then bore the guilt.

And in that capacity, and with that burden of guilt, He also died. As we said of the high priest of Israel, we can now say of the fulfillment of that high priestly position in Christ – When He died, because He bore the guilt of the act, the act of the law – and thus the law of the act – died with Him. The manslayer was now free from his guilt.

This is what Paul wrote about in Colossians 2. Though he is speaking to Gentiles, the premise remains the same concerning what occurred –

“And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses, 14 having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. 15 Having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it.” Colossians 2:13-15

The Anointed One, the Messiah, the true High Priest, died on the cross of Calvary, and the handwriting of that law died with Him. In that death, the law is taken away, and the captives are set free.

Some might claim that the idea of the city of refuge means that a person could lose his salvation. If they left the city, they were subject to the avenger of blood. Such is exactly the opposite. That is speaking of before, not after, the high priest dies.

That looked to Israel before the coming of Messiah. Those who trusted in Messiah, died in faith. They were kept in the City of Refuge until His coming. In the death of Messiah, the captives are freed. Verse 26 cannot be taken to indicate a loss of salvation. In fact, it proclaims eternal salvation.

For those who come to Christ after the act, Charles Ellicott provides sufficient detail to explain their state –

“As the bodily safety of the Israelite who had slain a man depended upon his strict observance of the law which required him to remain within the city of refuge until the death of the high priest, so in the same way the spiritual safety of the believer depends upon his exclusive reliance upon the merits and efficacy of the atoning death and righteousness of Christ, seeing that “there is none other name under heaven given among men whereby we may be saved; neither is there salvation in any other” (Acts 4:12).

If the person of Israel left the city of refuge, it meant that he was under law. He was not under grace if he went out. And that state remains today. One can choose law, or he can choose grace, but he cannot have both. The author of Hebrews makes this clear when speaking of the New and the Old covenants –

“But Christ came as High Priest of the good things to come, with the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands, that is, not of this creation. 12 Not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption. 13 For if the blood of bulls and goats and the ashes of a heifer, sprinkling the unclean, sanctifies for the purifying of the flesh, 14 how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? 15 And for this reason He is the Mediator of the new covenant, by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions under the first covenant, that those who are called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance.” Hebrews 9:11-15

One can be under law, with a priest who dies and stays dead, and a law which continues to condemn, or he can come to Christ who lives forever, and to the grace which is offered freely unto eternal salvation.

At the beginning of our verses today, John showed us that we have all committed murder. We may have done it unintentionally, and some of us may have done it intentionally, but we have a greater hope than our pitiful actions. As the author of Hebrews says –

“Thus God, determining to show more abundantly to the heirs of promise the immutability of His counsel, confirmed it by an oath, 18 that by two immutable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we might have strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold of the hope set before us.” Hebrews 6:17, 18

Israel had cities of refuge until the coming of Christ and His death for them. The tragically flawed thinking that we must continue to adhere to the Law of Moses now is shown false in the passage today. In fact, it is a self-condemning act because such a person rejects what the law only anticipated – freedom in Christ. We have a Place of refuge that we too can flee to, in order to keep us out of the death that we deserve. Let us flee to the grace of God in Christ and be saved from what we as humans otherwise deserve.

Closing Verse: “And they cried with a loud voice, saying, ‘How long, O Lord, holy and true, until You judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?’” Revelation 6:10

Next Week: Numbers 36:1-13 It’s the last sermon in Numbers, which makes me rather sad… (The Inheritance of Zelophehad) (71st Numbers Sermon)

The Lord has you exactly where He wants you. He has a good plan and purpose for you. It may seem at times as if you are lost in a desert, wandering aimlessly. But the Lord is there, carefully leading you to the Land of Promise. So, follow Him and trust Him and He will do marvelous things for you and through you.

Until the Death of the High Priest

‘However, if he pushes him suddenly without enmity
Or throws anything at him without lying in wait
Or uses a stone, by which a man could die
Throwing it at him without seeing him, so that he dies;
———-such is his fate

While he was not his enemy or seeking his harm
Then the congregation shall judge guilt or innocence
Between the manslayer and the avenger of blood
According to these judgments

So the congregation shall deliver the manslayer
From the hand of the avenger of blood, saving his head
And the congregation shall return him
To the city of refuge where he had fled

And he shall remain there until the death of the high priest
Who was anointed with the holy oil; until he is deceased

But if the manslayer at any time goes
Outside the limits of the city of refuge where he fled
And the avenger of blood finds him
Outside the limits of his city of refuge, he had better dread

And the avenger of blood kills the manslayer
He shall not be guilty of blood: from guilt he is released
Because he should have remained
In his city of refuge until the death of the high priest

But after the death of the high priest so we learn
The manslayer to the land of his possession may return

And these things shall be a statute of judgment to you
Throughout your generations in all your dwellings, so shall you do

Whoever kills a person, the murderer shall be put to death
On the testimony of witnesses, so shall it be
But one witness is not sufficient testimony
Against a person for the death penalty

Moreover you shall take no ransom
———-for the life of a murderer who is of death guilty
But he shall be put to death surely

And you shall take no ransom for him
Who has to his city of refuge fled
That he may return to dwell in the land
Before the death of the priest; yes, until he is dead

So you shall not pollute the land where you are
For blood defiles the land, and no atonement can be made
———-for the land
For the blood that is shed on it
Except by the blood of him who shed it; this you must understand

Therefore do not defile the land which you inhabit
In the midst of which I dwell
For I the LORD dwell
Among the children of Israel

Lord God, we are even now in a wilderness
And we are wanting to be led by You
Without You to direct, our lives would be a mess
And so be our guide, O God; You who are faithful and true

We long for the water in this barren land
May it flow forth from the Rock, our souls to satisfy
Give us this refreshing, spiritual hand
And may we take it, and to our lives daily it apply

And we shall be content and satisfied in You alone
We will follow You as we sing our songs of praise
Hallelujah to You; to us Your path You have shown
Hallelujah we shall sing to You for all of our days

Hallelujah and Amen…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

22 ‘However, if he pushes him suddenly without enmity, or throws anything at him without lying in wait, 23 or uses a stone, by which a man could die, throwing it at him without seeing him, so that he dies, while he was not his enemy or seeking his harm, 24 then the congregation shall judge between the manslayer and the avenger of blood according to these judgments. 25 So the congregation shall deliver the manslayer from the hand of the avenger of blood, and the congregation shall return him to the city of refuge where he had fled, and he shall remain there until the death of the high priest who was anointed with the holy oil. 26 But if the manslayer at any time goes outside the limits of the city of refuge where he fled, 27 and the avenger of blood finds him outside the limits of his city of refuge, and the avenger of blood kills the manslayer, he shall not be guilty of blood, 28 because he should have remained in his city of refuge until the death of the high priest. But after the death of the high priest the manslayer may return to the land of his possession.

29 ‘And these things shall be a statute of judgment to you throughout your generations in all your dwellings. 30 Whoever kills a person, the murderer shall be put to death on the testimony of witnesses; but one witness is not sufficient testimony against a person for the death penalty. 31 Moreover you shall take no ransom for the life of a murderer who is guilty of death, but he shall surely be put to death. 32 And you shall take no ransom for him who has fled to his city of refuge, that he may return to dwell in the land before the death of the priest. 33 So you shall not pollute the land where you are; for blood defiles the land, and no atonement can be made for the land, for the blood that is shed on it, except by the blood of him who shed it. 34 Therefore do not defile the land which you inhabit, in the midst of which I dwell; for I the Lord dwell among the children of Israel.’”

 

 

Numbers 35:9-21 (A Place of Refuge)

Numbers 35:9-21
A Place of Refuge

When I was young, probably about ten, my parents took my brothers and me to a place in North Carolina that had a golf course where the first tee-off point was off the side of a mountain. It was a nice place and, having never golfed in my young life, I went out with a few others to hit balls off the side.

When it was my turn, I stepped forward and gave it my best try. I have no idea if I even hit the ball, but a girl had walked right up to us as I was swinging, and I beaned her in the neck. It was so hard that her neck swelled up and she was in real pain. Just an inch higher, and she would have died.

What she did wasn’t intelligent, and what I did was unintentional. But it was also something that happened to a group that my grandfather was with in college. One guy went to hit a golf ball, and his club hit a guy behind him in the head. He immediately went into a seizure, and while he was being carried to get attention, his body slackened, and he was dead.

The person who hit the guy dropped out of school and apparently drank his life away. He became his own avenger of blood. Condemning himself for what was an innocent action.

Text Verse: “Thus God, determining to show more abundantly to the heirs of promise the immutability of His counsel, confirmed it by an oath, 18 that by two immutable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we might have strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold of the hope set before us.” Hebrews 6:17, 18

In Israel, the guy who struck the other would have actually been considered a manslayer, and the avenger of blood could have come after him. Understanding this was a part of the human condition, the Lord set aside cities where that person could have fled to in order to save his life.

We will see another part of the details of this today. For the innocent, there was a place of refuge. But, the truth that we discover in the Bible is that none of us are truly innocent. We stand guilty of committing the sins of life, and we can and should expect judgment for this.

But there is a place of refuge that we can flee to. For those who have so fled, we truly have a hope set before us. The saving message of Jesus is the place of refuge, and in reception of that word one can lay hold of that marvelous hope which He offers.

Though the author of Hebrews was writing to the Hebrew people, the message is applicable to all who come to Him for refuge. Whether an individual of the people Israel, or whether it is a Gentile from the furthest reaches of the planet, all can come to Him and find refuge.

For now, let us get into these verses and continue through the chapter. Great things are to be found in His superior word. And so, let’s turn to that precious word once again and… May God speak to us through His word today and may His glorious name ever be praised.

I. Six Cities for Refuge (verses 9-15)

Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying,

Verses 1-8 described the cities designated for the Levites. However, if you remember, the designation of the six cities of refuge were actually mandated before the designation of the other forty-two Levitical cities. Thus, there was a stress upon them which anticipated further clarification. The passage now before us will respond to that by providing that clarification.

Thus, we now see the usual formula for opening a new section of law, even though it is actually a further explanation of what was mandated in verse 6 with the words, “Now among the cities which you will give to the Levites you shall appoint six cities of refuge, to which a manslayer may flee.”

10 “Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: ‘When you cross the Jordan into the land of Canaan,

The words are anticipatory, speaking of the time when Israel has entered into the promised inheritance. As a typological reminder, the Jordan, or the Descender, is a type of Christ. Just as Jordan descends from the heights to the lowest place on earth, so Christ descended from the heights of heaven, even to the pit of death. It speaks of His advent. With that in mind, the passage takes on a much fuller meaning for us to consider…

11 then you shall appoint cities to be cities of refuge for you,

As noted in the previous sermon, the word miqlat, or refuge is seen eleven times in this chapter. This is the second use. It signifies a place of refuge and asylum. As noted before, the word comes from the word qalat, which means “stunted.”

Its one use in Leviticus spoke of not offering anything that was stunted to the Lord for the fulfilling of a vow. Thus, when one is in a place of refuge, or asylum, they are taken in. Their lives are stunted from going out. Such a place of confinement is so…

11 (con’ty) that the manslayer who kills any person accidentally may flee there.

This precept was originally promised in Exodus 21 –

“He who strikes a man so that he dies shall surely be put to death. 13 However, if he did not lie in wait, but God delivered him into his hand, then I will appoint for you a place where he may flee.” Exodus 21:12, 13

That note of what would occur is now dealt with, in detail, here in Numbers 35. It is for the ratsakh, or manslayer. As noted last week, it is a word defined by the law. Twenty of its forty-seven uses are in this chapter.

Of these twenty times, it is alternatingly translated as “manslayer” or “murderer” based on the guilt or innocence of the offender. However, because the same word is used for both, it carries an underlying thought that whether guilty or innocent, it was a form of unsanctioned taking of human life.

The cities of refuge are for those who have committed this act, but who have done so innocently. The guilt is there, but it is a guilt which falls under the covering and protection of the law. As John Lange says of these cities, they are –

“…places of refuge which were located among the Levitical cities, and were thus passed under the protection of the Levites, but by the law under which they were appointed, were not only bulwarks of justice and its enforcement, but also of grace and its dispensation, and thus glorified the holy land.”

These cities were to be conveniently accessible for all people within Israel. There was to be ready access to them so that the people would be unhindered in their flight to safety.

