Saturday, August 10, 2013

Deuteronomy 1 - 6




Plan for week of Aug 4, 2013
Aug 5, Monday - Numbers 6 - 12
Aug 6, Tuesday - Numbers 13 - 17
Aug 7, Wednesday - Numbers 18 - 22
Aug 8, Thursday - Numbers 23 - 29
Aug 9, Friday - Numbers 30 - 36
Aug 10, Saturday - Deuteronomy 1 - 6

Background
The year is 1406 B.C. We are located at Moab - the last camp ground in the wilderness. Our next plan is to cross Jordan and begin the conquest of Canaan - 'The Promised Land.' We were at this very same spot, 38 years ago. According to the LORD, our great leader Moses, will not be crossing into the promised land, and his time is almost up. He appointed Joshua as his successor, who will be leading us from here on. At this juncture, as we are camped here for forty days, LORD'S friend and our leader, Moses wants to give us a valedictory address.

In the Book of Deuteronomy, we come across a series of three speeches by Moses, grouped together as a long valedictory address.

- Speech # 1: Recalls the forty years of wilderness wanderings

- Speech # 2: Reminds the need for exclusive allegiance to one God and observance of the laws he has given them

- Speech # 3: Offers the comfort that with repentance everything lost can be restored.

It is not exactly a 'swan song' by Moses' as many may wonder. As a young Jewish boy, Jesus Christ was well versed with The Book of Deuteronomy. He quoted from this book on three occasions during His temptation - Deut. 8:3; 6:13; 6:16. When asked about the greatest commandment, Jesus again quoted Duet 6:5.

Key Characters in this book are Moses and Joshua, and the theme is about the renewal of the covenant. Recurring references are made about God's Love. Essentially this book is a lot of recap of past events and we won't dive into too much details. I hope my readers won't complain if I back off on some of the details. One can sense the bitterness in Moses' words as he is not allowed to enter the promised land (in spite of all these wanderings). He blames Israel quite a bit for their sufferings and his fate as well.


For today's tour, we will look at chapters 1 thru 6.
- Duet 1 - 3: How did we get here (Exodus 10 - 36)
- Duet 4 - 6: The laws.

Events at Horeb Recalled
The LORD our God said to us at Horeb, “You have stayed long enough at this mountain. Break camp and advance into the hill country of the Amorites; go to all the neighboring peoples in the Arabah, in the mountains, in the western foothills, in the Negev and along the coast, to the land of the Canaanites and to Lebanon, as far as the great river, the Euphrates. See, I have given you this land. Go in and take possession of the land the LORD swore he would give to your fathers - to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob - and to their descendants after them.”

Appointment of Tribal Leaders
Moses recalls that he had to appoint tribal leaders, to help him out because Israel had become too heavy a burden for him to carry alone.

"Men were appointed to be leaders, and charged with judging the Israelites impartially, hearing “both small and great alike.”

Spies Sent Out
Here Moses is alluding to sending out of those spies (Numbers 13) saying, "Then all of you came to me and said, 'Let us send men ahead to spy out the land for us and bring back a report about the route we are to take and the towns we will come to.'"

The spies came back and reported that the land which LORD was giving them was veritably an excellent one.

Rebellion Against the LORD
As in Numbers 14, Moses now recounts the refusal to enter the promised land on account of giants, and they did not listen to the commands of LORD. Therefore, LORD swore nobody from current generation except Joshua and Caleb would enter the promised land. Some of those men changed their minds and went straight ahead - only to be defeated by Amorites and chased like a 'swarm of bees.'

In verse 37, Moses, with bitterness, blames the Israelites and says that it was due to their fault, LORD punished him. 

37 Because of you the LORD became angry with me also and said, “You shall not enter it, either.  

Wandering in the Desert
Moses had documented their wanderings and is now reading them out to the newer generation. They had:
- traveled around the “hill country of Seir” 
- came to the territory of the descendants of Esau, 
- the Israelites passed by the descendants of Esau, and came to Moab. 
- later, when a generation of Israelites had died, they came back to the land of the Moabites. 

