Quotes & Sayings

We, and creation itself, actualize the possibilities of the God who sustains the world, towards becoming in the world in a fuller, more deeper way. - R.E. Slater

There is urgency in coming to see the world as a web of interrelated processes of which we are integral parts, so that all of our choices and actions have [consequential effects upon] the world around us. - Process Metaphysician Alfred North Whitehead

Kurt Gödel's Incompleteness Theorem says (i) all closed systems are unprovable within themselves and, that (ii) all open systems are rightly understood as incomplete. - R.E. Slater

The most true thing about you is what God has said to you in Christ, "You are My Beloved." - Tripp Fuller

The God among us is the God who refuses to be God without us, so great is God's Love. - Tripp Fuller

According to some Christian outlooks we were made for another world. Perhaps, rather, we were made for this world to recreate, reclaim, redeem, and renew unto God's future aspiration by the power of His Spirit. - R.E. Slater

Our eschatological ethos is to love. To stand with those who are oppressed. To stand against those who are oppressing. It is that simple. Love is our only calling and Christian Hope. - R.E. Slater

Secularization theory has been massively falsified. We don't live in an age of secularity. We live in an age of explosive, pervasive religiosity... an age of religious pluralism. - Peter L. Berger

Exploring the edge of life and faith in a post-everything world. - Todd Littleton

I don't need another reason to believe, your love is all around for me to see. – Anon

Thou art our need; and in giving us more of thyself thou givest us all. - Khalil Gibran, Prayer XXIII

Be careful what you pretend to be. You become what you pretend to be. - Kurt Vonnegut

Religious beliefs, far from being primary, are often shaped and adjusted by our social goals. - Jim Forest

We become who we are by what we believe and can justify. - R.E. Slater

People, even more than things, need to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone. – Anon

Certainly, God's love has made fools of us all. - R.E. Slater

An apocalyptic Christian faith doesn't wait for Jesus to come, but for Jesus to become in our midst. - R.E. Slater

Christian belief in God begins with the cross and resurrection of Jesus, not with rational apologetics. - Eberhard Jüngel, Jürgen Moltmann

Our knowledge of God is through the 'I-Thou' encounter, not in finding God at the end of a syllogism or argument. There is a grave danger in any Christian treatment of God as an object. The God of Jesus Christ and Scripture is irreducibly subject and never made as an object, a force, a power, or a principle that can be manipulated. - Emil Brunner

“Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh” means "I will be that who I have yet to become." - God (Ex 3.14) or, conversely, “I AM who I AM Becoming.”

Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. - Thomas Merton

The church is God's world-changing social experiment of bringing unlikes and differents to the Eucharist/Communion table to share life with one another as a new kind of family. When this happens, we show to the world what love, justice, peace, reconciliation, and life together is designed by God to be. The church is God's show-and-tell for the world to see how God wants us to live as a blended, global, polypluralistic family united with one will, by one Lord, and baptized by one Spirit. – Anon

The cross that is planted at the heart of the history of the world cannot be uprooted. - Jacques Ellul

The Unity in whose loving presence the universe unfolds is inside each person as a call to welcome the stranger, protect animals and the earth, respect the dignity of each person, think new thoughts, and help bring about ecological civilizations. - John Cobb & Farhan A. Shah

If you board the wrong train it is of no use running along the corridors of the train in the other direction. - Dietrich Bonhoeffer

God's justice is restorative rather than punitive; His discipline is merciful rather than punishing; His power is made perfect in weakness; and His grace is sufficient for all. – Anon

Our little [biblical] systems have their day; they have their day and cease to be. They are but broken lights of Thee, and Thou, O God art more than they. - Alfred Lord Tennyson

We can’t control God; God is uncontrollable. God can’t control us; God’s love is uncontrolling! - Thomas Jay Oord

Life in perspective but always in process... as we are relational beings in process to one another, so life events are in process in relation to each event... as God is to Self, is to world, is to us... like Father, like sons and daughters, like events... life in process yet always in perspective. - R.E. Slater

To promote societal transition to sustainable ways of living and a global society founded on a shared ethical framework which includes respect and care for the community of life, ecological integrity, universal human rights, respect for diversity, economic justice, democracy, and a culture of peace. - The Earth Charter Mission Statement

Christian humanism is the belief that human freedom, individual conscience, and unencumbered rational inquiry are compatible with the practice of Christianity or even intrinsic in its doctrine. It represents a philosophical union of Christian faith and classical humanist principles. - Scott Postma

It is never wise to have a self-appointed religious institution determine a nation's moral code. The opportunities for moral compromise and failure are high; the moral codes and creeds assuredly racist, discriminatory, or subjectively and religiously defined; and the pronouncement of inhumanitarian political objectives quite predictable. - R.E. Slater

God's love must both center and define the Christian faith and all religious or human faiths seeking human and ecological balance in worlds of subtraction, harm, tragedy, and evil. - R.E. Slater

In Whitehead’s process ontology, we can think of the experiential ground of reality as an eternal pulse whereby what is objectively public in one moment becomes subjectively prehended in the next, and whereby the subject that emerges from its feelings then perishes into public expression as an object (or “superject”) aiming for novelty. There is a rhythm of Being between object and subject, not an ontological division. This rhythm powers the creative growth of the universe from one occasion of experience to the next. This is the Whiteheadian mantra: “The many become one and are increased by one.” - Matthew Segall