The word translated as “accidentally” means “unintentional.” It was used frequently in Leviticus and in Numbers 15 concerning unintentional sin. It is a noun which is here prefixed by a preposition. It is more precisely translated, “in his inadvertance.”

12 They shall be cities of refuge for you from the avenger,

Here the word gaal is used. It has already been seen numerous times in the sense of a kinsman who has the right to redeem his relative, or a person who desires to redeem property, or some other thing of value. For example, in Ruth, Boaz is termed a “kinsman redeemer.” The word is used to describe the Lord as the Redeemer quite a few times in Scripture.

Here, it speaks of the same kinsman relationship, but instead of being a redeemer, the individual is considered as the relative’s avenger. This will be seen in coming verses where the word dam, or blood, is added. He is the kinsman, or avenger, of blood.

The root of gaal is primitive, showing that it was a precept that went back into antiquity. It is originally based on the precept which predates the flood of Noah. In Genesis 4, Cain killed Abel and the Lord sentenced him for his act. Cain’s response was –

“My punishment is greater than I can bear! 14 Surely You have driven me out this day from the face of the ground; I shall be hidden from Your face; I shall be a fugitive and a vagabond on the earth, and it will happen that anyone who finds me will kill me.” Genesis 4:13, 14

Because of this, the Lord placed a mark on Cain, as it says, “lest anyone finding him should kill him.” Cain understood that his actions deserved death by the hand of another. As all men at that time were closely related, any of his relatives had the right to kill him. The Lord, by marking him, set a sign for refuge from such an action. This continued to be understood in Genesis 27. After Jacob stole Esau’s blessing, his mother Rebekah said to him –

“Surely your brother Esau comforts himself concerning you by intending to kill you. 43 Now therefore, my son, obey my voice: arise, flee to my brother Laban in Haran. 44 And stay with him a few days, until your brother’s fury turns away, 45 until your brother’s anger turns away from you, and he forgets what you have done to him; then I will send and bring you from there. Why should I be bereaved also of you both in one day?” Genesis 27:42-45

Rebekah feared for Jacob. Esau was mad enough to kill him, but she also knew that this would mean another close relative of Jacob could, in fact, kill Esau under the principle of the avenger of blood. Thus, she would be left without either.

For the manslayer noted here in Numbers, the death of the person he struck occurred in an unsanctioned way, meaning outside of the laws of war, judicial punishment, and so on. Because of this, the gaal, or avenger, had the right and the responsibility to avenge his relative’s blood.

The cities of refuge are set aside to protect this rightful avenger of blood from taking the life of one who may be innocent, so…

12 (con’t) that the manslayer may not die until he stands before the congregation in judgment.

Outside of the city of refuge, his guilt or innocence does not matter. If the avenger finds him, he may be killed without any wrongdoing being imputed to the avenger. Once inside, the manslayer is protected by the law of miqlat, or refuge, and he may not be harmed until his case is determined by the law of the land.

The word translated as “congregation,” is edah. It comes from ed which signifies a witness, or abstractly it speaks of testimony. Thus, the word is fitting for a trial which would take into consideration the details of the matter at hand.

This is important to understand, because verse 25 will show that the manslayer actually stands before the congregation of where the act was committed. And yet, in Joshua 20:4-6, we read –

“And when he flees to one of those cities, and stands at the entrance of the gate of the city, and declares his case in the hearing of the elders of that city, they shall take him into the city as one of them, and give him a place, that he may dwell among them. Then if the avenger of blood pursues him, they shall not deliver the slayer into his hand, because he struck his neighbor unintentionally, but did not hate him beforehand. And he shall dwell in that city until he stands before the congregation for judgment, and until the death of the one who is high priest in those days. Then the slayer may return and come to his own city and his own house, to the city from which he fled.”

There was to be an evaluation by the city of refuge. If accepted, he was to be protected by them. If the avenger of blood came to the city and requested his family right of revenge, stating that the slaying was not accidental but purposeful, then there would have to be a further trial.

Such a trial would take place before the congregation where the violation occurred, obviously still under protection of the Levites. If you remember, the Levites were taken in place of the firstborn of Israel, and so they actually stood in a unique way as a type of firstborn in relation to the people.

One can see Christ in this who is called by Paul “the firstborn among many brethren.” In this capacity as firstborn, the Levites could claim a sort of special family relationship to those who came to them, and also as appointed defenders of the innocent, the Levites could grant mercy on them through their defense.

If found innocent, he was returned to the city of refuge for safety until the death of the high priest. Only after the high priest’s death could he return home without fear of retribution.

13 And of the cities which you give, you shall have six cities of refuge.

This was stated first in verse 6. It is now repeated. The idea is that of closeness to all points within the land, so that anyone could find access to such a city within a day’s journey. The law is set here for the initial granting of land to Israel. Later, in Deuteronomy, Moses will expand on this –

“Now if the Lord your God enlarges your territory, as He swore to your fathers, and gives you the land which He promised to give to your fathers, and if you keep all these commandments and do them, which I command you today, to love the Lord your God and to walk always in His ways, then you shall add three more cities for yourself besides these three, 10 lest innocent blood be shed in the midst of your land which the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance, and thus guilt of bloodshed be upon you.” Deuteronomy 19:8-10

14 You shall appoint three cities on this side of the Jordan, and three cities you shall appoint in the land of Canaan, which will be cities of refuge.

The three on the east of the Jordan will be appointed by Moses in Deuteronomy 4 –

“Then Moses set apart three cities on this side of the Jordan, toward the rising of the sun, 42 that the manslayer might flee there, who kills his neighbor unintentionally, without having hated him in time past, and that by fleeing to one of these cities he might live: 43 Bezer in the wilderness on the plateau for the Reubenites, Ramoth in Gilead for the Gadites, and Golan in Bashan for the Manassites.”

These three on the east will be reaffirmed in Joshua 20. The three on the west of the Jordan will also be named at that time –

“So they appointed Kedesh in Galilee, in the mountains of Naphtali, Shechem in the mountains of Ephraim, and Kirjath Arba (which is Hebron) in the mountains of Judah.” Joshua 20:7

There is about 30 miles from any point in Israel to the nearest city of refuge.

15 These six cities shall be for refuge for the children of Israel, for the stranger, and for the sojourner among them, that anyone who kills a person accidentally may flee there.

Here, provision is made not only for an Israelite, but anyone who slayed another without intention. It includes the stranger, meaning someone who is simply passing through as a temporary dweller, and the sojourner, meaning someone who was not of Israel, but who dwelt among them. These held the same rights of refuge as a native of Israel. This looks to what Paul describes in Ephesians 2:11-13 –

“Therefore remember that you, once Gentiles in the flesh—who are called Uncircumcision by what is called the Circumcision made in the flesh by hands— 12 that at that time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.”

The Gentiles, who temporarily or permanently took up residence in Israel were, included in this particular precept, sharing in Israel’s commonwealth. Today, that extends to all who come forward to what these cities of refuge anticipate and picture.

In the Mishnah, the Jews say that such a stranger or sojourner only had this right of refuge if he slayed another stranger or proselyte, but not if he slayed an Israelite. That flies in the face of the text of the Bible, which makes no such restriction. It diminishes the value and intent of how this passage points to Christ.

Concerning such refuge, there is a note in Exodus 21:14 which shows that the altar of the Lord was considered such a place of mercy as well. There it said –

“But if a man acts with premeditation against his neighbor, to kill him by treachery, you shall take him from My altar, that he may die.”

When one first came into the tabernacle, he would come to the altar of burnt sacrifice. The altar is where sins were expiated, where mercy was granted, and from which a propitious relationship was re-established with God. Charles Ellicott, citing several ancient sources, says that –

“In most parts of the ancient world a scruple was felt about putting criminals to death when once they had taken sanctuary, and those who did so were regarded as accursed … The Mosaic Law regarded this scruple as a superstition, and refused to sanction it.” Charles Ellicott

A person who had willfully and intentionally killed another was not to find mercy, even at this place of mercy. However, in the same chapter, the Lord said that He would appoint a place, meaning cities of refuge, where such a person could flee.

However, if the place where restoration with God was not available, then there would be no other place that he could flee to. He was to be taken from the altar and put to death. This actually occurred after the death of David.

In 1 Kings 2:5 & 6, David gave Solomon his final instructions before his death. This included a charge to bring the misdeeds of his general, Joab, back upon his own head –

“Moreover you know also what Joab the son of Zeruiah did to me, and what he did to the two commanders of the armies of Israel, to Abner the son of Ner and Amasa the son of Jether, whom he killed. And he shed the blood of war in peacetime, and put the blood of war on his belt that was around his waist, and on his sandals that were on his feet. Therefore do according to your wisdom, and do not let his gray hair go down to the grave in peace.”

The killing of Abner and Amasa was exactly what that verse in Exodus was speaking of. Joab had acted on his own accord, and in a prideful manner against David’s orders. He used the death of his own brother, Asahel, as a pretext for killing Abner and Amasa.

Because of his actions, which brought a stain on David’s name, David so charged Solomon. After David’s death, Solomon took the appropriate action against Joab –

“Then news came to Joab, for Joab had defected to Adonijah, though he had not defected to Absalom. So Joab fled to the tabernacle of the Lord, and took hold of the horns of the altar. 29 And King Solomon was told, ‘Joab has fled to the tabernacle of the Lord; there he is, by the altar.’ Then Solomon sent Benaiah the son of Jehoiada, saying, ‘Go, strike him down.’ 30 So Benaiah went to the tabernacle of the Lord, and said to him, ‘Thus says the king, ‘Come out!’
And he said, ‘No, but I will die here.’ And Benaiah brought back word to the king, saying, “Thus said Joab, and thus he answered me.”
31 Then the king said to him, ‘Do as he has said, and strike him down and bury him, that you may take away from me and from the house of my father the innocent blood which Joab shed. 32 So the Lord will return his blood on his head, because he struck down two men more righteous and better than he, and killed them with the sword—Abner the son of Ner, the commander of the army of Israel, and Amasa the son of Jether, the commander of the army of Judah—though my father David did not know it. 33 Their blood shall therefore return upon the head of Joab and upon the head of his descendants forever. But upon David and his descendants, upon his house and his throne, there shall be peace forever from the Lord.’” 1 Kings 2:28-33

Joab died without mercy at the horns of the altar for the willful murder of the innocent. Therefore, the command of Exodus 21:14 was fulfilled in him with the exception of first removing him from the altar. Of this, the Geneva Bible states –

“The holiness of the place should not defend the murderer.” Geneva

The same is true with these cities of refuge now. All cities of refuge were Levitical cities, meaning that they were the property of the Lord in a more poignant way than the rest of Israel, and thus they were holy. They were set apart for the defense of the innocent, but not for the defense of murderers.

In Joab’s case, he was at the place of mercy, if it could be found. There was no point to run to a city of refuge because, first, he knew he was guilty. Secondly, he would have been returned to Jerusalem for a trial anyway.

As he was already there, and at the holy place of hoped-for mercy, a city of refuge could provide no more safety than the altar itself could. This is what the next verse now tells us…

Where can I go to save my life?
How can I get free from what I have done?
I killed a man, but not by strife
In innocence have I slain this one 

But the avenger of blood waits for me
To take my life for what I have done
Is there a place to where I can flee?
Is there a place to where I can run?

Who will save me from what has come about?
Who can rescue me from what I have done?
Is there a chance for me? How will it come about?
Lord, my only hope is that to You I run

II. The Murderer Shall Be Put to Death (verses 16-21)

16 ‘But if he strikes him with an iron implement, so that he dies, he is a murderer; the murderer shall surely be put to death.

Here, begin several specific instances of murder rather than unintentional manslaying. This first speaks of a person who strikes another with barzel, or iron. The word is believed to come from an unused root meaning “to pierce holes.”

It is possible to hit someone with iron unintentionally and kill him. This is recorded, for example, in Deuteronomy 19 –

“And this is the case of the manslayer who flees there, that he may live: Whoever kills his neighbor unintentionally, not having hated him in time past— as when a man goes to the woods with his neighbor to cut timber, and his hand swings a stroke with the ax to cut down the tree, and the head slips from the handle and strikes his neighbor so that he dies—he shall flee to one of these cities and live.” Deuteronomy 19:4, 5

However, it is obvious that such a person could intentionally kill another with an iron implement as well. The one who committed the act could flee to a city of refuge, proclaiming his innocence. The avenger of blood could come and claim it was premeditated.