Defeat of Sihon King of Heshbon
- Moses sent messengers to Sihon with a peace offering, asking for permission to travel through his land.
- Sihon wouldn't let them pass through
- the LORD asked them to conquer Sihon, and take over the land.
- They destroyed Sihon, killing all of the men, women and children, and took the livestock and plunder as their own.

Defeat of Og King of Bashan
Moses recalls their approach at Bahsan. 
- Og is described as a very large man, whose iron bed was 14 ft tall and 6 ft wide. 
- Og and his whole army came out to meet them in battle.
- The LORD, however, reassured them: “Do not be afraid of him, for I have handed him over to you with his whole army and his land. Do to him what you did to Sihon king of the Amorites, who reigned in Heshbon.”
- The Israelites defeated Sihon, they defeated Og, capturing all of his cities and leaving no survivors. 
- They captured 60 cities, even though they were “fortified with high walls and with gates and bars” 

Division of the Land
Moses recounts how the Reubenites and the Gadites took possession of the land East of the Jordan River. 
He also reiterates their agreement:
18 "I commanded you at that time: “The LORD, your God has given you this land to take possession of it. But all your able-bodied men, armed for battle, must cross over ahead of the other Israelites. 

19 However, your wives, your children and your livestock (I know you have much livestock) may stay in the towns I have given you, 

20 until the LORD gives rest to your fellow Israelites as he has to you, and they too have taken over the land that the LORD your God is giving them across the Jordan. After that, each of you may go back to the possession I have given you.”

Moses Forbidden to Cross the Jordan
Here Moses gives us a detailed account of him being forbidden to enter the Promised Land. I am quoting all those verses here, as I join with Moses in his sentiments. Moses sincerely means all of which he is saying to his Best Friend - LORD. Moses understood that LORD is fair and just and finally accepted the truth. He continues to believe so, even while LORD is turning down his request to enter the Promised Land. Here, in these verses below, Moses is clinging to the notion that LORD is angry with him because of the Israelites.

21 At that time I commanded Joshua: “You have seen with your own eyes all that the LORD your God has done to these two kings. The LORD will do the same to all the kingdoms over there where you are going. 

22 Do not be afraid of them; the LORD your God himself will fight for you.”

23 At that time I pleaded with the LORD: 

24 “Sovereign LORD  you have begun to show to your servant your greatness and your strong hand. For what god is there in heaven or on earth who can do the deeds and mighty works you do? 

25 Let me go over and see the good land beyond the Jordan—that fine hill country and Lebanon.”

26 But because of you the LORD was angry with me and would not listen to me. “That is enough,” the LORD said. “Do not speak to me anymore about this matter. 

27 Go up to the top of Pisgah and look west and north and south and east. Look at the land with your own eyes, since you are not going to cross this Jordan. 

28 But commission Joshua, and encourage and strengthen him, for he will lead this people across and will cause them to inherit the land that you will see.” 

29 So we stayed in the valley near Beth Peor.

This concludes the first part of 'How did we get here.' Next, in chapters 4 - 6, we will see the laws. 

Obedience Commanded
This part essentially sums up the entire book of Deuteronomy. I will be unable to match up what Moses addressed the crowd in chapter 4. Hence, let us gather with the crowd and listen to what Moses said - I am quoting the verses as they appear in NIV. Recall that Mount Horeb = Mount Sinai. 

1 Now, Israel, hear the decrees and laws I am about to teach you. Follow them so that you may live and may go in and take possession of the land the LORD, the God of your ancestors, is giving you. 

2 Do not add to what I command you and do not subtract from it, but keep the commands of the LORD your God that I give you.

3 You saw with your own eyes what the LORD did at Baal Peor. The LORD your God destroyed from among you everyone who followed the Baal of Peor, 

4 but all of you who held fast to the LORD your God are still alive today.

5 See, I have taught you decrees and laws as the LORD my God commanded me, so that you may follow them in the land you are entering to take possession of it. 

6 Observe them carefully, for this will show your wisdom and understanding to the nations, who will hear about all these decrees and say, “Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.” 

7 What other nation is so great as to have their gods near them the way the LORD our God is near us whenever we pray to him? 

8 And what other nation is so great as to have such righteous decrees and laws as this body of laws I am setting before you today?

9 Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them fade from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them. 