Without Love there is no Truth. And True Truth is always Loving. There is no dichotomy between these terms but only seamless integration. This is the premier centering focus of a Processual Theology of Love. - R.E. Slater


Note: Generally I do not respond to commentary. I may read the comments but wish to reserve my time to write (or write from the comments I read). Instead, I'd like to see our community help one another and in the helping encourage and exhort each of us towards Christian love in Christ Jesus our Lord and Savior. - re slater

Saturday, February 28, 2015

An Apocalyptic Jesus - Numbering Christian Interpretation, Part 1

An Apocalyptic Jesus

In a previous blog post (Numbering Numbers) I had laid out the book of Numbers of the Old Testament in a typical Christian interpretation of its history and theology. Today I wish to consider that interpretation and ask why our first reading from yesterday did or didn't surprise us as to the kind of reaction God had shown amongst His people Israel and towards their enemies.

Perhaps we should first start with John the Baptist, the cousin to Jesus who had baptised His Lord in the River Jordan to witness God's ordination of His Son in terms of the Holy Spirit descending upon Jesus in the form of a dove (Matthew 3). Now John the Baptist was a fairly outspoken critic of the religious temple of his day. He was known for preaching a strong version of Jewish theology that at all times pled for repentance while looking to a coming Day of the Lord spewing wrath and judgment. 

Not surprisingly, in both Jewish Apocalyptic literature before Jesus' birth, as well as in later Christian eschatalogical (end-time) writings after Jesus' resurrection, there was found a very firm belief in God's coming judgment upon the sins of mankind. A judgment issuing forth in woes, plagues, wars, harms, blood, disasters, and all manner of human suffering due to man's sin. A judgment-of-all-judgments that would be sent by God rightfully upon all humanity for its refusal to bow down before Him as the God of all creation. A God who seeks justice, righteousness, and holiness against the wickedness and evil man has created by the freedom of his corrupt heart, soul, and mind.

Into this era of Jewish and Christian agreement on "End Time Judgment and Wrath" comes God Himself incarnated in the form of Jesus endowed by the Spirit of God to preach love, kindness, forgiveness, and hope to all men everywhere beginning with His people Israel and unto the ends of the earth. Like John the Baptist, Jesus' message also bears within it an urgency for repentance and forestaying of God's wrath - a wrath in which He ultimately places Himself as the stop-gap to the satisfaction of God's holiness for this world's sin and evil. And thereby, personally demonstrating through His life choices that this God is not only a God of wrath and judgment but also a God of love, forbearance, mercy, and forgiveness.

However, lest we miss the point, it was Jesus in His very person that was this very God that the world looked to for righteousness and justice, equity and fairness. That it was this same God of wrath so feared and anticipated who became flesh and blood to walk amongst sinful mankind preaching peace and love. Which is surprising, really, in that through the entirety of the Old Testament Scriptures it seemed that God only loved those who obeyed His rules and regulations and set His wrath upon those who disobeyed Him (conditional love). Time and again we read in the book of Numbers of God's consuming wrath upon His people unwilling to follow His appointed leaders (Moses and Aaron), times, structures, ways, and wishes (the tabernacle, religious liturgy, calendar dates, instructions, etc).

One would think then that should this God of the OT come down to this earth in the form of humanity that He would throw a crusader's cape across His shoulders, gird up His loins, take sword and shield in hand, and begin swinging away cutting large bloody swaths across the nations of the Mid-East in all directions before preceding like an Alexander of old into the world at large against all opposing Him. And why not? This was exactly the picture His people Israel had come to expect of God when He came! However, we quickly discover that they grossly neglected in their theology that God is also a God of love and forebearance. A God who redeems out of love and not by mere human self-serving appeasement and artifact by temple and ordinance. In fact, the God they felt they needed was a God of vengeance and iron rule - but in the paradox of the rule of God this God came as a humble, weak servant to suffer in the place of His people as their Lamb and atoning sacrifice (Isaiah 52-53). Thus was there confusion in Israel as to Jesus' credentials. He simply didn't fit into the theology they had been taught and expected.

And yet, the irony of this is that even Jesus' close cousin John preached a powerful kingly-Redeemer and not a humble, servant-Redeemer. Even Jesus' family misunderstood His declaration of ministry expecting at any time for Jesus to take up the sword and lead a willing congregation of Jewish men into battle against enemies beset around-and-about their impoverished enclaves. So too did Jesus' disciples believe in their ministry of preaching repentance and preparation to the people of Israel that at the last Jesus would throw off his robes for the armored dress of war. That in all ways the Jewish theology of the people of Israel believed God to come as a seething Lion and not a humble Lamb. A wrathful King and not a crucified Christ. As a "Lord of Lords" and not as "payment for mankind's sins" beginning with their own misdirected theology and insidious dogmas with its inflexible man-made religious rules and pitifully poor social graces overlooking the destitute, sick, and hated amongst their society.

How like this form of Jewish theology has our own Christianity become? How like John the Baptist and the many Jewish people across the land of Israel has today's description of God bent backwards to the old forms of wrath and retribution, judgment and penalty upon our enemies as upon the despised of society? Might it be a timely reminded to say that "not unlike the first century Jews who rejected Jesus' lordship in their lives while remaining at all times sacrosanct and righteous in their own eyes" that we might look to ourselves first for repentance of heart and mind?