In such a case, a trial would be necessary. If the act was deemed as intentional, as it says, rotseakh hu mot yumat ha’rotseakh – “murderer he; dying shall be put to death, the murderer.”

17 And if he strikes him with a stone in the hand, by which one could die, and he does die, he is a murderer; the murderer shall surely be put to death.

The idea here is a stone intentionally used to kill another. The Hebrew simply says, “with stone hand.” Thus, it could be one which is thrown, or one which is clunked on the head. Throwing a stone which kills another, however, could be without intent.

Again, the provision is for the city of refuge to give asylum to such a person until a trial could be conducted. If the act is determined to be intentional, then again, as before, “murderer he; dying shall be put to death, the murderer.”

18 Or if he strikes him with a wooden hand weapon, by which one could die, and he does die, he is a murderer; the murderer shall surely be put to death.

The word “weapon” is not in the original, even if it is implied because it became a weapon. It simply says, “instrument of wood.” One could accidentally whack someone else on the head with a club, a bat, or whatever.

However, such an item could also certainly be used intentionally to kill another person as Robert Duvall did in the movie The Apostle. As with the two previous instances, this is the purpose of both the city of refuge, and of any trial by the congregation. Guilt was to be determined, and if it is found to be so, the person is a murderer, and he shall be put to death.

As is obvious, the act of murder carries a penalty, and that penalty must be executed. The reason for this will be seen towards the end of the chapter. What is also obvious, is that no guilt is imputed to the one who kills the murderer. It is his right and his responsibility.

Understanding that, even though this is an Old Testament law and precept, it follows logically from both before the Mosaic covenant, and after it in New Testament times, that it is the right and responsibility of humanity to execute capital criminals.

Though there may not be an avenger of blood within the family to execute such, it is the obligation of society that capital criminals – in fact – face execution. This will be seen more clearly in verse 33. For Israel under the Mosaic law, provision is given first to the goel ha’dam, or “avenger the blood,” to handle the matter…

19 The avenger of blood himself shall put the murderer to death; when he meets him, he shall put him to death.

This verse applies in more than one way. It could be that the avenger came upon the murderer in a chance meeting, and he could kill the murderer without any fear of offense to God or of retribution from society. It can also mean that the murderer is handed to him by those who found him guilty. That is seen in Deuteronomy 19 –

“But if anyone hates his neighbor, lies in wait for him, rises against him and strikes him mortally, so that he dies, and he flees to one of these cities, 12 then the elders of his city shall send and bring him from there, and deliver him over to the hand of the avenger of blood, that he may die. 13 Your eye shall not pity him, but you shall put away the guilt of innocent blood from Israel, that it may go well with you.” Deuteronomy 19:11-13

However, of this verse, John Gill says –

“Not only shall have power to do it, but, as it seems, should be obliged to do it; be the executioner of the murderer; but not before his case has been heard, examined, tried, and judged.” John Gill

This is incorrect. It was the right of the avenger of blood to kill this person whether he was guilty of premeditated murder, or simply of accidental slaying of the avenger’s relative. This is exactly why there were to be at least six cities of refuge, and why the provisions later stated in this chapter are given.

The avenger of blood had the right to avenge the death of one who killed another, even if by accident. No guilt of murder was imputed by the Lord, and the society had no right to next convict him of murder for his avenging of his relative’s blood.

An example of what this verse speaks of is found in the account of the woman of Tekoa who went before king David with a petition. David understood the law and what the consequences for intentional murder were. But the woman came forward in hopes of obtaining mercy according to her account spoken to him –

“Indeed I am a widow, my husband is dead. Now your maidservant had two sons; and the two fought with each other in the field, and there was no one to part them, but the one struck the other and killed him. And now the whole family has risen up against your maidservant, and they said, ‘Deliver him who struck his brother, that we may execute him for the life of his brother whom he killed; and we will destroy the heir also.’ So they would extinguish my ember that is left, and leave to my husband neither name nor remnant on the earth.” 2 Samuel 14:5-7

Indeed, in this example, it says that “the whole family” had risen up to take vengeance. It wasn’t the nearest relative, but all of them who jointly looked to this precept as their right to do away with the offender. This is what the law demanded, as we continue to see…

20 If he pushes him out of hatred or, while lying in wait, hurls something at him so that he dies,

Here are several new words. The first is sinah, or “hatred.” It is a noun, coming from the word sane, to hate. Next, the word hadaph, or “to push,” is given. It can signify the act of pushing, or in a more general sense of driving out one’s enemies.

Another rare word is tsediyah, or the state of lying in wait. This will only be seen here and in verse 22. That comes from a more common verb which signifies the action “to lie in wait.” The words here, and in the next verse, are directed to indicate obvious intent leading to the state of death. An example of the first is found in Luke 4 –

“ So all those in the synagogue, when they heard these things, were filled with wrath, 29 and rose up and thrust Him out of the city; and they led Him to the brow of the hill on which their city was built, that they might throw Him down over the cliff. 30 Then passing through the midst of them, He went His way.” Luke 4:28-30

The One who gave the law to Israel, and who clearly spoke from the writings of that law truths which were found distasteful to them when they heard it, actually had such an attempt made against Him. In this, these people would have made themselves liable for punishment under this same law.

The irony is obvious. The intent of the people was restrained, however, so that the Lord could complete His work. Another example of such hatred leading to murder continues with…

21 or in enmity he strikes him with his hand so that he dies,

Again, there is fighting which is not done in enmity, but as sport. And there is fighting which is done with enmity towards one another. In that case, if one of those fighting kills the other then…

21 (con’t) the one who struck him shall surely be put to death. He is a murderer.

The same penalty exists whether a person uses an iron implement, a stone, a baseball bat, or even one’s hand. The result is what matters, not the means of obtaining it. This is the reason for stating these precepts here.

There was to be no leniency for any supposed mitigating circumstances. When someone committed murder, he was reckoned as a murderer, and therefore…

*21 (fin) The avenger of blood shall put the murderer to death when he meets him.

The goel ha’dam, or the “avenger of the blood” was to be the one to put the murderer to death. In the coming verses, we will see that this precept is firm and fixed, and the murderer had no way out for his actions.

This is the severity of the law, and what the law mandated. But Jesus came to those under this law and told them that the intent behind the actions are what truly demand judgment. When speaking out the sermon on the mount, He said this to the people gathered there –

“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment.’ 22 But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment.” Matthew 5:21, 22 

The law was given because intent is not always knowable. At times, as we have seen, it is evident, and it was to be used in judgment. But, the Lord always knows the intent of the heart. To Him, the intent behind the act, even if it is not carried out, is liable to judgment, and in such judgment, punishment is to be expected.

The law was the standard for Israel, but within the law is found the greater standard by which God judges all things. When He said, “Do not covet,” He spoke out a law, of which the breaking of it might not be known to anyone except the man and the Lord.

But the Lord does know, and He applies His standard of righteousness to all such things. In our society, we have tried to find every possible excuse imaginable for not upholding our own laws. And if guilt is found, we then go to great lengths to find exceptions for punishment of the violation.

But God does not work that way. He can be merciful, but His mercy must never violate another of His attributes. In order to be merciful, there must still be a meeting of the law in some other way. He cannot arbitrarily show mercy to one without arbitrarily seeming vindictive towards another.

Because God is perfectly righteous, any violation against His righteousness must be judged – or He is not perfectly righteous. But He is and therefore His righteousness cannot be compromised.

God is perfectly just. Because He is, the penalty for violation of His righteous laws must be perfect. The law demands that every violation be punished and “the wages of sin is death.” We have earned death and we have earned condemnation. If we do not receive this, then God is not perfectly just. But He is.

God is perfectly holy. Because we are made unclean from our transgressions against His perfectly holy nature, we must be forever separated from Him – or He is not perfectly Holy. But He is. The way that God resolves these tensions which arise through His many unchanging attributes is by accepting the responsibility for them in Himself.

In His uniting with humanity, he was able to do this. He lived righteously, and He offers that righteousness to us. He remained holy and separate from sin, and He offers that holiness to us. In His coming He gave grace, and in His cross, He offers mercy.

All of the tension between us and our Creator is reconciled through the blood of Christ’s cross. Through Him, and through Him alone, fellowship is restored, and peace is realized. This will be seen as we continue through the rest of this passage next week.

For now, please pay heed and understand that what God has done in Christ is available to you by a simple act of faith. Have faith, believe that Christ died for your sins, and that He rose again for your justification. Call on Christ Jesus today, and be reconciled to God through Him.

Closing Verse: “Sing praises to the Lord, who dwells in Zion!
Declare His deeds among the people.
12 When He avenges blood, He remembers them;
He does not forget the cry of the humble.” Psalm 9:12

Next Week: Luke 1:1 It’s all about the accomplishments of Jesus (Those Things Fulfilled Among Us) (Christmas Sermon)

The Lord has you exactly where He wants you. He has a good plan and purpose for you. It may seem at times as if you are lost in a desert, wandering aimlessly. But the Lord is there, carefully leading you to the Land of Promise. So, follow Him and trust Him and He will do marvelous things for you and through you.

A Place of Refuge

Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying
The words to him He was relaying

“Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them:
‘When you cross the Jordan into the land of Canaan
———-yes, in Canaan is where
Then you shall appoint cities to be cities of refuge for you
That the manslayer who kills any person accidentally
———-may flee there

They shall be cities of refuge for you
From the avenger who his rage would otherwise vent
That the manslayer may not die
Until he stands before the congregation in judgment

And of the cities which you give
You shall have six cities of refuge there where you live

You shall appoint three cities on this side of the Jordan
And three cities you shall appoint
In the land of Canaan
Which will be cities of refuge: which is the city’s point

These six cities shall be for refuge
For the children of Israel
For the stranger, and for the sojourner among them
That anyone who kills a person accidentally may flee there
———-so to you I tell

‘But if he strikes him with an iron implement, so that he dies
He is a murderer; the murderer shall surely be put to death
———-do not heed his “I beg for mercy” cries

And if he strikes him with a stone in the hand
By which one could die, and he does die
He is a murderer
The murderer shall surely be put to death, as if an eye for eye

Or if he strikes him with a wooden hand weapon
By which one could die, and he does die
He is a murderer
The murderer shall surely be put to death; do not even bat an eye

The avenger of blood himself shall
Put the murderer to death, as to you I say
When he meets him
He shall put him to death; it shall be this way

If he pushes him out of hatred or
While lying in wait, hurls something at him so that he dies
Or in enmity he strikes him with his hand so that he dies
The one who struck him shall surely be put to death
———-do not heed his begging for mercy cries

He is a murderer, and his fate shall be swift and grim
The avenger of blood shall put the murderer to death
———-when he meets him

Lord God, we are even now in a wilderness
And we are wanting to be led by You
Without You to direct, our lives would be a mess
And so, be our guide, O God; You who are faithful and true

We long for the water in this barren land
May it flow forth from the Rock, our souls to satisfy
Give us this refreshing, spiritual hand
And may we take it, and to our lives daily it apply

And we shall be content and satisfied in You alone
We will follow You as we sing our songs of praise
Hallelujah to You; to us Your path You have shown
Hallelujah we shall sing to You for all of our days

Hallelujah and Amen…

Numbers 35:1-8 (The Levitical Cities – A Prophecy Fulfilled

Numbers 35:1-8
The Levitical Cities – A Prophecy Fulfilled

The passage today is another step toward that final step where Israel will cross over Jordan and into their long-awaited inheritance. For the tribe of Levi, the inheritance is different than for that of the other tribes, and yet, it is uniquely tied to the inheritance of the tribe of Simeon in one way.

But it was vastly different from that of Simeon in all other ways. The Levites had a special charge laid upon them which has been seen in great detail in the book of Leviticus and even more so in the book of Numbers. Leviticus dealt mostly with one portion of the tribe, that of the Aaronic priesthood.

Numbers has shown a remarkable amount of detail concerning the rest of Levi such as why they were chosen, what that choosing meant to them and to all of Israel, and the special nature of Levi in the presence of the Lord. Of this passage, the scholar Keil says –

“Called out of the whole nation to be the peculiar possession of Jehovah, to watch over His covenant, and teach Israel His rights and His law … the Levites were to form and set forth among all the tribes the ἐκλογή of the nation of Jehovah’s possession, and by their walk as well as by their calling to remind the Israelites continually of their own divine calling; to foster and preserve the law and testimony of the Lord in Israel, and to awaken and spread the fear of God and piety among all the tribes.”