10 Remember the day you stood before the LORD your God at Horeb, when he said to me, “Assemble the people before me to hear my words so that they may learn to revere me as long as they live in the land and may teach them to their children.” 

11 You came near and stood at the foot of the mountain while it blazed with fire to the very heavens, with black clouds and deep darkness. 

12 Then the LORD spoke to you out of the fire. You heard the sound of words but saw no form; there was only a voice. 

13 He declared to you his covenant, the Ten Commandments, which he commanded you to follow and then wrote them on two stone tablets. 

14 And the LORD directed me at that time to teach you the decrees and laws you are to follow in the land that you are crossing the Jordan to possess.

Idolatry Forbidden
This should be a familiar message to the Israelites, where Moses tells them not to create any type of idols. When God had spoken to them on Mount Sinai, He had shown them no form - He didn't come down looking like an old man with a long white beard; nor did He come looking like a lion, or a bull, or anything else. Any image, even if it were intended to look like God, would be a poor representation, and not do Him justice. Finally, he tells them one important matter: 

24 For the LORD your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God.

Jealousy, here, is portrayed in a positive way, where LORD seeks all our attention and love. When people worship false gods, God calls it adultery. The Israelites were to worship God, and God alone; when they didn't, He reacted with a “Holy Jealousy.”

The LORD Is God
In two related arguments, Moses is building up this passage saying our LORD Is God: 
- There are no other gods besides God Himself. 
- The Israelites should remember all those good and bad things that God has done for them so far, and thus continue trusting in Him going forward. 

Cities of Refuge
Moses says that he has set aside three 'Cities of Refuge' east of Jordan, for anyone who has killed a person unintentionally without animosity or afterthought. 

Introduction to the Law
This is the introduction to the second speech of Moses. It's a basic introduction to the laws that Moses is about to reiterate for the Israelites. A good portion of the book of Deuteronomy will be Moses reminding the Israelites of the laws that the LORD has handed down, which is to follow. 

The Ten Commandments
Moses summoned the younger generation of Israel and re-iterated the Ten Commandments:

1. They were not to have any gods before (or besides) God.
2. They were not to create idols, of any form, and they were not to bow down or worship idols. 
3. They were not to “misuse” the LORD’s name.
4. They were to observe the Sabbath, keeping it holy, by doing no work on that day.
5. They were to honor their parents.
6. They were not to murder.
7. They were not to commit adultery. 
8. They were not to steal
9. They were not to give 'false testimony' against their neighbor
10 They were not to covet things others had.

Love the LORD Your God
After stating the reasons for these rules/laws, Moses is trying to set priorities among those rules - to put LORD first. He utters the popular quote by Jesus - the one about the greatest commandment. 

4 Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. 
5 Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.

Moses instructs them about how to preserve these rules and regulations; the ones which he is handing them over. He tells them: 
- they are not just to be written down in the rule-books; 
- they are to be consulted when necessary; 
- they’re to be written on the Israelites’ hearts. 
- they are to teach the rules to their children; 
- they are to be constantly thinking about them, 
- they are to be discussing them with each other.

Moses warns them that when they arrive at a new land with all the facilities and amenities, they have to be careful not to forget Him. 

He adds that our LORD is a jealous God and His anger will burn against those who follow other gods. Advice follows to always do what is right and good in the LORD’S sight. 


----------------Additional Info
Philactories or Tefeillin
When Moses told the Israelites to tie the LORD’s commands on their hands and bind them to their foreheads, Israelites did it literally. They created a set of small black leather boxes containing scrolls of parchment inscribed with verses from the Torah, which are worn by observant Jews during weekday morning prayers. 

Two Boxes of Tefellin (left). A Jewish soldier wearing tefillin during prayers (right). 

The hand-tefillin is placed on the upper arm, and the strap wrapped around the arm, hand and fingers; while the head-tefillin is placed above the forehead. The Torah commands that they should be worn to serve as a "sign" and "remembrance" that God brought the children of Israel out of Egypt. On days of Sabbath and holidays, it is not used. 

Christians do not use it, as they think Moses told so, metaphorically.