To re-consider Jesus' ministry and "servant theology" over more muscular preferences for a theology like John the Baptist's "Almighty-God" theology. To allow our "Christian" theology and "bible-convictions' to become more permeated with Jesus' servant-mindedness? That we, as the church of God, are to love our enemies, serve the oppress, reach out to the hated and discriminated amidst our society, and not be like the world in its self-serving religious oppressions and vaunted doctrines of engrossing self-righteousness?

An Apocalyptic Revival

If so, than this is but the beginning to revising Christian doctrine so that it first weighs out the love of God over the wrath of God. To consider that God's holy person is holy because He is a loving God first and foremost. That holiness derives from being loving. A love that seeks justice and equity and fairness for His creation. A love that brings this God into mankind's very midst to become its divine sacrifice for sin that no other human or animal or created thing can be for His creation. A love that reaches out in service tenderly, moderately, gently, speaking soft words of blessing and honor to all who might listen and obey.

This is the surprising God of the Old and New Testament. That He is One God in Triune Person who at all times reaches out to His creation for their good and not ill. That this violent version of Himself as described in the Bible through Jewish and Church theology in both the Old and New Testaments is perhaps more a version of our own hearts longing for rightness and justice than it is of a gracious, loving, compassionate God moving to redeem His people so that we might come into sustaining covenant with Him. A covenant granting identity, relationship, blessing, and hope (promises).

The question we must ask today is this, "How can we move beyond a theology like John the Baptist's wishing for God's consuming fire so that a "Kingdom of Law, Order, and Justice" be enacted to a theology of Jesus who read the same Old Testament Scriptures as His cousin John did, His family did, and His disciples did, but came away with a dynamically polar opposite view? Yes, we might answer, it was because God's time had not yet come to begin His Kingdom. That Jewish theology incorrectly and pre-maturely hastened God's time to the neglect of remembering key portions of their Scriptures thereby settling in for a theology of self-righteous religious dogma to the neglect of sustaining, repentful, recreative, life-giving nurture.

But even so, aren't we as the church today doing the same in our church theologies however they are constructed? Are we not hastening the Kingdom of God in its final versions of itself without first giving due consideration to the ministry of Jesus forebearing in the yoke of His Lord as first set out by His God? If so, than to those whom we consider our enemies what are we doing to repent and reach out beyond our prides and prejudices? To those whom we callously neglect in their need and longing are we confessing our sin and seeking to right wrong acts? To those whom we despise because we feel its what the bible teaches in our hard-headed, hard-hearted Christian doctrines are we willing to put away such foolishness so that we might more clearly see the needs of those who suffer from our meanness, bullying, and unkindness?

Nay, this is not a different gospel. It is a rightfully nuanced version to all previous gospels too eager to preach divine wrath and judgment rather than laying down human pride, vitriol, and dictum to repentfully reach out in the more servant-minded gospel of Christ to share our Lord's grace and mercy. At the last, it is not God who needs our defense, but ourselves who need His Spirit-filled eyesight to see past ourselves, our wants and needs, and to re-consider that His Kingdom doesn't forcefully come as we had expected. But that the Kingdom of God comes on the backs of kindness, words of love, and in service to humanity. It is a Kingdom which grows from the inside-out in a paradoxical mystery we cannot begin to understand but must follow its example. This is the mystery of God: To be holy but also to love. This is the charge of the church's holy eucharist as it would commune with its Lord during its season of Lent. As such, "Do this this day" as taught by our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen

R.E. Slater
February 28, 2014

English Standard Version (ESV)

The Lord's Coming Salvation

52 Awake, awake,
put on your strength, O Zion;
put on your beautiful garments,
O Jerusalem, the holy city;
for there shall no more come into you
the uncircumcised and the unclean.
2 Shake yourself from the dust and arise;
be seated, O Jerusalem;
loose the bonds from your neck,
O captive daughter of Zion.

3 For thus says the Lord: “You were sold for nothing, and you shall be redeemed without money.” 4 For thus says the Lord God: “My people went down at the first into Egypt to sojourn there, and the Assyrian oppressed them for nothing.[a] 5 Now therefore what have I here,” declares the Lord, “seeing that my people are taken away for nothing? Their rulers wail,” declares the Lord, “andcontinually all the day my name is despised. 6 Therefore my people shall know my name. Therefore in that day they shall know that it is I who speak; here I am.”

7 How beautiful upon the mountains
are the feet of him who brings good news,
who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness,
who publishes salvation,
who says to Zion, “Your God reigns.”
8 The voice of your watchmen—they lift up their voice;
together they sing for joy;
for eye to eye they see
the return of the Lord to Zion.
9 Break forth together into singing,
you waste places of Jerusalem,
for the Lord has comforted his people;
he has redeemed Jerusalem.
10 The Lord has bared his holy arm
before the eyes of all the nations,
and all the ends of the earth shall see
the salvation of our God.

11 Depart, depart, go out from there;
touch no unclean thing;
go out from the midst of her; purify yourselves,
you who bear the vessels of the Lord.
12 For you shall not go out in haste,
and you shall not go in flight,
for the Lord will go before you,
and the God of Israel will be your rear guard.

He Was Pierced for Our Transgressions.

13 Behold, my servant shall act wisely;[b]
he shall be high and lifted up,
and shall be exalted.
14 As many were astonished at you—
his appearance was so marred, beyond human semblance,
and his form beyond that of the children of mankind—
15 so shall he sprinkle[c] many nations;
kings shall shut their mouths because of him;
for that which has not been told them they see,
and that which they have not heard they understand.