Levi’s selection out of Israel for this was for one reason, but the results of that selection actually fulfill another prophecy which was pronounced upon Levi several centuries earlier. That prophecy, which was spoken out by Jacob on his deathbed, and which will be our closing verse today, was spoken out based on what had happened many years earlier in the life of Jacob and his sons…

Text Verse: “Now it came to pass on the third day, when they were in pain, that two of the sons of Jacob, Simeon and Levi, Dinah’s brothers, each took his sword and came boldly upon the city and killed all the males.” Genesis 34:25

Simeon and Levi killed an entire city of men because one of them had defiled their sister Dinah. That story provides a marvelous picture of things which would occur much later in history during the church age, and it corresponds well to the tasks and duties of Levi under the law.

However, the law is the law, and grace is grace, and the two do not mix. Unfortunately for so many in the church, they cannot figure this out. They bear in them the same defect that man under law always bears – pride in self.

Jesus Christ has come. He has fulfilled the law. And, that law is now set aside in Him. Those who continue to hold to the law of Moses are not pious, though they act that way. They are full of pride, and they mar the glory of what God has done in Jesus Christ.

To them, what He did was insufficient to save them, and they can do better. This is a truth which is revealed time and again in Scripture. But to understand this, one must understand the law itself, and its purpose in redemptive history. Without that base of knowledge, our walk with God is not one of felicity, but of enmity.

Let us learn this by learning the law. We will continue to do so right now. It’s all to be found in His superior word. And so, let’s turn to that precious word once again and… May God speak to us through His word today and may His glorious name ever be praised.

Dispersed in Israel (verses 1-8)

And the Lord spoke to Moses in the plains of Moab by the Jordan across from Jericho, saying:

This is the exact same opening formula for a passage, word for word and letter for letter, as was seen in Numbers 33:50. That was immediately after the detailed record of the travels of Israel from Egypt to this spot. With that record complete, the Lord gave the instructions for what to do when entering Canaan, including the division of the land by inheritance.

After that, in Chapter 34, the boundaries of the land were detailed, and that was then followed with the names of the leaders who were chosen to oversee that land division.

Now, and in accord with that, the instructions for the Levitical cities are to be provided. It is the same order as for the counting of the divisions of Israel in the census. The main tribes were counted, and only then were those of the tribe of Levi counted.

What is already understood, is that the Levites were to receive no inheritance, meaning a division of land of their own within Israel. That goes back to Numbers 18, where this was said –

“Then the Lord said to Aaron: ‘You shall have no inheritance in their land, nor shall you have any portion among them; I am your portion and your inheritance among the children of Israel.

21 “Behold, I have given the children of Levi all the tithes in Israel as [i]an inheritance in return for the work which they perform, the work of the tabernacle of meeting. 22 Hereafter the children of Israel shall not come near the tabernacle of meeting, lest they bear sin and die. 23 But the Levites shall perform the work of the tabernacle of meeting, and they shall bear their iniquity; it shall be a statute forever, throughout your generations, that among the children of Israel they shall have no inheritance. 24 For the tithes of the children of Israel, which they offer up as a heave offering to the Lord, I have given to the Levites as an inheritance; therefore I have said to them, ‘Among the children of Israel they shall have no inheritance.’” Numbers 18:20-24

This note, that Levi would receive no inheritance, was repeated once again during the second census as is recorded in Numbers 26:62. There is a stress on this to show that Levi was dedicated to the Lord.

There is the priestly class which descended from Aaron, and then there are the other Levites who were given to act in a role which extended in two directions – to the priests for their assistance, and to the people for their instruction in the things of the law.

Understanding this, there is still a need for the Levites to have land set apart for them to live in. It would be unreasonable for them to live in tents around the sanctuary.

With the people spread all over Israel, this would make their job of tending to the people impossible. For a person who needed instruction in a particular matter, it would mean stopping work and traveling on a long journey to simply get a resolution to a matter.

There would be an immediate and ongoing void in the spiritual lives of the people, and that would result in an almost immediate turning of the people from the Lord. The wisdom of separating Levi from the other tribes has already been seen.

The wisdom of incorporating them among those same tribes from whom they have been separated is then seen. Levi is separate from Israel and divided as a tribe, and yet they are uniquely joined to Israel, but they remain united as Levites.

If government service were a permanent occupation (God forbid), then it would be comparable to this. Suppose that all federal employees were designated as such, forever throughout their generations.

It would be impossible to run the government solely from Washington DC. And so, this group of people would be spread out among the states. They would receive their living from the taxes of the people, they would reside among them, they would accomplish their duties both for the government, and on behalf of the people.

And so, they would be government workers, separate from other Americans and divided as a group among the states, and yet they would be carefully joined to the Americans of given states, but they would remain united as government employees.

Yes, that sounds like a complete disaster, and it shows how things could very quickly get out of hand. Despite being ingenious in its makeup for Israel, and the best possible way of administering the law, it is a part of the law, nonetheless.

It will not be long before this system’s failings are revealed. The account of the Levite who became a priest to the family of Micah in Judges 17 is a perfect example of how such a system could be easily abused. As the Law is intended to point us to our need for Christ, that is inclusive of the failed actions of both priest and Levite, along with all other parts of the law.

But make no mistake, it is not that the law is defective. It is that man is defective. Paul explains that in Romans 7 –

“What shall we say then? Is the law sin? Certainly not! On the contrary, I would not have known sin except through the law. For I would not have known covetousness unless the law had said, ‘You shall not covet.’ But sin, taking opportunity by the commandment, produced in me all manner of evil desire. For apart from the law sin was dead. I was alive once without the law, but when the commandment came, sin revived and I died. 10 And the commandment, which was to bring life, I found to bring death. 11 For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it killed me. 12 Therefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy and just and good.” Romans 7:7-12

As I have said, there is immense wisdom in how this law is structured and how it is purposed. It is not the fault of the law, but the fault of man’s inability to adhere to the law which brings about sin. By the law is the knowledge of sin. The account of Micah and the Levite in Judges 17 is one example of this in relation to what we will now be instructed on here in Numbers 35.

If man were not sinful, the idea of a permanent class of government employees might be a great idea, but – as we have seen in the US – anytime someone is too long in a government position, it simply doesn’t work out. For some, 10 seconds in such a position is too long. Remember what happened the moment Obama was inaugurated president concerning the White House website. Fallen man, especially fallen man without Christ, cannot be trusted with power and governmental authority.

For now, Israel is on the verge of entering into their inheritance, and the situation of the Levites must be detailed next. And so, still in the plains of Moab across from Jericho, Moses is instructed by the Lord to…

“Command the children of Israel that they give the Levites cities to dwell in

This is not a request, but a command. The children of Israel are given this command before entering Canaan with very specific detail because it is the twelve warring tribes that will go in to subdue the land. Levi is not a tribe of war, and so – knowing in advance the wickedness of the human heart – the Lord anticipates what may otherwise occur, and He commands what is to be done for Levi.

Otherwise, the tribes could say, “We fought for and earned the right to this land, and then it was divided by lot to us for our inheritance. Levi can go find their own land to dwell in.” Only then would the matter have to be brought to the Lord and resolved.

Further, if this was the case, it would not have been a specifically directed portion of the law received by Moses and it would bear less weight in the minds of the people. The Lord knows this and is providing law, in advance, to ensure such wicked things will not arise in the hearts of the people.

It is to be noted that the priests, at this point, are considered under the umbrella of Levi. In other words, both priest and the more common Levite are included in this command. Later in 1 Samuel 22, there is a city, Nob, which is called the city of the priests, but that was a determination not specifically addressed under the law.

For now, the Levites are to be given cities, despite not being a tribe of war. And further, these cities are to be…

2 (con’t) from the inheritance of their possession,

This is specific, and it is explicit. The land for the Levites is to be taken out of the individual inheritance of whatever tribe is designated. The Levites have no inheritance because their inheritance is the Lord, as has already been stated.

Thus, these cities, taken out of the individual inheritances must logically be thought of as the Lord’s cities, and reserved for His own tribe to live out their lives. They stand as the Lord’s representatives among the people, and therefore, these cities are the Lord’s cities among the tribes.

Like the tithes of Israel, so is the land. It is what comes from the inheritance of the people. As the ground of their land was won through their effort in battle, so the tithe from that ground was won by the efforts of their labor. A portion of each is granted for the Levites.

Not to take the comparison too far, it is not unlike what is mandated by the Lord, through Paul, for the workers of the gospel. As Paul said to those at Galatia, “Let him who is taught the word share in all good things with him who teaches” (Galatians 6:6), and also to those in Corinth –

“For it is written in the law of Moses, ‘You shall not muzzle an ox while it treads out the grain.’ Is it oxen God is concerned about? 10 Or does He say it altogether for our sakes? For our sakes, no doubt, this is written, that he who plows should plow in hope, and he who threshes in hope should be partaker of his hope. 11 If we have sown spiritual things for you, is it a great thing if we reap your material things?” 1 Corinthians 9:9-11

The things of the Lord are to be tended to by the people who serve the Lord, and, in turn, those who serve the Lord are to be tended to by the labors of those who receive instruction and guidance from them. For the people of Israel, this included…

2 (con’t) and you shall also give the Levites common-land around the cities.

Here, for only the second time, the word migrash, or common land, is seen. It comes from garash, meaning to drive out or cast away. The meaning then is lands that are outside of their cities. It is land reserved for the use of the Levites. From here, it will become a common word in Scripture.

Older translations use the word “suburb” to describe this land. A suburb is an outlying district of a city, but one which is designated for residential use. This is not what is being relayed here. The Levites were to dwell in Levitical cities. As the Levites had no land inheritance, they were not workers of the fields. Rather, they were workers of the law and possibly other professional jobs which may have arisen over time.

But how did the Levites survive? It was by receiving what was provided to them by the law. This included the tithes of Israel according to the laws of the tithe which have been given already, and which will be further defined in Deuteronomy.

Included in the tithes were animals. These animals would need to have a place to forage and roam, and so these common lands were necessary for the livelihood of the Levites. It would make no sense to set apart one-tenth of the livestock every third year and give it to the Levites if they had no land on which to keep that livestock.

This is then what is being referred to. It is common land for the use of the Levites who dwelt within the cities that they had been given. The Lord is preparing, in advance, for the care of the Levites. And He is doing it very meticulously and specifically so that no argument could arise against their claims later. The explanation for this common land continues with…

They shall have the cities to dwell in;

This now specifically states what you have already heard. The cities are to be where the Levites were to live. This is how people lived in these times. There were homes built together inside of walls. This was to be protection for the people within from wild animals, invasions, and robbers.

The cities had gates which would be closed at night, and guards would normally be stationed at them. During the day, the gates are where the leaders and judges would gather. Often, there would be recesses in the walls of the gates where people would sit in the shade. This is where legal matters of all sorts were normally decided.

It should be noted that these cities were right within the confines of the land of whatever tribe they were assigned to. Further, there are times where a city is known as a Levitical city, and yet it is also a city of the tribe itself.

We will see in Joshua 14 that Hebron was given to Caleb for his faithfulness, and yet, Hebron was also designated as a city of refuge in Joshua 20, and it was designated as a Levitical city under Aaron the priest in Joshua 21. The way this is reconciled is by what it says in Joshua 21:12 concerning the Levitical cities –

“And they gave them Kirjath Arba (Arba was the father of Anak), which is Hebron, in the mountains of Judah, with the common-land surrounding it. 12 But the fields of the city and its villages they gave to Caleb the son of Jephunneh as his possession.”

Therefore, Hebron itself was designated as a Levitical city, including the land termed common land as directed by the Lord. But that which extended beyond the common land of the city itself was the property of Caleb.

As the Levites dwelt right in and among the Israelites, and as they both had families and possessions, it is easy to see that there was no such thing as a class of ascetics who lived by themselves from society, remained celibate, and shunned the normal life of comfort, wealth, and the like. Such an idea is foreign to the Law of Moses.

It shows that those who lived this type of life in Old Testament times, such as the Essenes and other sects were not in any way mainstream. Rather, they deviated from the normal sense of life outlined by the Lord through Moses.

And the same is true with those who have gone off to live such lives in New Testament times as well. There is nothing in Scripture which teaches this type of life, and it is actually foreign to the notion of people living normal lives as described by Paul and the other writers of the epistles.