"For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart." 
~  Hebrews 4:12

Friday, August 9, 2013

Numbers 30 - 36

Moses Ordering the Slaughter of the Midianites - Moeyaert, Claes Cornelisz - 1650

Plan for week of Aug 4, 2013
Aug 5, Monday - Numbers 6 - 12
Aug 6, Tuesday - Numbers 13 - 17
Aug 7, Wednesday - Numbers 18 - 22
Aug 8, Thursday - Numbers 23 - 29
Aug 9, Friday - Numbers 30 - 36
Aug 10, Saturday - Deuteronomy 1 - 6

Vows
Chapter 30 talks about vows and obligations to the LORD made by men and women. Many of the rules in this chapter pertain specifically to women, whether they lived at home with their father, were married and stayed with husband, or were divorced/widowed. The reason has to do with the power structure of the Israelite society, when it came to gender - the men had power, and the women didn’t.

Vows involved promising a sacrifice or some other gift to God in anticipation of divine blessing. Obligations imposed positive requirements or restrictions on a person.

Rule for men:
If a man made a vow to the LORD, or some other oath or pledge, he had to do everything he had vowed to do.

Rules for women: 
(a) For those who lived at home with their father:
- If a young woman were to make a vow, her father would have the ability to nullify it, if he wished. If he heard about the vow, and forbid it, it would become null and void, and the young woman would no longer be bound by it. The LORD would “release her” from her promise.
- If the father didn't say anything, when he heard about the vow, then that would count as implicit agreement.

(b) For a young woman who lived with her father and made a vow, who then got married and lived with her husband:
- her husband would then have the opportunity to nullify it, similar to the way her father could have.
- Just like with fathers, if the husband heard about the vow but didn't say anything, that would count as implicit agreement.

(c) The same rules would apply
- if a married woman made a vow; her husband would have the ability to nullify the vow, when he heard about it. And if he didn't say anything, it would count as implicit agreement.
- If the husband heard about a vow, and didn't say anything about it at the time, but then later on nullified it, then he would become responsible for the vow, instead of her.

(d) Any vow taken by a widow, or a divorced woman, would be binding on her.

Vengeance on Midanites
Back in the camp, The LORD said to Moses, “Take vengeance on the Midianites for the Israelites. After that, you will be gathered to your people.”

Midianites were the ones by which Israel was seduced, resulting in a plague, killing 24,000 men.

Moses picked 1,000 men from each tribe of Israel, and sent out 12,000 troops, to fight the Midianites,  He also sent with them Phinehas (Eleazar’s son), who carried with him sfew articles from the sanctuary and some trumpets, for signaling.

The Israelites waged war and killed every male member. They also killed the five kings of Midian - Evi, Rekem, Zur, Hur, and Reba. Prophet Balaam, who lived with the Midianites was killed by Phinehas. They took the women, children, and plunder for themselves. They brought all of the spoils of war back to Moses, Eleazar, and the rest of the community.

The Women of Midian Led Captive by Hebrews - Tissot 

Upon seeing this, Moses was angry with the officers, and said,

“Have you allowed all the women to live?” he asked them. “They were the ones who followed Balaam’s advice and were the means of turning the Israelites away from the LORD in what happened at Peor, so that a plague struck the LORD’s people. Now kill all the boys. And kill every woman who has slept with a man, but save for yourselves every girl who has never slept with a man.” (verses 15–18)

In my opinion, war is a peculiar human activity, which can bring out some of our best traits, such as courage and self-sacrifice, yet also elicit tremendous cruelty and suffering.

Moses then instructed a clean up procedure - anyone who killed anyone, or who touched a dead body, should stay outside the camp for seven days, as part of the cleansing process. They were to follow all the rules for a person who had touched a dead body. Eleazar also instructed them that any articles they have that can be passed through the fire must be passed through, and then cleansed with the water of cleansing. Anything that can’t be passed through fire must be cleansed with the water of cleansing.

To give you a clue what the soldiers took:
- 675,000 sheep
- 72,000 cattle
- 61,000 donkeys
- 32,000 virgin girls.

Moses then instructed the people to divide their spoils between the soldiers, who took part in the battle, and the rest of the Israelites. Then they were to take the Levites’ share - 1 out of every 500 items.