Isaiah 52:4 Or the Assyrian has oppressed them of late
Isaiah 52:13 Or shall prosper
Isaiah 52:15 Or startle

English Standard Version (ESV)

The Suffering Servant of the Lord

53 Who has believed what he has heard from us?[a]
And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?
2 For he grew up before him like a young plant,
and like a root out of dry ground;
he had no form or majesty that we should look at him,
and no beauty that we should desire him.
3 He was despised and rejected[b] by men;
a man of sorrows,[c] and acquainted with[d] grief;[e]
and as one from whom men hide their faces[f]
he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

4 Surely he has borne our griefs
and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed him stricken,
smitten by God, and afflicted.
5 But he was pierced for our transgressions;
he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
and with his wounds we are healed.
6 All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have turned—every one—to his own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.

7 He was oppressed, and he was afflicted,
yet he opened not his mouth;
like a lamb that is led to the slaughter,
and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent,
so he opened not his mouth.
8 By oppression and judgment he was taken away;
and as for his generation, who considered
that he was cut off out of the land of the living,
stricken for the transgression of my people?
9 And they made his grave with the wicked
and with a rich man in his death,
although he had done no violence,
and there was no deceit in his mouth.

10 Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him;
he has put him to grief;[g]
when his soul makes[h] an offering for guilt,
he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days;
the will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand.
11 Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see[i] and be satisfied;
by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant,
make many to be accounted righteous,
and he shall bear their iniquities.
12 Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many,[j]
and he shall divide the spoil with the strong,[k]
because he poured out his soul to death
and was numbered with the transgressors;
yet he bore the sin of many,
and makes intercession for the transgressors.

Isaiah 53:1 Or Who has believed what we have heard?
Isaiah 53:3 Or forsaken
Isaiah 53:3 Or pains; also verse 4
Isaiah 53:3 Or and knowing
Isaiah 53:3 Or sickness; also verse 4
Isaiah 53:3 Or as one who hides his face from us
Isaiah 53:10 Or he has made him sick
Isaiah 53:10 Or when you make his soul
Isaiah 53:11 Masoretic Text; Dead Sea Scroll he shall see light
Isaiah 53:12 Or with the great
Isaiah 53:12 Or with the numerous

Live Long and Prosper: The Jewish Story Behind Spock,
Leonard Nimoy's Star Trek Character 
(in rememberance, 2.27.2015)

Greeting each other by offering God's blessing

The Hebrew letter Shin is the first letter in the words:

El Shaddai - God Almighty

Shalom - peace, blessing, order, completeness

Shekhinah - the presence and glory of God which dwells among humans

Numbering Numbers

The Book of Numbers

Numbers 14:14 - "And they will tell [it] to the inhabitants of this land: [for] they have heard that thou LORD [art] among this people, that thou LORD art seen face to face, and [that] thy cloud standeth over them, and [that] thou goest before them, by day time in a pillar of a cloud, and in a pillar of fire by night."

The Old Testament - A Brief Overview

Bible Survery - Numbers

Hebrew Name - Bemidhbar "in the wilderness"
Greek Name - Numbers "numberings"
Author - Moses
Date - From 1490-1451 BC approximately
Theme - The Journey to the Promised Land
Types and Shadows - In Numbers Jesus is the Pillar of Cloud by Day and the Pillar of Fire by Night

Summary of The Book of Numbers

Quick Overview of the Book of Numbers

Chpts 1-4 - The numbering of the Israelites, the organizing of the Israelites into tribes and companies, the offices of the Levites while serving in the Tabernacle.

Chpts 5-10 - The establishing of various civil and ceremonial laws.

Chpts 11-21 - The murmuring of the Israelites in the wilderness on their way to Mount Sinai.

Chpts 22-36 - The encampment of the Israelites on the plains of Moab.

The book of Numbers takes its name from the account of the census that happened two times among the congregation of Israel in Numbers 1-4 and Numbers 26. The Greek title was used even though there is really no connection with the "numberings."

The original Hebrew title which means "in the wilderness," is much more accurate, because the book of Numbers is it's really an accurate history of the events that happened during the period of wandering in the wilderness and not necessarily a book about statistics.

The book of Numbers seems to follow naturally after the book of Leviticus in the order of the books of Moses in the Old Testament. After the children of Israel received the laws at Mount Sinai, they began the journey as described in the book of Exodus, and they were ready to march directly into the land of Canaan.

The book of Numbers reveals how the children of Israel became prepared, and went through various trials, and how they were sinful in not trusting the Lord. Their sinful ways resulted in 37 years of wandering through the harsh wilderness.

The book of Numbers concludes with the children of Israel once again at the edge of the land of Canaan, where they received instructions for the conquest of Canaan and the division of the land.

The main divisions in the book of Numbers

Outline of the Book of Numbers

1) The preparation for the departure from Sinai (1:1-10:10). The events described here took place in nineteen days. In this time a census was taken of all men who were over twenty and who could serve in military efforts (1-4). The total obtained was 603,550 (1:46). This would indicate that the total population of the group was probably near three million. The census was followed by the cleansing and blessing of the congregation (5-6), the offering of gifts from the various tribes (7), the consecration of the Levites (8) and the observance of the Passover at Sinai (9:1-14).

2 ) The journey from Sinai to Kadesh-barnea (10:11-14:45). This section includes the account of the coming of the quail (11), the rebellion against Moses by Miriam and Aaron (12), and the fateful mission of the spies (13, 14).