Further, living such a monastic existence is actually opposed to the concept of the gospel, where we are to live in the world and allow ourselves to be used as examples and guides to others who also need to hear the good news.

The Levites lived in their own cities, but that was because of the precept that they had no inheritance, meaning no land to work. This was the appropriate way of keeping them as a part of Israel, but a unique and separate part at the same time.

Unfortunately, this mandated separation was taken to unintended extremes as is clearly evidenced by the parable of Jesus concerning the man who was waylaid on his trek from Jerusalem to Jericho –

“A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, who stripped him of his clothing, wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead. 31 Now by chance a certain priest came down that road. And when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. 32 Likewise a Levite, when he arrived at the place, came and looked, and passed by on the other side. 33 But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was. And when he saw him, he had compassion.” Luke 10:30-33

It was never the intent for the separation of the tribe of Levi to include a perceived holiness that they were above the other commands of the law concerning such things.

Again, the law itself is good and holy, but it is the heart of man which is unable to properly work within the confines of the law in order to bring about the expected result which the law calls for. Only Christ was able to meet the law’s demands and then to set us free from those impossible confines. Thank God for Jesus.

3 (con’t) and their common-land shall be for their cattle, for their herds, and for all their animals.

u-migreshehem yihyu livhemtam v’lirkusham u-lekol khayatam – “And their common land shall be for their cattle and their possessions and for all their life.” Here it speaks of the common land that we previously looked into. The reason for it is now stated. It seems like an easy set of words, but the meaning is actually highly debated.

The idea of common land is set. It is said to be used here for three things. The first is their behemah. This is simply a beast in general, like cattle. The second word is unusual if it is to be translated as “herds.” It is rekush, and it means property or goods. It comes from a verb meaning to collect or gather.

It very well could be speaking of other types of animals, but what is more likely is that it refers to the things of any possession which might be left for the fields which would not be brought into a city, such as wagons and other movable possessions, stalls and pens for the livestock, and etc.

The third thing described is literally “and for all their life.” It could be referring to any other animals, but it also could be a phrase which speaks of whatever is needed to sustain them. As they received the tithes from Israel every third year, maybe the phrase includes silos for grain. Or it might include places for the children to go and play and so on.

The common-land of the cities which you will give the Levites shall extend from the wall of the city outward a thousand cubits all around.

As one could expect, there are various views on this. Some consider that the city would be deemed as square, and the measure would go out from the walls from that perspective.

However, cities were more often than not irregular in shape. To not follow the shape of the city would fail to meet the expectations outlined here and lead to obvious disputes at some point.

The distance, being one-thousand cubits, is about one-third of a mile. If a cubit is 18 inches, that would make it .284/mile. This is the area, all the way around the city, which would be considered common land. However, another problem, which is even more debated, results from the next words…

And you shall measure outside the city

This is clear. The word is madad and it means to measure – “And you shall measure from outside the city.” The sticky problem is what does it mean “from outside?” Several suggestions have been made which will be considered. However, by doing that, the next words have to be looked at…

5 (con’t) on the east side two thousand cubits, on the south side two thousand cubits, on the west side two thousand cubits, and on the north side two thousand cubits.

This is understandable no matter which view is correct concerning the term “outside the city.” On each of the four directions, a measure of two thousand cubits will be measured. Based on this measurement, whatever it may be, it then says…

5 (con’t) The city shall be in the middle.

Again, there is nothing difficult here. The city is situated in the middle of the final measurement which is taken from outside the city. But what is that measurement? We cannot be dogmatic about this, because all dogs care about is where they can go play, not specifically how big the land that they can play in is. So, here are several suggested possibilities.

The first is that there is an error in the Hebrew. The Greek of both verses 4 and 5 say “two thousand cubits.” It seems more likely that the Greek is in error in that, and it is a cheap way of resolving the matter.

The second option is that if one measures out to the north one thousand, and then measures out to the south one thousand, there is a line that is two thousand cubits long, plus the length of the city on the east and west. Likewise, the same is true for the other two sides.

And so, a city that is one thousand cubits long would have a line that is three thousand on that side. If the other wall is five hundred feet long, then the measurement would be two thousand five hundred feet. But the words say to measure two thousand feet on the side. It doesn’t say one thousand plus the city, plus one thousand.

The third option is that because the term madad, or measure, is first used here, it is speaking of two different measurements. The first one is that of verse 4 which speaks of the common land of the city being one thousand cubits out from the walls of the city.

Now, verse 5 is saying to measure from that common land out another two thousand cubits, making a total of three thousand cubits. The logic is that the common land is the first one thousand, and that the fields of the city are beyond that. However, that view has its own problem which is seen in the next words…

5 (con’t) This shall belong to them as common-land for the cities.

The problem with the third view is that the same term, migrash, is used in verses 2, 3, 4, 5, & 7. Why would the same term be used to describe land with two different purposes?

I would suggest that the distance from the walls is one thousand cubits. Regardless of the shape of the city, the surveyors were to go directly out from the wall situated at each of the four points on the compass, one thousand cubits from the wall.

From that point, they were to measure two thousand cubits, meaning one thousand in each direction. You now have four lines of two thousand cubits in length which are not yet touching because the city takes up some amount of space, be it narrow or wide on each side.

Once those lines are made, the gaps are simply filled in according to either the shortest route, or following a discernible trek along the ground. This makes sense because there is no fudging in the Hebrew, there is no addition or lesser ground that could reasonably be fought over, and also because the land in Israel is all over the place.

To measure exact lines, based on both the irregular nature of the city walls and the irregular nature of the landscape, in most cases, would be unreasonable. The four points of the compass have been explicitly stated to avoid any further complications of an otherwise difficult task for surveyors to easily, and without bias, portion out the land.

Again, I’m not one to argue over this. It is complicated and each view presents its own difficulties. However, this view appears most aligned with the intent of the mandate to use the four cardinal points on the compass to measure out the land.

“Now among the cities which you will give to the Levites you shall appoint six cities of refuge,

The words of this verse are very widely translated, and yet they convey the same basic meaning for the most part. It literally reads, “And the cities which you will give to the Levities – six cities, the refuge.”

By adding in the word “among,” like the NKJV does here, it assumes that the total number of Levitical cities is the main focus of the verse. It is not. These six cities of refuge are. This concept was first referred to in Exodus 21 –

“He who strikes a man so that he dies shall surely be put to death. 13 However, if he did not lie in wait, but God delivered him into his hand, then I will appoint for you a place where he may flee.” Exodus 21:12, 13

This verse now is the lead-in to the next very important and very detailed section which encompasses verses 9-34. If your KJV or other Bible includes the word “among,” you might make a note that it is incorrect.

Here, the miqlat, or refuge is introduced. It is a word which will be seen twenty times, but only two of them are outside of Numbers 35 and Joshua 20&21. The other two are in 1 Chronicles 6 which simply repeats the granting of the cities.

The word miqlat comes from the word qalat, which is found only in Leviticus 22:23 and which, surprisingly, means “stunted.” In Leviticus, it was speaking of not offering anything that was stunted to the Lord for the fulfilling of a vow.

The connection between the words is the idea that when one is in a place of refuge, or asylum, they are taken in. Their lives are thus stunted from going out.

The number six in Scripture speaks of man. Specifically, it speaks of the imperfection of man. Often it speaks of man as destitute of God, without God, and thus meaning without Christ. The number here is purposeful, and the meaning of these cities of refuge will be carefully explained, revealing why six is the chosen number. It is one of these six cities…

6 (con’t) to which a manslayer may flee.

lanus shamah ha’roseakh – “for fleeing there the manslayer.” Here, the word ratsakh is used. It is the same word found in the sixth commandment and is normally translated as murder. It is not the same word, harag, for example, which is found in Numbers 31 when Moses said for the soldiers to kill all the women and boys of Midian.

Surprisingly, it is not even the same word used when Cain killed Abel. The first time it was used was there in the giving of the Ten Commandments. Thus, it is a word defined by the law itself. As will be seen next week, twenty of its forty-seven uses are in this chapter.

Of these twenty times, it is alternatingly translated in English as “manslayer” or “murderer” based on the guilt or innocence of the offender. However, because the same word is used for both, it carries an underlying thought that whether guilty or innocent, it was a form of unsanctioned taking of human life.

The one who commits such an act has a place to flee to which is designated right here, even before the allotting of the full number of Levitical cities. The placement of these six cities will be seen in Joshua 20. Three each will be in land on both sides of the Jordan, but all six were well-situated to allow a place of escape to all people.

This is the exact same pattern that will be seen when the actual cities are appointed in Joshua. First will be named the cities of refuge in Chapter 20, and only then will the cities of the Levites be named in Chapter 21. A high importance is given to this concept.

The reason for this is that even though these will be Levitical cities, they actually belong to the Lord for all the people in the sense that any Israelite could go there to live if the unfortunate circumstances which necessitated it were to occur. After appointing these six cities, Israel is next instructed…

6 (con’t) And to these you shall add forty-two cities.

This thought is secondary to the highly important designation of six cities of refuge. The Levitical cities are six plus forty-two first and foremost. One could say that the United States was first 13 plus 37 added since then. Although all are equal, there is a special note of honor held among those first thirteen.

So all the cities you will give to the Levites shall be forty-eight; these you shall give with their common-land.

In common math, 6 + 42 = 48. That would make four per tribe if they were evenly spaced that way, which they are not. Size of land grant varied, and the Levites would be dispersed in a way which would ensure they were properly placed throughout the land of Israel.

However, the obvious immediate division of 48 by 12 is not to be missed. Twelve signifies the perfection of government. Four represents the number of material completeness. It is the world number, and especially the “city” number.

Thus, in these cities, one can see a representation of the kingdom of God in the world, with a special focus on man which is represented by the six cities of refuge. It is a rather marvelous picture of God, working through Christ, and forming a universal government, highlighted by those who come to take refuge in Him.

As far as the census of Chapter 26, it showed a total number of Levite males from one month old and up being 23,000. Thus, the number of males per city would average at 479. Add in females, and the number would still be about 1000 per city to start with.

Joshua 21 will detail the names of these forty-eight Levitical cities. The Kohathites will be given ten cities in Ephraim, Dan, and the western half of Manasseh. The Gershonites will have thirteen cities in Issachar, Asher, Naphtali and the eastern half of Manasseh. And the Merarites will have twelve cities in Reuben, Gad and Zebulun. And finally, the priests will have thirteen cities in Judah, Simeon, and Benjamin.

What is interesting, and which seems logical, is that the thirteen priestly cities are divided among the tribes which were nearest to where the sanctuary would eventually be in Jerusalem, rather than where the tabernacle was originally kept in Shiloh. One can see the hand of the Lord working things out ever-so meticulously, even in advance of the need for things to be the way they were.

And the cities which you will give shall be from the possession of the children of Israel; from the larger tribe you shall give many, from the smaller you shall give few.

This was a directive which actually didn’t come to pass as laid out, if it speaks of actual numbers of cities. They were all very closely dispersed in this manner.

Judah and Simeon will be collocated within the same large area. They will provide nine Levitical cities. All of the rest of the tribes will each have four Levitical cities in their territory, except the last to be named, Naphtali, which will only have three. So, all of them give approximately the same number.

However, even if all gave the same basic number of cities, it could be that more Levites went to the more populated tribal inheritances. Although the Hebrew does not indicate this as an option. Otherwise, this would have to be considered a precept which was not carefully adhered to by Israel. This is then repeated with the final words of the day…

*8 (fin) Each shall give some of its cities to the Levites, in proportion to the inheritance that each receives.”

Again, it refers to the number of cities in relation to the inheritance received. As the inheritances were based on lots first, and then by family size within the land allotted, the final division of the Levitical cities does not follow this precept as one would read it.

However, the overall dispersion of the Levites was satisfactory to ensure that the job they were called to accomplish could, in fact, be accomplished if they handled their duties in the solemn manner which reflected the office.

The eight verses today have provided great insights into the expectations for Levitical living in Israel, and what the tribes of Israel were to do to ensure the Lord’s intentions worked as they should for the people.

If everything was conducted according to expectation, Israel would operate smoothly and in a state of high moral living. Unfortunately, the problem does not rest with the law and how it is laid out in order to serve the people. Rather, the problem with the precepts here lies in the heart of man who is constantly at war with what is morally proper.