The officers of the army then came back to Moses and reported that not a single member of the Israelite army was missing. They had wiped out the entire Midianite nation, without a single casualty. To thank the LORD for this accomplishment, they presented an additional offering: all of the gold articles they acquired - 190 kilograms of gold.

The Transjordan Tribes
The lands of the Amorites and of Bashan, were well suited to raise cattle and sheep. The tribes of Reuben and Gad owned great numbers of flocks. Hence, the leaders of these two tribes approached Moses and asked if they could be given the land of the Amorites and Bashan as their share of the conquest, instead of their due part in the land of Canaan, across the Jordan. Half the tribe of Manasseh joined the two tribes in their request.

Moses did not like the idea of them sitting idle, watching their flocks, while their brothers waged wars against the natives of Canaan. The men of Reuben, Gad and Manasseh said that their families and flocks would remain on the east side of the Jordan while they fought shoulder to shoulder with their brothers until the complete conquest of Canaan. They would also be in the forefront of the fight.

Moses agreed to this agreement. The women and children of these tribes immediately settled in Transjordania. The men, however, were among the vanguard of the Jewish troops. Only after the entire Holy Land was conquered, did they return to their families and flocks in Transjordania.

Stages in Israel's Journey
Here we can see the long list of stops made by the Israelites - Thanks to Moses for keeping track of all these; LORD had instructed him to do so. You can read them in the Bible in Numbers 33.

For those who are fascinated by geography, here is a tool - BibleMap.org Click on it and it should open up a new window. Plug in the book and chapter of Bible you are referring to - in this case, Numbers 33. It will show a list of all the places with description.


Play with it, and you will gain some interesting insight.

One particular thing I want to point out, while we are still in this chapter. This has some ramification in later part of our tour. Remember the land of Canaan was a haven for idol worshipers? LORD gives a warning to Moses in verse 50, as to what to do with them.

50 On the plains of Moab by the Jordan across from Jericho the Lord said to Moses,
51 “Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘When you cross the Jordan into Canaan,
52 drive out all the inhabitants of the land before you. Destroy all their carved images and their cast idols, and demolish all their high places.
53 Take possession of the land and settle in it, for I have given you the land to possess.
54 Distribute the land by lot, according to your clans. To a larger group give a larger inheritance, and to a smaller group a smaller one. Whatever falls to them by lot will be theirs. Distribute it according to your ancestral tribes.
55 “‘But if you do not drive out the inhabitants of the land, those you allow to remain will become barbs in your eyes and thorns in your sides. They will give you trouble in the land where you will live.
56 And then I will do to you what I plan to do to them.’”

'High places' in verse 52 refers to altars on top of mountains for Baal and other gods. We will see the Israelites do not follow this rule verbatim and suffer the consequence. Idol worshipers emerge and spread like a virus. Israelites think they are the children of LORD and cannot be harmed - which is not the case.

Boundaries of Canaan
Anybody in the real estate business might find this chapter interesting as it talks about boundaries of the land, which is going to be called 'Promised Land.' I am not going to explain it in detail here. BibleMap.org was not of much help as many of the names in the Bible were the old names and they have changed since.

Joshua and Eleazar (the high priest) are the ones designated to divide up the land among those nine and a half tribes (earlier, two and a half tribes took their land on the other side of the Jordan). Many tribal leaders are available to assist Joshua and Eleazar.

Towns for the Levites
Since the Levites weren't supposed to have any land of their own, the Israelites were to allocate 48 towns for the Levites, out of their land.

Cities of Refuge
If someone accidentally killed another person, they could flee to a "city of refuge", to escape the “avenger” of the person who died. Six of the towns given to the Levites were to be designated “cities of refuge.” - three cities of refuge on each side of the river.

Cities of refuge were not just for Israelites; aliens living in the country would fall under the same laws. One or other 'city of refuge' could be reached in less than a day's journey from any part of the land. Man-slayers could flee for refuge, and be safe, till they had a fair trial.

If an Israelite accidentally killed someone, and fled to a city of refuge, he had to stay there, inside the city, until the death of the High Priest.

If the ACCUSED ever ventured outside of the city, and the avenger of blood found him and killed him, the avenger could kill him, without being guilty of murder. Only after the death of the High Priest would the ACCUSED ever be allowed to return to his own property.