3) The wanderings in the desert wilderness (15-19). As noted above, this covered a period of thirty-seven years, from the end of the second to the beginning of the fortieth year in the wilderness. Ch. 15 includes various laws and a record of capital punishment for Sabbath breaking. The rebellion of Korah (ch. 16) and the budding of Aaron's rod (ch. 17) are also mentioned here.

4 ) The history of the last year, from the second arrival of the Israelites at Kadesh till they reach "the plains of Moab by Jordan near Jericho" (20-36: 13). Notable sections of this are the story of Balaam (22:2-24:25), the zeal of Phinehas (ch. 25), the second census (26:1-51) , instructions for dividing the land (26:52-27: 11), the appointment of Joshua as Moses' successor (27: 12-23), various laws concerning offerings and vows ( 28-30 ), the war with Midian (ch. 31), the settlement of the tribes east of the Jordan (ch. 32), a review of the locations at which Israel had camped during their wanderings (33: 1-49), more instructions concerning the conquest and division of Canaan (33:50-34:29 ), the appointment of the cities of refuge (ch. 35) and instructions concerning the marriage of land-owning Israelite women (ch. 36).

Canaan Before Joshua

Moab and Ammon

The Book of Numbers

The Book of Numbers (from Greek Ἀριθμοί, Arithmoi; Hebrew: במדבר‎, Bəmidbar, "In the desert [of]") is the fourth book of the Hebrew Bible, and the fourth of five books of the JewishTorah.[1]

Numbers begins at Mount Sinai, where the Israelites have received their laws and covenant from God and God has taken up residence among them in the sanctuary.[2] The task before them is to take possession of the Promised Land. The people are numbered and preparations are made for resuming their march. The Israelites begin the journey, but they "murmur" at the hardships along the way, and about the authority of Moses and Aaron. For these acts, God destroys approximately 15,000 of them through various means. They arrive at the borders of Canaan and send spies into the land, but upon hearing the spies' fearful report concerning the conditions in Canaan the Israelites refuse to take possession of it, and God condemns them to death in the wilderness until a new generation can grow up and carry out the task. The book ends with the new generation of Israelites in the Plain of Moab ready for the crossing of the Jordan River.[3]

Numbers is the culmination of the story of Israel's exodus from oppression in Egypt and their journey to take possession of the land God promised their fathers. As such it draws to a conclusion the themes introduced in Genesis and played out in Exodus and Leviticus: God has promised the Israelites that they shall become a great (i.e. numerous) nation, that they will have a special relationship with Yahweh their God, and that they shall take possession of the land of Canaan.

Numbers also demonstrates the importance of holiness, faithfulness and trust: despite God's presence and his priests, Israel lacks faith and the possession of the land is left to a new generation. The book has a long and complex history, but its final form is probably due to a Priestly redaction (i.e., editing) of a Yahwistic original text some time in the early Persian period (5th century BCE).[4]


Most commentators structure Numbers in three sections based on locale (Mount Sinai, Kadesh-Barnea and the plains of Moab), linked by two travel sections.[5] This view has the advantage of anchoring Numbers to the Pentateuch as a whole.[5]

But an alternative is to see it as structured around the two generations of those condemned to die in the wilderness and the new generation who will enter Canaan, making a theological distinction between the disobedience of the first generation and the obedience of the second.[6]

Priest, Levite, and furnishings of the Tabernacle


God orders Moses, in the wilderness of Sinai, to number those able to bear arms—of all the men "from twenty years old and upward," and to appoint princes over each tribe. 603,550 Israelites are found to be fit for military service. In chapter 26, a generation later and after approximately forty years of wandering the desert, the Lord orders a second census. 601,730 men are counted.

The tribe of Levi is exempted from military service and therefore not included in the census totals. Moses consecrates the Levites for the service of the Tabernacle in the place of the first-born sons, who hitherto had performed that service. The Levites are divided into three families, the Gershonites, the Kohathites, and the Merarites, each under a chief, and all headed by one priest, Eleazar, son of Aaron. Preparations are then made for resuming the march to the Promised Land. Various ordinances and laws are decreed.

The first journey of the Israelites after the Tabernacle had been constructed is commenced. The people murmur against God and are punished by fire; Moses complains of the stubbornness of the Israelites and is ordered to choose seventy elders to assist him in the government of the people. Miriam and Aaron insult Moses at Hazeroth, which angers God; Miriam is punished with leprosy and is shut out of camp for seven days, at the end of which the Israelites proceed to the desert of Paran. Twelve spies are sent out into Canaan and come back to report to Moses. Joshua and Caleb, two of the spies, tell that the land is abundant and is "flowing with milk and honey"; the other spies say that it is inhabited by giants, and the Israelites refuse to enter the land. Yahweh decrees that the Israelites will be punished for their loss of faith by having to wander in the wilderness for 40 years.

With the two hundred fifty censers left after God's destruction of Korah's band for questioning the authority of Moses and Aaron, Moses is ordered by God to make plates to cover the altar. The children of Israel murmur against Moses and Aaron on account of the destruction of Korah's men and are stricken with the plague, with 14,700 perishing.

Aaron and his family are declared by God to be responsible for any iniquity committed in connection with the sanctuary. The Levites are again appointed to help in the keeping of the Tabernacle. The Levites are ordered to surrender to the priests a part of the tithes taken to them.