This is true with the commoner in Israel, all the way up to Israel’s high priest. The failings of the people, in opposition to the meticulously flawless nature of the law, is what is highlighted. Something better was needed, because the human under law simply cannot bear up.

We have seen a few interesting patterns today, and a few points of how things anticipate Christ, but there is a point which must be made before we finish, and it is a point which anticipates what we will look at next week.

The cities of refuge are given for the one who has committed ratsakh, or murder. No distinction between accidental or intentional murder is made in the use of this word, except as it is qualified by other words.

If one murders, he will either be put to death, or he will be granted asylum. How does that point us to Christ? It is what James says in his epistle –

“For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all. 11 For He who said, ‘Do not commit adultery,’ also said, ‘Do not murder.’ Now if you do not commit adultery, but you do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law.” James 2:10-11

The fact is that by any sin, we have broken the entire law, including murder. But more directly, our sin necessitated the death of Christ. It is we who, by our actions, caused His death. Where can we flee to in such an instance? And what can be done about the terrible price we must pay for our actions? The next two sermons will answer this for us.

In short, this is the reason for Christ’s coming. He is the Israelite without sin. He is the perfect Firstborn. He is the great and sinless Priest who conducts His duties flawlessly. And He is the embodiment and completion of the law which stood so proudly in opposition to man because of the sin it highlights in him.

Christ alone was able to bear that burden, and in Him is a new and gentle yoke. In Him, the toil and labor are ended, and the rest which God promised His people is found.

Closing Verse: “Simeon and Levi are brothers;
Instruments of cruelty are in their dwelling place.
Let not my soul enter their council;
Let not my honor be united to their assembly;
For in their anger they slew a man,
And in their self-will they hamstrung an ox.
Cursed be their anger, for it is fierce;
And their wrath, for it is cruel!
I will divide them in Jacob
And scatter them in Israel.” Genesis 49:5-7

Next Week: Numbers 35:9-21 The implications for this are huge… (A Place of Refuge) (69th Numbers Sermon)

The Lord has you exactly where He wants you. He has a good plan and purpose for you. It may seem at times as if you are lost in a desert, wandering aimlessly. But the Lord is there, carefully leading you to the Land of Promise. So, follow Him and trust Him and He will do marvelous things for you and through you.

The Levitical Cities – A Prophecy Fulfilled

And the LORD spoke to Moses, words He was relaying
In the plains of Moab by the Jordan across from Jericho, saying:

“Command the children of Israel
That they give the Levites cities to dwell in, please understand
From the inheritance of their possession
And you shall also give the Levites around the cities common-land

They shall have the cities to dwell in
And their common-land shall be
For their cattle, for their herds, and for all their animals
Pay heed to these words from Me

The common-land of the cities
Which you will give the Levites; their common ground
Shall extend from the wall of the city
Outward a thousand cubits all around

And you shall measure outside the city
On the east side two thousand cubits, so you shall do
On the south side two thousand cubits, on the west side
———-two thousand cubits
And on the north side two thousand cubits too

The city shall be in the middle, so it shall be planned
This shall belong to them for the cities as common-land

“Now among the cities which you will give to the Levites
You shall appoint six cities of refuge; so to you I tell
To which a manslayer may flee
And to these you shall add forty-two cities as well

So all the cities you will give to the Levites, please understand
Shall be forty-eight; these you shall give with their common-land

And the cities which you will give
Shall be from the possession of the children of Israel
From the larger tribe you shall give many
From the smaller you shall give few; follow the instructions well

Each shall give some of its cities to the Levites
———-as if handing out sheaves
In proportion to the inheritance that each receives

Lord God, we are even now in a wilderness
And we are wanting to be led by You
Without You to direct, our lives would be a mess
And so, be our guide, O God; You who are faithful and true

We long for the water in this barren land
May it flow forth from the Rock, our souls to satisfy
Give us this refreshing, spiritual hand
And may we take it, and to our lives daily it apply

And we shall be content and satisfied in You alone
We will follow You as we sing our songs of praise
Hallelujah to You; to us Your path You have shown
Hallelujah we shall sing to You for all of our days

Hallelujah and Amen…

 

 

 

Numbers 34:1-29 (The Earthly Inheritance)

Numbers 34:1-29
The Earthly Inheritance

After typing all of the mechanical information of these verses, such as the meaning of all of the places and names, the technical aspects of the Hebrew, and so on, I laid out all of the names of the locations that are given, and of all of the names of the people that are named, and I looked for patterns which might alert me to a deeper reason as to why they are included. I came up with nothing.

However, there are some interesting patterns which we will see that scholars of the past have laid out. And indeed, they show the marvelous wisdom of God in relaying what will come about in the future before the things even happen.

But concerning a secondary set of reasons why specific names of locations and people are given, nothing jumped out at me with the exception of the name of one of the people listed toward the end of the verses, Parnach.

Nobody can identify the root of where his name comes from. And so, any meaning of the name would be complete speculation, and it would be without any basis for choosing it. And that is what the few references do, they guess and don’t give a reason for the guess.

What that shows us is that the listing is purposefully telling us that it is not a listing with a particular typological meaning. If it was, it would have a definite meaning to fit the type.

Another thing we can grab from the listing of named locations is that they form a border which completely encompasses the land of Canaan. Places have names to identify where they are, and often why the name is given.

By giving the names of the locations which surround Canaan, we can obviously deduce that Canaan is a limited place which may not have walls, but it does have borders, nonetheless. Within those borders are then more borders.

That this is certain is seen in the verses today. There is Canaan for Israel, there are land inheritances for each tribe defined by lot, and then there are family inheritances to be appointed by the leaders. Then, individual properties will be parceled out to the people.

And there are not only these borders on the people’s physical existence in geography, but there are also borders on the physical lives of the people as well. People are born, they live, and they die. They have borders which say, you may go this far, but no further.

The limitations are set, and both are set by the giving of law. Through law came sin, and from sin came death. The limitation is determined. And for Israel in Canaan, through the law came the inheritance, and through the law came its boundaries and divisions.

Text Verse: “Now to Abraham and his Seed were the promises made. He does not say, “And to seeds,” as of many, but as of one, “And to your Seed,” who is Christ. 17 And this I say, that the law, which was four hundred and thirty years later, cannot annul the covenant that was confirmed before by God in Christ, that it should make the promise of no effect. 18 For if the inheritance is of the law, it is no longer of promise; but God gave it to Abraham by promise.” Galatians 3:16-18

Because the land could be described, the land has limitations. And so, what appears to me to be the point of the contents of this chapter, beyond the obvious need to grant the inheritance of Canaan to the people in an orderly fashion, is to show that it is earthly, temporary, and not the final inheritance man can expect.

The land of Canaan is given as a pattern of the heavenly, as we will see in parts of the verses today, especially concerning the four directions which are named, but it is only that, a shadowy type of something which cannot be described.

Indeed, John describes the New Jerusalem, including its size and shape, but a city in heaven means there is a heaven for a city to be in. Thus, the exclusion of heaven’s description tells us as much or more than as does the inclusion of the city’s description.

And this may be what Paul was trying to tell us in 2 Corinthians 12. There he speaks of himself in the third person and says that “he was caught up into Paradise and heard inexpressible words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter” (v. 4).

Paul means that it is 1)  A paradox – he heard speaking which may not be spoken because it is impossible for us to express the same words. In attempting to do so, he would do injustice to what he had heard. Or, 2) They are words which are not to be uttered by man at this present time. He was allowed to hear them, but forbidden from re-stating them.

The second option seems more likely because of his final words, “…which it is not lawful for a man to utter.” The Bible scholar Bengel explains this by saying –

“Others, who did not hear them, cannot; Paul, who did hear them, is not sufficiently able; and though he were able, yet it would not be lawful, it would not be proper in the state of mortality; because the inhabitants of the earth would not understand them.”

Unlike Canaan, we are not given a description of heaven because we cannot, in our mortal minds, understand what it would be like. So much for people who write books about having gone to heaven; they haven’t. So, save your money.

What we can know, however, is that because it is beyond our ability to express, it will be beyond magnificent, because man can express rather marvelous things. For now, we will contrast that heavenly inheritance with an earthly one.

It’s all to be found in His superior word. And so, let’s turn to that precious word once again and… May God speak to us through His word today and may His glorious name ever be praised.

I. The Boundaries of Canaan (verses 1-15)

Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying,

These words follow directly after the last major thought which was given. At the end of Chapter 33, there were seven verses which were given concerning subduing the land of Canaan. That section began with these words –

“Now the Lord spoke to Moses in the plains of Moab by the Jordan, across from Jericho, saying, 51 ‘Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: ‘When you have crossed the Jordan into the land of Canaan, 52 then you shall drive out all the inhabitants of the land from before you, destroy all their engraved stones, destroy all their molded images, and demolish all their high places; 53 you shall dispossess the inhabitants of the land and dwell in it, for I have given you the land to possess.’” Numbers 33:50-53

Obviously, if the people are given the land to subdue and possess, they must then know what the borders of that land are. Thus, this next section logically follows in order.

There are several obvious reasons for needing to know the exact borders of the land. The first is because they have been instructed to exterminate all the inhabitants of the land. To not have set boundaries would mean either failing to exterminate some who should be exterminated, or it would mean that some who should not be wiped out might be wiped out.

Secondly, the land that is given to them means that land outside of those boundaries is not given to them. They are to be content within their borders, unless the authority of expanding those borders is granted.

This does not mean that they cannot wage war outside of those borders, but any such war is not to be specifically for the expansion of the people into those lands, but as a protective buffer, a land of subdued enemies who must pay tribute to their overloads, a land of exploitation of resources, and so on.

Thirdly, by defining the boundaries of the land, it is a way of showing that the land, which is the Lord’s, is already marked out and prepared by Him for Israel. It is a note of surety that the Lord will be with them, and that the battle is truly already won.

A fourth reason is that with the boundaries defined, and as Canaan is to be the land of rest for Israel, the people were not to rest until the land within those boundaries was subdued. This follows logically with the words of the previous chapter –

“But if you do not drive out the inhabitants of the land from before you, then it shall be that those whom you let remain shall be irritants in your eyes and thorns in your sides, and they shall harass you in the land where you dwell. 56 Moreover it shall be that I will do to you as I thought to do to them.” Numbers 33:55, 56

A fifth implied reason for marking out the land is that Israel is to be content and grateful for what they are given. As the Lord gave it, they are to be satisfied with what they have been granted, and they are to never infer that they could have done better elsewhere. The Lord determined, and Israel is to accept and acknowledge that. Because of these things…

“Command the children of Israel, and say to them:

The words are for all of Israel to heed and understand. The corporate body is being given corporate instructions concerning their corporate dwelling which is soon to be entered…

2 (con’t) ‘When you come into the land of Canaan,

This is the point of everything concerning the land that has happened since this statement from Genesis 46 –

“So He said, ‘I am God, the God of your father; do not fear to go down to Egypt, for I will make of you a great nation there. I will go down with you to Egypt, and I will also surely bring you up again; and Joseph will put his hand on your eyes.’” Genesis 46:3, 4

The Lord promised Jacob, who is Israel, that he would go down to Egypt, and that he would be brought back up. Immediately after that, Jacob took his journey from Beersheba and departed to Egypt. It was from that time until now, on the border of Canaan by the Jordan, that Israel had waited to receive their inheritance.

2 (con’t) this is the land that shall fall to you as an inheritance—the land of Canaan to its boundaries.

What will now be described has already been partially detailed to both Abraham and to Moses. In Genesis 15, it says this –

“On the same day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying:
‘To your descendants I have given this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the River Euphrates— 19 the Kenites, the Kenezzites, the Kadmonites, 20 the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Rephaim, 21 the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Girgashites, and the Jebusites.’” Genesis 15:18-21

Again, in Exodus 23, this was spoken by the Lord to Moses –

“And I will set your bounds from the Red Sea to the sea, Philistia, and from the desert to the River. For I will deliver the inhabitants of the land into your hand, and you shall drive them out before you.” Exodus 23:31

What was spoken to both Abraham and later to Moses will now begin to be defined. What will be said here is less than those earlier promises. It encompasses only the land of Canaan, and not the land which extends as far as the Euphrates.

Thus, the term “the land of Canaan” speaks only of the land now to be described. It does not include anything beyond what will be marked out, and it is the standard reference throughout Scripture.