Rules regarding murder
Anyone who struck another person with an object, killing that person, would be considered a murderer, and was to be put to death. Many rules of murder are given in here -

If a person was on trial for murder, there had to be at least two witnesses giving testimony for the person to be put to death for the murder. One witness would not be sufficient.

If a person was found guilty of murder, no ransom was to be accepted, to buy back his life; he was to be put to death.

If the accused fled to a city of refuge, no ransom was to be accepted, to allow him to return to his property; he was to remain in the city of refuge until the death of the High Priest.

A final advice from LORD:
33 “‘Do not pollute the land where you are. Bloodshed pollutes the land, and atonement cannot be made for the land on which blood has been shed, except by the blood of the one who shed it.
34 Do not defile the land where you live and where I dwell, for I, the Lord, dwell among the Israelites.’”

Inheritance of Zelophehad’s Daughters
Remember the daughters of Zelophehad from yesterday, who would get their father's inheritance?

Members from the clan of Manesseh approached Moses, worried that Zelophehad’s daughters might marry men outside the clan, resulting in the property leaving the clan.

Moses consulted with the LORD.

LORD agreed it to be a valid point and ordered so: "They may marry anyone they please as long as they marry within the tribal clan of their father. No inheritance in Israel is to pass from tribe to tribe, for every Israelite shall keep the tribal land inherited from his forefathers. Every daughter who inherits land in any Israelite tribe must marry someone in her father’s tribal clan, so that every Israelite will possess the inheritance of his fathers. No inheritance may pass from tribe to tribe, for each Israelite tribe is to keep the land it inherits.”

So Zelophehad’s daughters do as commanded, and marry cousins on their father’s side, to keep the land within their own tribe.

Marriage is always a happy occasion and shall we whistle a tune and say, "The daughters of Zelophehad stayed happily every after - THE END"

The Daughters of Zelophehad

Reading Assignment:
Numbers 30
Numbers 31
Numbers 32
Numbers 33
Numbers 34
Numbers 35
Numbers 36


For those on this journey:
This completes the tour on the Book of Numbers. So far, we've covered the following books:

  1. Genesis
  2. Exodus
  3. Leviticus
  4. Numbers

One month has flow by, since we started our 'guided tour'. Our current goal is to complete Old Testament by Christmas - to learn and understand why Jesus Christ came into this world. Within the allotted time-span, this is the best tour I can provide. To a certain extend, I maybe able to lead you towards the Holy Bible, but it's your sole decision to read it now, later, or never. Agreed - it takes time to read the Bible and sure enough, it is a thick book. We have our own priorities, duties and responsibilities to fulfill as well. All I am asking is, "Try out a cursory reading."

Thanks to those occasional corrections I receive - they have been incorporated as soon as they've been called out. Let them keep pouring in.

I am clueless as to how many individuals are reading this (or following any of what is written here) regularly. Even if there is none, If LORD permits, I would still continue at this pace and take it to the finish line. Since I am not that privileged to hear any comments or suggestions, I contemplate one of the two - (a) nobody is following (anything) (b) nobody wants to tell me anything. During the early days, many wrote and gave feedback - sure they helped. Whatever be the case, it's been a rewarding experience. If LORD permits, I am already planning to come back this route again (and again, maybe?) even without an audience!

Will move on to Deuteronomy tomorrow.


Thursday, August 8, 2013

Numbers 23 - 29

King Balak of Moab and Prophet Balaam



Plan for week of Aug 4, 2013
Aug 5, Monday - Numbers 6 - 12
Aug 6, Tuesday - Numbers 13 - 17
Aug 7, Wednesday - Numbers 18 - 22
Aug 8, Thursday - Numbers 23 - 29
Aug 9, Friday - Numbers 30 - 36
Aug 10, Saturday - Deuteronomy 1 - 6

Couple of things related to yesterday's tour.
- The elders of Moab have been tracking the progress of Israel, and they noticed the fall of two powerful kings - Sihon and Og. King Balak of Moab was a wise king, who was entrusted the mission of defeating Israelites. Hence, he wanted to be cautious and hired the services of Balaam, who was considered a prophet and sorcerer.