Miriam dies at Kadesh Barnea and the Israelites set out for Moab, on Canaan's eastern border. The Israelites blame Moses for the lack of water. Moses is ordered by God to speak to a rock but disobeys, and is punished by the announcement that he shall not enter Canaan. The king of Edom refuses permission to the Israelites to pass through his land and they go round it. Aaron dies on Mount Hor. The Israelites are bitten by Fiery flying serpents for speaking against God and Moses. A brazen serpent is made to ward off these serpents.

The Israelites arrive on the plains of Moab. A new census gives the total number of males from twenty years and upward as 601,730, and the number of the Levites from a month old and upward as 23,000. The land shall be divided by lot. The daughters of Zelophehad, their father having no sons, are to share in the allotment. Moses is ordered to appoint Joshua as his successor. Prescriptions for the observance of the feasts, and the offerings for different occasions are enumerated.

Moses orders the Israelites to massacre the people of Midian. The Reubenites and the Gadites request Moses to assign them the land east of the Jordan. Moses grants their request after they promise to help in the conquest of the land west of the Jordan. The land east of the Jordan is divided among the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and the half-tribe of Manasseh.

Moses recalls the stations at which the Israelites halted during their forty years' wanderings and instructs the Israelites to exterminate the Canaanites and destroy their idols. The boundaries of the land are spelled out; the land is to be divided under the supervision of Eleazar, Joshua, and twelve princes, one of each tribe.

A Plague Inflicted on Israel While Eating the Quail
(illustration from the 1728 Figures de la Bible)


The key event in the formation of the Old Testament was the fall of the kingdom of Judah to the Babylonian empire in 586 BCE.[7] The Babylonians destroyed the city and the Temple of Solomon, executed the king's sons in front of him before putting out his eyes, and took him and many others into exile.[8] These events represented a major religious crisis: why had [Yahweh] allowed this to happen [to His people]? What had happened to the promise that the descendants of David would reign forever?[8] The answers were recorded in the works of the prophets Ezekiel, Jeremiah and Second Isaiah, and in the Deuteronomistic history, the collection of historical works from Joshua to Kings: God had not abandoned Israel; Israel had abandoned God, and the Babylonian exile was God's punishment for Israel's lack of faith.[9]

The Babylonian exile lasted approximately 48 years, from 586 to 538 BCE, and ended with the conquest of Babylon in that year by the Persians. The new Persian ruler decided to allow the exiles to return home. According to the book of Ezra-Nehemiah they did so under the joint leadership of a descendant of the last king and the last High Priest, rebuilding the Temple and reconstituting Judah (now called Yehud) as a holy community ruled by priests. It was in this period that the Pentateuch (or Torah, to give the Hebrew name) was composed, by detaching the book of Deuteronomy from the Deuteronomistic history and adding it to the books of Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus and Numbers.[10]

Balaam and the Angel (illustration from the 1493 Nuremberg Chronicle)


David A. Clines, in his influential The Themes of the Pentateuch (1978), identified the overarching theme of the five books as the partial fulfilment of a promise made by God to the patriarchs, to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. The promise has three elements:

1 - posterity (i.e., descendants – Abraham is told that his descendants will be as innumerable as the stars),

2 - divine-human relationship (Israel is to be God's chosen people), and

3 - land (the land of Canaan, cursed by Noah immediately after the Deluge).[11]

The theme of the divine-human relationship is expressed, or managed, through a series of covenants (meaning treaties, legally binding agreements) stretching from Genesis to Deuteronomy and beyond.

1 - The first is the covenant between God and Noah immediately after the Deluge in which God agrees never again to destroy the Earth [(the Noahic Covenant)]

2 - The next is between God and Abraham [(the Abrahamic Covenant)], and

3 - the third between God and all Israel at Mount Sinai [(the Mosaic Covenant)].

In this third covenant, unlike the first two, God hands down an elaborate set of laws (scattered through Exodus, Leviticus and Numbers), which the Israelites are to observe; they are also to remain faithful to Yahweh, the God of Israel, meaning, among other things, that they must put their trust in his help.[12] [sic, the Noahic Covenant]

The theme of descendants marks the first event in Numbers, the census of Israel's fighting men: the huge number which results (over 600,000) demonstrates the fulfillment of God's promise to Abraham of innumerable descendants, as well as serving as God's guarantee of victory in Canaan.[13] [sic, the Abrhamaic Covenant]

As chapters 1–10 progress the theme of God's presence with Israel comes to the fore: these chapters describe how Israel is to be organised around the Sanctuary, God's dwelling-place in their midst, under the charge of the Levites and priests, in preparation for the conquest of the land.[14] [sic, the Mosaic Covenant]

The Israelites then set out to conquer the land, but almost immediately refuse to enter it and Yahweh condemns the whole generation who left Egypt to die in the wilderness. The message is clear: failure was not due to any fault in the preparation, because Yahweh had foreseen everything, but to Israel's sin of unfaithfulness. In the final section the Israelites of the new generation follow Yahweh's instructions as given through Moses and are successful in all they attempt.[14]

The last five chapters are exclusively concerned with land: instructions for the extermination of the Canaanites, the demarcation of the boundaries of the land, how the land is to be divided, holy cities for the Levites and "cities of refuge", the problem of pollution of the land by blood, and regulations for inheritance when a male heir is lacking.[15]