Surprisingly, Israel never actually possessed all of that land because they never fully subdued the area along the southeast where Gaza is. In 1 Kings 4:24, it does say Solomon had peace as far as Gaza, but the inhabitants continued to live there. To this day, those areas are still inhabited by miscreants and enemies of Israel.

Where it says, “this is the land that shall fall to you,” it is speaking of inheritance by lot. As the lot falls, so shall be the inheritance.

The logic of placing the words of this chapter here is evident. First, the Midianites who had harmed Israel on its journey were subdued. Therefore, the matter – which was necessary to resolve at some point – will not interfere with the conquest of Canaan, nor would it be forgotten during the many years in which Canaan was being subdued. It is a matter completed and out of mind.

After that was accomplished, the tribes of Reuben and Gad called for their inheritance east of the Jordan. It is logical to have that matter resolved first as well.

The next thing that was detailed was the review of the entire set of journeys from the time Israel left Egypt until they had arrived at this point. From a historical perspective, that properly belonged in the narrative prior to delineating the borders of the land they were about to enter.

And finally, the instructions for subduing the land were given. That logically comes prior to the marking out of the land. 1) You are to do this, and 2) Here is where that is to be accomplished. The logic of the placement of each chapter is marvelously seen from a broader view. With those things stated, the land delineation now begins with…

Your southern border shall be from the Wilderness of Zin along the border of Edom; then your southern border shall extend eastward to the end of the Salt Sea;

What is described concerning the southern border here is repeated again in Joshua 15:2-4 to describe the border of Judah which is the southernmost tribe in the land of Canaan. The word “south” is negev. That comes from a root meaning “parched.” As the south of Israel is a parched land, the term signifies both the direction, and at times, the desert area known as ha’negev, or “the Negev.”

The Wilderness of Zin has been referred to five times already, starting in Numbers 13. It is the area forming the border of Canaan which is the beginning of the southern border. Tsin means “thorn” or “barb.”

From this starting point, the border extends along Edom’s border. Edom signifies “red” and it is closely connected to adam, or man. Edom’s border goes all the way to the end of yam ha’melakh or
“Sea, the Salt,” meaning the Dead Sea.

The exact lines of what is described here are debated, but the general idea would have been understood by Joshua and those of Israel as they went through the land to subdue it.

your border shall turn from the southern side of the Ascent of Akrabbim, continue to Zin, and be on the south of Kadesh Barnea; then it shall go on to Hazar Addar, and continue to Azmon;

Next, there is a turning from the southern side of Maaleh Aqrabim. This means “the Ascent of Akrabbim,” or “the Ascent of Scorpions.” The aqrav, or scorpion, is seen six times in Scripture, and it denotes that which is used for chastisement.

The turn continues to Zin, or Thorn, and the border continues to the south of Kadesh Barnea, or “Holy Purifying Wanderings.” This is the spot where Miriam died, and it is also the point where the spies were sent into Canaan.

Here, a new word is introduced totsaah, or “goings out.” It comes from yatsa which means to go or come out. Thus, this is a place where there is a “goings out” of something, or a termination.

In this case, it is the goings out, or endings of the border from the south to Kadesh Barnea. From there, the border continues on to Hazar Addar. The name comes from two words signifying “village” and “majestic.” Thus, it is the Majestic Village, or Village of Greatness.

From Khastar Adar, the border then proceeds to Azmon. Atsmon comes from atsom, meaning mighty. That comes from etsem, meaning a bone. The idea is that the skeletal structure is what provides strength. Thus, the place is called Mighty, or Mighty One.

the border shall turn from Azmon to the Brook of Egypt, and it shall end at the Sea.

From Azmon, the border makes another turn to nakhal mitsrayim, or the Wadi of Egypt. It is a brook which flows during times of rains, but otherwise is a dry riverbed. Here the word totsaah, or “goings out” is used again. The southern border has its ending or “goings out” at the sea.

This location is a bit south of Israel’s border today in a city known as El Arish which is right on the Mediterranean Sea. It is the same border that Ezekiel prophesies will be the southern border of Israel during the millennium as is stated in Ezekiel 47:19.

The southern border, as described here, cuts off the V portion of Israel which extends all the way to the Red Sea today, where Eilat is. That would later be a part of Israel, as is recorded elsewhere. Instead of a long extending V, these borders reflect a shorter U.

‘As for the western border, you shall have the Great Sea for a border; this shall be your western border.

This verse explains some of the misunderstandings that have occurred by scholars in earlier verses of Exodus. The word translated as “western” here is yam. It means “sea,” and it is used two more times in this same verse, first when speaking of yam ha’gadol, or Sea, the Great, and then again as gebul yam, or “border western.”

A literal translation would be, “And border sea and shall have you the sea, the great, and border this shall be your border – sea.”

The reference for the translation of yam as west is because the reference is that of the land of Canaan. Even when Israel was outside of Canaan, the term is still used to speak of the west, because Canaan is the basis for the reference.

Scholars, misunderstanding this, claim that the times the word yam are used in this manner, such as in Exodus, must be later inserts. But Israel came from this land, and the concept of yam meaning west goes all the way back to the time of Abraham.

The Pulpit Commentary even includes this incorrect evaluation in their commentary of this verse. They say, “it cannot be overlooked as one small indication that the language of this passage at any rate is the language of an age subsequent to the conquest of Canaan.”

In other words, as has been seen before, they say these words are not original, but are a later insert. But the text stands for itself, especially in the construction of the tabernacle where the western end of the tabernacle also uses the term yam to explain its location.

It is the Lord who is speaking. The western end of the tabernacle is where He dwells, and the western side of the land, which is His – meaning Canaan – is to the yam or sea. The use of yam is consistent, logical, and precise. It is not a later insert.

The word yam comes from an unused root meaning “to roar” as in the roaring, breaking of waves. Thus, one could think of the western border as the Great Roaring. The sea as the western border continues until the next border on the north…

‘And this shall be your northern border:

The word “northern” is tsaphon. It comes from a verb, tsaphan, signifying “to hide” or “to treasure up.” The reason for this is that Canaan is in the northern hemisphere (yes, the world is round), and thus, the north is the direction that is hidden from the sun more and more as the winter months come on.

The northwest is where the sun last alights in the morning, and the northeast is where it first recedes at night. Thus, the north is hidden away. This is also seen in the placement of the lampstand on the south side of the tabernacle, away from the north. Again, the reference is that of Canaan, and of the dwelling place of the Lord.

7 (con’t) From the Great Sea you shall mark out your border line to Mount Hor;

Here is a new word, taah. It is only found here and in the next verse. It gives the sense of pointing out, and thus one can mark out a border based on the pointing. If one stands on the shore of the Great Sea, and points to Mount Hor, that is the marking, just as a bird would fly.

Mount Hor, or Mount of the Mountain, is not the same as Mount Hor where Aaron died. It probably signifies a double mountain. Scholars are wholly divided on what this is speaking of. Some insist it is Mount Hermon. Others, Mount Amana mentioned in the Song of Solomon. Whichever it is, the people would know when they were directed to it.

from Mount Hor you shall mark out your border to the entrance of Hamath; then the direction of the border shall be toward Zedad;

Here is the second and last use of taah in the Bible. One can see that the mountain was sufficiently placed where it could be pointed at from the other location and thus keep people from claiming a border which the Lord had not otherwise designated.

From Mount Hor, one would mark out to lebo khamath, or the entrance of Hamath. This is the same location that the spies traveled to in Numbers 13:21. The name means “Defense” or “Citadel.” From there, the border would travel toward Zedad. The name Tsedad is only found here and in Ezekiel 47:15. It comes from tsad, meaning “a side.”

the border shall proceed to Ziphron, and it shall end at Hazar Enan. This shall be your northern border.

From Zedad, the border then heads to Ziphron. The best guess of the meaning of Ziphron is Sweet Smell. From there, the northern border ends at Hazar Enan, or “Village of Eyes,” or “Village of Springs,” because springs resemble eyes.

10 ‘You shall mark out your eastern border from Hazar Enan to Shepham;

The final border is qedem, or east. The word signifies aforetime, ancient time, that which is everlasting or eternal, and forward. The reason why it is forward is because the temple of the Lord faces east, thus forward. Again, as has been seen each time, the direction is in reference to Canaan as if the Lord is there in His dwelling.

From the Village of Springs, the eastern border is to be avah, or marked out, south to Shepham. This is a word found only here in the Bible. It signifies “to draw.” Thus, the border is described with a mark, probably like we do on trails today.

Depending on the root, the name Shepham means either Swept Bare or Fenced In. From there…

11 the border shall go down from Shepham to Riblah on the east side of Ain;

Here the border is said to “go down.” Thus, there is a descent which goes to Rivlah. The name signifies a fertile, fruitful place.” It is said to be on the east side of Ain. The name means an eye, and thus, literally, a spring of water. It is one of the springs which would feed into the Jordan.

11 (con’t) the border shall go down and reach to the eastern side of the Sea of Chinnereth;

Here, the border would again descend to the “shoulder” of yam kineret, meaning the Sea of Galilee. The word used speaks of the mountain slope on the northeast side of the Sea of Kinereth which is its “shoulder.”

The name Kinereth comes from kinor, meaning a type of harp. The reason for the name is the shape of the sea, which looks like a harp when viewed from above. As the border is on the east of these places, the water rights are included in the land rights of Israel.

12 the border shall go down along the Jordan, and it shall end at the Salt Sea.

From the Sea of Kinereth, the border continues down the Jordan, or Descender, and ends at the Salt, or Dead, Sea.

What is rather beautiful in picture concerns this eastern border and how it looks to Christ. As we already know, the Jordan – meaning the Descender – is a type of Christ. As the Jordan comes from Mt. Hermon, the snow-capped mountain, we can see a picture of Christ who came from heaven where there is no sin; only righteousness.

That is explained by Isaiah where he says –

“’Come now, and let us reason together,’
Says the Lord,
‘Though your sins are like scarlet,
They shall be as white as snow.’” Isaiah 1:18

From there, He descended even to death itself, to the Dead Sea, the lowest spot on earth, typical of the pit of death. But while there, He remained in a state of incorruption, typified by yam ha’melakh, or the Salt Sea. Salt, as we have seen (among other things), signifies incorruption. Understanding this, the significance of Acts 2:27 is seen –

“For You will not leave my soul in Hades,
Nor will You allow Your Holy One to see corruption.”

12 (con’t) This shall be your land with its surrounding boundaries.’”

This is the entire scope of the original land grant to Canaan. The most difficult to determine areas are those of the northern border, but there are disagreements on the exact shape of the south in some places as well.

13 Then Moses commanded the children of Israel, saying: “This is the land which you shall inherit by lot, which the Lord has commanded to give to the nine tribes and to the half-tribe.

These words explain verse 2. The inheritance that falls to Israel is because it is inherited by lot. As the Lord determines in the falling of the lot, so the inheritance falls to the people of these nine and one half tribes. Originally, it was a land of about 160 miles in length, and about 50 miles wide, often much less. It is a sliver of land among the nations.

14 For the tribe of the children of Reuben according to the house of their fathers, and the tribe of the children of Gad according to the house of their fathers, have received their inheritance; and the half-tribe of Manasseh has received its inheritance.

As was seen in Chapter 32, and what is seen again in this chapter, despite this land across the Jordan being possessed by Israel, it is not considered a part of Canaan. It is merely an area of possession. The granting of the inheritance to these two- and one-half tribes was minutely detailed in Chapter 32. It is their inheritance, but it is not a part of Canaan proper.

15 The two tribes and the half-tribe have received their inheritance on this side of the Jordan, across from Jericho eastward, toward the sunrise.”

The words here, again, show Canaan as the reference. It doesn’t say “on this side of the Jordan.” It says, “on side of the Jordan,” a term which can mean on either side. It then explains what that means by saying “eastward, toward the sunrise.”

The borders of your land are already decided
I have set them for you as your place to dwell
In you I have trusted and confided
And so, to you I am granting the land as well

This is the land of Canaan which I promised before
I promised it to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob too
Now you are about to enter as you stand at the door
This is the land that I am giving to you

O Israel, if you will but pay heed to My word
If you will only bend your ear and listen to Me
I have brought you to this land, I the Lord
Open your eyes, Israel, I want you to see

If you will cherish Me and to Me have hearts that are true
You may dwell long in the land which I am giving to you

II. One Leader of Every Tribe (verses 16-29)

16 And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying,

A new section is introduced with these words. After defining the borders of the land, the Lord now proceeds to define who will be responsible for the division of that land. The division is to be completely fair and impartial, and these men are selected so that such will be the case, and so the Lord proceeds…

17 “These are the names of the men who shall divide the land among you as an inheritance: Eleazar the priest and Joshua the son of Nun.