- At first, Balaam refused to go when the king's men came to his door. King Balak was persistent and sent a second invitation promising more gold and silver. Balaam also had personal interest in defeating the Israelites. It was during the second invitation, Balaam set out his journey on his donkey (which we saw yesterday). Balaam's job was to offer sacrifices to Baal and to curse the Israelites. Recall that the Canaanites were idol worshipers and Baal was one of their gods - they set up sacrifices on top of mountains. Balaam's words were controlled by the LORD and he did not have any means to curse the Israelites.

Balaam’s First Message
When king Balak heard of Balaam's arrival, he welcomed him and took the prophet up to the heights sacred to Baal, called Bamoth Baal, from where they could see the utmost parts of Israel. There they built seven altars, upon which they sacrificed seven bulls and seven rams. Balaam then uttered the first irresistible and inspired oracle in favor of Israel:

“Balak brought me from Aram,
    the king of Moab from the eastern mountains.
‘Come,’ he said, ‘curse Jacob for me;
    come, denounce Israel.’
 How can I curse
    those whom God has not cursed?
How can I denounce
    those whom the Lord has not denounced?
 From the rocky peaks I see them,
    from the heights I view them.
I see a people who live apart
    and do not consider themselves one of the nations.
 Who can count the dust of Jacob
    or number even a fourth of Israel?
Let me die the death of the righteous,
    and may my final end be like theirs!”

King Balak became angry at Balaam for blessing his enemies instead of cursing them. But Balaam said that he could only speak what the LORD puts in his mouth.

Balaam’s Second Message
Now king Balak took Balaam to another point of outlook atop Mt. Pisgah and built seven altars, seven bulls and seven rams for Baal, where the entire Israelite camp was visible. King Balak's idea was that Balaam maybe able to curse the Israelites once he was able to see their camp. Here Balaam received an oracle which was an even stronger blessing on Israel

“Arise, Balak, and listen;
    hear me, son of Zippor.
 God is not human, that he should lie,
    not a human being, that he should change his mind.
Does he speak and then not act?
    Does he promise and not fulfill?
 I have received a command to bless;
    he has blessed, and I cannot change it.
 “No misfortune is seen in Jacob,
    no misery observed in Israel.
The Lord their God is with them;
    the shout of the King is among them.
 God brought them out of Egypt;
    they have the strength of a wild ox.
 There is no divination against Jacob,
    no evil omens against Israel.
It will now be said of Jacob
    and of Israel, ‘See what God has done!’
 The people rise like a lioness;
    they rouse themselves like a lion
that does not rest till it devours its prey
    and drinks the blood of its victims.”

King Balak ordered Balaam, “Neither curse them at all nor bless them at all!”

Balaam answered, “Did I not tell you I must do whatever the LORD says?”

Balaam’s Third Message
The king then took the soothsayer to Mt. Peor, overlooking the wasteland, built seven altars, sacrificed seven bulls and seven rams. Impressed by the magnificent sight of Israel's encampment, the following blessings pour out of Balaam's mouth:

How beautiful are your tents, Jacob,
    your dwelling places, Israel!
“Like valleys they spread out,
    like gardens beside a river,
like aloes planted by the Lord,
    like cedars beside the waters.
Water will flow from their buckets;
    their seed will have abundant water.
“Their king will be greater than Agag;
    their kingdom will be exalted.
“God brought them out of Egypt;
    they have the strength of a wild ox.
They devour hostile nations
    and break their bones in pieces;
    with their arrows they pierce them.
Like a lion they crouch and lie down,
    like a lioness - who dares to rouse them?
“May those who bless you be blessed
    and those who curse you be cursed!”

King Balak was disappointed, infuriated, and asked Balaam to leave at once, without any reward.

Balaam’s Other Messages
Balaam replied that even if king Balak gave all the gold and silver in his palace, he would not be able to curse Israel, without LORD'S command. As a prophecy, he predicted about the rise of a tribe in Israel that would secure decisive victories for the Israelites over Moab, Edom, Amalek and Kenite.

Balak being the king of Moab, could not take it anymore. Balaam felt sorry for the king as well - it was not within his powers to utter a single curse over the Israelites. There was only one way to bring punishment upon the Israelites - which was from the LORD Himself.