Weekly Torah portions
Main article: Weekly Torah portion

Bemidbar, on Numbers 1–4: First census, priestly duties

Naso, on Numbers 4–7: Priestly duties, the camp, unfaithfulness and the Nazirite, Tabernacle consecration

Behaalotecha, on Numbers 8–12: Levites, journing by cloud and fire, complaints, questioning of Moses

Shlach, on Numbers 13–15: Mixed report of the scouts and Israel's response, libations, bread, idol worship, fringes

Korach, on Numbers 16–18: Korah’s rebellion, plague, Aaron’s staff buds, duties of the Levites

Chukat, on Numbers 19–21: Red heifer, water from a rock, Miriam’s and Aaron’s deaths, victories, serpents

Balak, on Numbers 22–25: Balaam's donkey and blessing

Pinechas, on Numbers 25–29: Phinehas, second census, inheritance, Moses' successor, offerings and holidays

Matot, on Numbers 30–32: Vows, Midian, dividing booty, land for Reuben, Gad, and half of Manasseh

Masei, on Numbers 33–36: Stations of the Israelites’ journeys, instructions for conquest, cities for Levites

* * * * * * * * * * * *

Numbers 14

English Standard Version (ESV)

God Promises Judgement

6 And the men whom Moses sent to spy out the land, who returned and made all the congregation grumble against him by bringing up a bad report about the land— 37 the men who brought up a bad report of the land - died by plague before the Lord. 38 Of those men who went to spy out the land, only Joshua the son of Nun and Caleb the son of Jephunneh remained alive.


Numbers 15
English Standard Version (ESV)

A Sabbathbreaker Executed

32 While the people of Israel were in the wilderness, they found a man gathering sticks on the Sabbath day. 33 And those who found him gathering sticks brought him to Moses and Aaron and to all the congregation. 34 They put him in custody, because it had not been made clear what should be done to him. 35 And the Lord said to Moses,

The man shall be put to death; all the congregation shall
stone him with stones outside the camp.”

36 And all the congregation brought him outside the camp and stoned him to death with stones, as the Lord commanded Moses.


Numbers 16
English Standard Version (ESV)

Korah's Rebellion

16 Now Korah the son of Izhar, son of Kohath, son of Levi, and Dathan and Abiram the sons of Eliab, and On the son of Peleth, sons of Reuben, took men.2 And they rose up before Moses, with a number of the people of Israel, 250 chiefs of the congregation, chosen from the assembly, well-known men. 3 They assembled themselves together against Moses and against Aaron and said to them,

You have gone too far! For all in the congregation are holy, every one of them, and the Lord
is among them. Why then do you exalt yourselves above the assembly of the Lord?”

4 When Moses heard it, he fell on his face, 5 and he said to Korah and all his company,

“In the morning the Lord will show who is his,[a] and who is holy, and will bring him near to him. The one whom he chooses he will bring near to him. 6 Do this: take censers, Korah and all his company; 7 put fire in them and put incense on them before the Lord tomorrow, and the man whom the Lord chooses shall be the holy one. You have gone too far, sons of Levi!

8 And Moses said to Korah,

“Hear now, you sons of Levi: 9 is it too small a thing for you that the God of Israel has separated you from the congregation of Israel, to bring you near to himself, to do service in the tabernacle of the Lord and to stand before the congregation to minister to them, 10 and that he has brought you near him, and all your brothers the sons of Levi with you? And would you seek the priesthood also? 11 Therefore it is against the Lord that you and all your company have gathered together. What is Aaron that you grumble against him?”

12 And Moses sent to call Dathan and Abiram the sons of Eliab, and they said,

We will not come up. 13 Is it a small thing that you have brought us up out of a land flowing with milk and honey, to kill us in the wilderness, that you must also make yourself a prince over us? 14 Moreover, you have not brought us into a land flowing with milk and honey, nor given us inheritance of fields and vineyards. Will you put out the eyes of these men? We will not come up.”

15 And Moses was very angry and said to the Lord,

“Do not respect their offering. I have not taken one donkey from them
and I have not harmed one of them.”

16 And Moses said to Korah,

“Be present, you and all your company, before the Lord, you and they, and Aaron, tomorrow. 17 And let every one of you take his censer and put incense on it, and every one of you bring before the Lord his censer, 250 censers; you also, and Aaron, each his censer.”

18 So every man took his censer and put fire in them and laid incense on them and stood at the entrance of the tent of meeting with Moses and Aaron. 19 Then Korah assembled all the congregation against them at the entrance of the tent of meeting. And the glory of the Lord appeared to all the congregation.

20 And the Lord spoke to Moses and to Aaron, saying,

21 “Separate yourselves from among this congregation,
hat I may consume them in a moment.”

22 And they (Moses and Aaron) fell on their faces and said,

“O God, the God of the spirits of all flesh, shall one man sin,
and will you be angry with all the congregation?”

23 And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying,

24 “Say to the congregation, Get away from
the dwelling of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram.”

25 Then Moses rose and went to Dathan and Abiram, and the elders of Israel followed him. 26 And he spoke to the congregation, saying,

“Depart, please, from the tents of these wicked men, and touch nothing of theirs,
lest you be swept away with all their sins.”

27 So they got away from the dwelling of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram. And Dathan and Abiram came out and stood at the door of their tents, together with their wives, their sons, and their little ones. 28 And Moses said,

“Hereby you shall know that the Lord has sent me to do all these works, and that it has not been of my own accord. 29 If these men die as all men die, or if they are visited by the fate of all mankind, then the Lord has not sent me. 30 But if the Lord creates something new, and the ground opens its mouth and swallows them up with all that belongs to them, and they go down alive into Sheol, then you shall know that these men have despised the Lord.”