Unless this is simply speaking of casting lots, this cannot be speaking of tribal division of the land. The lots would be thrown for the division among the tribes, but then the size of the family within the tribe was to be the standard for division within the allotted territory. Therefore, this is speaking of that.

Eleazar and Joshua represent the leaders of the congregation which is formed as a theocracy. They would thus be included in any division to ensure that everything was done according to the will of the Lord. Along with them…

18 And you shall take one leader of every tribe to divide the land for the inheritance.

One leader was to be selected with overall authority of the division of the land between families. It would be this person who worked under the approving eyes of Eleazar and Joshua to ensure the family inheritances were met according to size. Interestingly, Albert Barnes notes the following –

“The order in which the tribes are named is peculiar to this passage. If they be taken in pairs, Judah and Simeon, Benjamin and Dan, Manasseh and Ephraim, Zebulun and Issachar, Asher and Naphtali, the order of the pairs agrees with the order in which the allotments in the Holy land, taken also in couples, followed each other in the map from south to north.” Albert Barnes

It is a note, then, that the Lord is in complete control of what will occur concerning the lots. Long before they are cast, the order of tribal selection for inherited land is already set in the written record. Despite not matching the order in which the lots were cast, they match the order in which they are laid out. It is an obscure pattern which makes it all the more astonishing when considered.

19 These are the names of the men: from the tribe of Judah, Caleb the son of Jephunneh;

Here, Caleb is the only leader who was selected as a tribal leader in Numbers 13. Other than him, all of the other leaders had died in the wilderness wanderings. Caleb means “Dog.” Yephunneh means “He will be beheld.”

20 from the tribe of the children of Simeon, Shemuel the son of Ammihud;

The name Shemuel is the same as our English Samuel. It means “Name of God,” or “Heard of God.” Ammihud means “My Kinsman is Glorious.”

21 from the tribe of Benjamin, Elidad the son of Chislon;

Elidad means “Whom God Loves.” Khislon means “Factless Confidence.”

22 a leader from the tribe of the children of Dan, Bukki the son of Jogli;

Bukki means “Wasteful.” Yogli means “Exiled.”

23 from the sons of Joseph: a leader from the tribe of the children of Manasseh, Hanniel the son of Ephod,

Hanniel means “Graciousness of God.” Ephod means something like “Girdle.”

24 and a leader from the tribe of the children of Ephraim, Kemuel the son of Shiphtan;

Kemuel means something like “Gathering of God.” Shiphtan means something like “Judicial.”

25 a leader from the tribe of the children of Zebulun, Elizaphan the son of Parnach;

Elizaphan means “God Hides,” or “God Has Protected.” The meaning of Parnakh is unknown.

26 a leader from the tribe of the children of Issachar, Paltiel the son of Azzan;

Paltiel means “Deliverance of God.” Azzan means “Very Strong.”

27 a leader from the tribe of the children of Asher, Ahihud the son of Shelomi;

Akhihud means “Brother of Majesty.” Shelomi means “My Peace.”

28 and a leader from the tribe of the children of Naphtali, Pedahel the son of Ammihud.”

Pedahel means “God has Ransomed.” Ammihud again means “My Kinsman is Glorious.”

*29 (fin) These are the ones the Lord commanded to divide the inheritance among the children of Israel in the land of Canaan.

Not only were these tribes organized from a geographical perspective, as noted in verse 18, but they were also structured in a unique family way. This is described by Joseph Benson –

“Judah and Simeon, both sons of Leah, dwelt by one another: next, Benjamin of Rachel, and Dan of Rachel’s maid: Manasseh and Ephraim, both sons of Joseph, had the next place: Zebulon and Issachar, who dwelt next together, were both sons of Leah: and the last pair were Asher of Leah’s maid, and Naphtali of Rachel’s maid. Here, therefore, we have an evident proof of the wisdom of God’s providence, and of his peculiar care of his people.” Joseph Benson

The chances of such unusual groupings between these two patterns, and the fact that nothing is openly said about them anywhere in Scripture, reveals a marvelous wisdom was at work long before the divisions were actually made.

For the student of the Bible who takes the time to understand what is otherwise hidden, there is an amazing degree of confidence in the fact that this is truly the divinely inspired word of God.

And because it is, and because it tells us of our assured inheritance in heaven (and this you will see all too well in a coming sermon) because of the Person and work of Jesus, we can and should have the greatest encouragement and hope in this life. What is coming is so magnificent that Paul himself could not lawfully utter concerning what he had seen.

He had a moment, a mere moment, in the presence of glory, and words failed him. As heaven is without borders, it is an eternal expanse, and because our lives will continue without the border of the ending of time, we have an eternal future to search out that eternal expanse of heaven – looking into the mind of God with unceasing and endless joy as we do.

Canaan was a land of promise and abundance, but it was a land of law and death. We will have the former – forever – because Jesus prevailed over the latter for us. God be praised. Jesus has prevailed!

Closing Verse: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.” 1 Peter 1:3-5

Next Week: Numbers 35:1-8 It is just as the Lord willed… (The Levitical Cities – A Prophecy Fulfilled) (68th Numbers Sermon)

The Lord has you exactly where He wants you. He has a good plan and purpose for you. It may seem at times as if you are lost in a desert, wandering aimlessly. But the Lord is there, carefully leading you to the Land of Promise. So, follow Him and trust Him and He will do marvelous things for you and through you.

The Earthly Inheritance

Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying
These are the words He was to him relaying

“Command the children of Israel, and say to them:
‘When you come into the land of Canaan, please take note
This is the land that shall fall to you as an inheritance
The land of Canaan to its boundaries, as to you I quote

Your southern border shall be from the Wilderness of Zin
Along the border of Edom, as fixed by Me
Then your southern border shall extend
Eastward to the end of the Salt Sea

Your border shall turn from the southern side
Of the Ascent of Akrabbim, continue to Zin, so you are shown
And be on the south of Kadesh Barnea
Then it shall go on to Hazar Addar, and continue to Azmon

The border shall turn from Azmon to the Brook of Egypt
———-as directed by Me
And it shall end at the Sea

“As for the western border, you shall have the Great Sea
———-for a border
This shall be your western border, according to My order

‘And this shall be your northern border:
From the Great Sea you shall mark out your border line
———-to Mount Hor
From Mount Hor you shall mark out your border
———-to the entrance of Hamath
Then the direction of the border shall be toward Zedad
———-but that’s not all as there is more

The border shall proceed to Ziphron
———- and it shall end at Hazar Enan, according to My order
This shall be your northern border

‘You shall mark out your eastern border
From Hazar Enan to Shepham, but I am not done yet
The border shall go down from Shepham to Riblah
———-on the east side of Ain
The border shall go down and reach to the eastern side
———-of the Sea of Chinnereth

The border shall go down along the Jordan
———-and it shall end at the Salt Sea
This shall be your land with each surrounding boundary

Then Moses commanded the children of Israel, saying:
More words to them He was relaying

“This is the land which you shall inherit by lot
Which the LORD has commanded to give to the nine tribes
———-and to the half-tribe; this shall be their spot

For the tribe of the children of Reuben
———-according to the house of their fathers
And the tribe of the children of Gad
———-according to the house of their fathers too
Have received their inheritance
And the half-tribe of Manasseh has received its inheritance
———-it is true

The two tribes and the half-tribe have received their inheritance
For them, it was like an early surprise
On this side of the Jordan
Across from Jericho eastward, toward the sunrise

And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying
These words to him, He continued relaying

“These are the names of the men
Who shall divide the land among you as an inheritance:
Eleazar the priest and Joshua the son of Nun
Starting with these two fine gents

And you shall take one leader of every tribe, so I say
To divide the land for the inheritance, as I instruct you today

These are the names of the men:
From the tribe of Judah, Caleb the son of Jephunneh
From the tribe of the children of Simeon
———-Shemuel the son of Ammihud
From the tribe of Benjamin, Elidad the son of Chislon
———-as to you I do say

A leader from the tribe of the children of Dan
———- Bukki the son of Jogli
From the sons of Joseph: a leader from the tribe
———-of the children of Manasseh, Hanniel the son of Ephod
And a leader from the tribe of the children of Ephraim
———- Kemuel the son of Shiphtan
A leader from the tribe of the children of Zebulun
———-Elizaphan the son of Parnach; just as I have to you showed

A leader from the tribe of the children of Issachar
———-Paltiel the son of Azzan
A leader from the tribe of the children of Asher
———-Ahihud the son of Shelomi
And a leader from the tribe of the children of Naphtali
———-Pedahel the son of Ammihud
All of these as directed by Me

These are the ones the LORD commanded to divide
The inheritance among the children of Israel in the land of Canaan
———-with their borders on each side

Lord God, we are even now in a wilderness
And we are wanting to be led by You
Without You to direct, our lives would be a mess
And so be our guide, O God; You who are faithful and true

We long for the water in this barren land
May it flow forth from the Rock, our souls to satisfy
Give us this refreshing, spiritual hand
And may we take it, and to our lives daily it apply

And we shall be content and satisfied in You alone
We will follow You as we sing our songs of praise
Hallelujah to You; to us Your path You have shown
Hallelujah we shall sing to You for all of our days

Hallelujah and Amen…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Command the children of Israel, and say to them: ‘When you come into the land of Canaan, this is the land that shall fall to you as an inheritance—the land of Canaan to its boundaries. Your southern border shall be from the Wilderness of Zin along the border of Edom; then your southern border shall extend eastward to the end of the Salt Sea; your border shall turn from the southern side of the Ascent of Akrabbim, continue to Zin, and be on the south of Kadesh Barnea; then it shall go on to Hazar Addar, and continue to Azmon; the border shall turn from Azmon to the Brook of Egypt, and it shall end at the Sea.

‘As for the western border, you shall have the Great Sea for a border; this shall be your western border.

‘And this shall be your northern border: From the Great Sea you shall mark out your border line to Mount Hor; from Mount Hor you shall mark out your border to the entrance of Hamath; then the direction of the border shall be toward Zedad; the border shall proceed to Ziphron, and it shall end at Hazar Enan. This shall be your northern border.

10 ‘You shall mark out your eastern border from Hazar Enan to Shepham; 11 the border shall go down from Shepham to Riblah on the east side of Ain; the border shall go down and reach to the eastern side of the Sea of Chinnereth; 12 the border shall go down along the Jordan, and it shall end at the Salt Sea. This shall be your land with its surrounding boundaries.’ ”

13 Then Moses commanded the children of Israel, saying: “This is the land which you shall inherit by lot, which the Lord has commanded to give to the nine tribes and to the half-tribe. 14 For the tribe of the children of Reuben according to the house of their fathers, and the tribe of the children of Gad according to the house of their fathers, have received their inheritance; and the half-tribe of Manasseh has received its inheritance. 15 The two tribes and the half-tribe have received their inheritance on this side of the Jordan, across from Jericho eastward, toward the sunrise.”

16 And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 17 “These are the names of the men who shall divide the land among you as an inheritance: Eleazar the priest and Joshua the son of Nun. 18 And you shall take one leader of every tribe to divide the land for the inheritance. 19 These are the names of the men: from the tribe of Judah, Caleb the son of Jephunneh; 20 from the tribe of the children of Simeon, Shemuel the son of Ammihud; 21 from the tribe of Benjamin, Elidad the son of Chislon; 22 a leader from the tribe of the children of Dan, Bukki the son of Jogli; 23 from the sons of Joseph: a leader from the tribe of the children of Manasseh, Hanniel the son of Ephod, 24 and a leader from the tribe of the children of Ephraim, Kemuel the son of Shiphtan; 25 a leader from the tribe of the children of Zebulun, Elizaphan the son of Parnach; 26 a leader from the tribe of the children of Issachar, Paltiel the son of Azzan; 27 a leader from the tribe of the children of Asher, Ahihud the son of Shelomi; 28 and a leader from the tribe of the children of Naphtali, Pedahel the son of Ammihud.”

29 These are the ones the Lord commanded to divide the inheritance among the children of Israel in the land of Canaan.