31 And as soon as he had finished speaking all these words, the ground under them split apart. 32 And the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them up, with their households and all the people who belonged to Korah and all their goods. 33 So they, and all that belonged to them, went down alive into Sheol, and the earth closed over them, and they perished from the midst of the assembly. 34 And all Israel who were around them fled at their cry, for they said,

“Lest the earth swallow us up!”

35 And fire came out from the Lord and consumed the 250 men offering the incense.

36 [b] Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying,

37 “Tell Eleazar the son of Aaron the priest to take up the censers out of the blaze. Then scatter the fire far and wide, for they have become holy. 38 As for the censers of these men who have sinned at the cost of their lives, let them be made into hammered plates as a covering for the altar, for they offered them before the Lord, and they became holy. Thus they shall be a sign to the people of Israel.”

39 So Eleazar the priest took the bronze censers, which those who were burned had offered, and they were hammered out as a covering for the altar, 40 to be a reminder to the people of Israel, so that no outsider, who is not of the descendants of Aaron, should draw near to burn incense before the Lord, lest he become like Korah and his company—as the Lord said to him through Moses.

41 But on the next day all the congregation of the people of Israel grumbled against Moses and against Aaron, saying,

“You have killed the people of the Lord.”

42 And when the congregation had assembled against Moses and against Aaron, they turned toward the tent of meeting. And behold, the cloud covered it, and the glory of the Lord appeared. 43 And Moses and Aaron came to the front of the tent of meeting, 44 and the Lord spoke to Moses, saying,

45 “Get away from the midst of this congregation,
that I may consume them in a moment.”

And they fell on their faces. 46 And Moses said to Aaron,

“Take your censer, and put fire on it from off the altar and lay incense on it and carry it quickly to the congregation and make atonement for them, for wrath has gone out from the Lord; the plague has begun.

47 So Aaron took it as Moses said and ran into the midst of the assembly. And behold, the plague had already begun among the people. And he put on the incense and made atonement for the people. 48 And he stood between the dead and the living, and the plague was stopped. 49 Now those who died in the plague were 14,700, besides those who died in the affair of Korah. 50 And Aaron returned to Moses at the entrance of the tent of meeting, when the plague was stopped.

Numbers 16:5 Septuagint The Lord knows those who are his
Numbers 16:36 Ch 17:1 in Hebrew


Numbers 17
English Standard Version (ESV)

Aaron's Staff Buds

17 [a] The Lord spoke to Moses, saying,

2 “Speak to the people of Israel, and get from them staffs, one for each fathers' house, from all their chiefs according to their fathers' houses, twelve staffs. Write each man's name on his staff, 3 and write Aaron's name on the staff of Levi. For there shall be one staff for the head of each fathers' house. 4 Then you shall deposit them in the tent of meeting before the testimony, where I meet with you. 5 And the staff of the man whom I choose shall sprout. Thus I will make to cease from me the grumblings of the people of Israel, which they grumble against you.”

6 Moses spoke to the people of Israel. And all their chiefs gave him staffs, one for each chief, according to their fathers' houses, twelve staffs. And the staff of Aaron was among their staffs. 7 And Moses deposited the staffs before the Lord in the tent of the testimony.

8 On the next day Moses went into the tent of the testimony, and behold, the staff of Aaron for the house of Levi had sprouted and put forth buds and produced blossoms, and it bore ripe almonds. 9 Then Moses brought out all the staffs from before the Lord to all the people of Israel. And they looked, and each man took his staff. 10 And the Lord said to Moses,

“Put back the staff of Aaron before the testimony, to be kept as a sign for the rebels,
that you may make an end of their grumblings against me, lest they die.”

11 Thus did Moses; as the Lord commanded him, so he did.

12 And the people of Israel said to Moses,

“Behold, we perish, we are undone, we are all undone. 13 Everyone who comes near,
who comes near to the tabernacle of the Lord, shall die. Are we all to perish?”

Numbers 17:1 Ch 17:16 in Hebrew


Numbers 18
English Standard Version (ESV)

Duties of Priests and Levites

18 So the Lord said to Aaron,

“You and your sons and your father's house with you shall bear iniquity connected with the sanctuary, and you and your sons with you shall bear iniquity connected with your priesthood. 2 And with you bring your brothers also, the tribe of Levi, the tribe of your father, that they may join you and minister to you while you and your sons with you are before the tent of the testimony. 3 They shall keep guard over you and over the whole tent, but shall not come near to the vessels of the sanctuary or to the altar lest they, and you, die. 4 They shall join you and keep guard over the tent of meeting for all the service of the tent, and no outsider shall come near you.5 And you shall keep guard over the sanctuary and over the altar, that there may never again be wrath on the people of Israel. 6 And behold, I have taken your brothers the Levites from among the people of Israel. They are a gift to you, given to the Lord, to do the service of the tent of meeting. 7 And you and your sons with you shall guard your priesthood for all that concerns the altar and that is within the veil; and you shall serve. I give your priesthood as a gift,[a] and any outsider who comes near shall be put to death.”

8 Then the Lord spoke to Aaron,

“Behold, I have given you charge of the contributions made to me, all the consecrated things of the people of Israel. I have given them to you as a portion and to your sons as a perpetual due....