Balaam was attracted towards the beauty of the Midianite women and was particularly fond of the Midianite princess. He lived with the Midianites.

The Doctrine of Baalam
Balaam advised king Balak to cast a stumbling block before the children of Israel to eat things sacrificed to idols and to commit fornication. This meant king Balak to use the Moabite and Midianite girls to seduce and ensnare Israelite men and invite them for Baal-Peor worship. This would tempt and lure the Israelites to participate in immoral sexual activities, and lead them to commit sin. Since the Israeli LORD hates idol worship and lewdness, He will become angry and inflict punishment upon His people - thereby causing destruction to the Israelites.

Both Kings of Moab and Midian welcomed this shrewd advice and acted upon immediately. A large feast was arranged to worship Baal Peor. Prostitution, charbroiled steak and other culinary pleasures were on the menu. Invitations went out to those Israelite men, who have been living an austere life in the wilderness. Numerous virgins and young girls were newly initiated as temple prostitutes and trained to perform licentious dances. The most beautiful Moabite and Midianite girls would lead the proceedings. As many as 24,000 girls were recruited for this purpose.

Israel is Seduced
My Bible - NIV, has chapter 25 titled, 'Moab Seduces Israel', but I am changing it to 'Israel is Seduced' in this post. True that it was Baalam's idea on which King of Moab acted and unleashed the seduction technique; the Israelites let themselves to be seduced - they should have known better, based on their prior experience with LORD.

Israel is Seduced

The Israelites were camped near Moab, at a place called Shittim. Invitations from Moabite and Midianite girls reached the Israelite men to take part in Baal-Peor worship. Many Israelites flocked to take part in Baal-Peor worship.

The LORD is angered and commanded Moses to take the leaders of those people, kill them, and expose them in broad daylight, to turn away LORD'S anger from the rest of the Israelites. Because of His anger, a deadly plague from the LORD is taking it's toll, killing the Israelites. There are several others who probably did not get the invitation, or decided not to attend this 'party' and have now gathered at the entrance of the Tent of the Meeting, who are weeping. Moses is talking to the judges about this.

As all these take place, an Israelite man brought a Midianite woman into his tent, in full view of Moses and the rest of Israel. Phinehas, son of Eleazar ( or grandson of Aaron), saw this, he took a spear in his hand and followed the Israelite into the tent. He drove the spear into both of them, right through the Israelite man and into the woman’s stomach. At that moment, the plague against the Israelites was stopped; although 24,000 Israelite men were killed by the plague.

The LORD was pleased by Phinehas’ action and made a covenant with Phinehas, that his descendants will have a lasting priesthood in Israel. LORD then commanded Moses to treat Midianites as enemies, and to kill them, since they deceived the Israelites.

This deception and incident is a topic of discussion in the New Testament including the Book of Revelation.

The Second Census
After the loss of so many members, LORD asked to take a second census. Here is a comparison of census distribution.

Tribe             First         Census            Second
          Census
      % Gain          or  Loss
Ruban 46,500 43,730 -5.96%
Simeon 59,300 22,200 -62.56%
Gad 45,650 40,500 -11.28%
Judah 74,600 76,500 2.55%
Issachar 54,400 64,300 18.20%
Zebulun 57,400 60,500 5.40%
Ephraim 40,500 32,500 -19.75%
Manasseh 32,200 52,700 63.66%
Benjamin 35,400 45,600 28.81%
Dan 62,700 64,400 2.71%
Asher 41,500 53,400 28.67%
Naphtali 53,400 45,400 -14.98%
Total 603,550 601,730 -0.30%



Tribes which lost men - Ruban, Simeon, Gad, Ephraim
Tribes that gained men - Judah, Issachar, Zebulum, Manasseh, Benjamin, Dan, Asher, Naphtali. 

Biggest Loser - Simeon
Biggest Winner - Manessah

Most members: Judah
Least members: Simeon

Overall increase or decrease: -3% (Reduction).

This is without counting the women and children. If we were to count them, the total population would still be in the 2.5 Million to 3 Million range. 

Sharing the Inheritance
The LORD said to Moses, “The land is to be allotted to them as an inheritance based on the number of names. To a larger group give a larger inheritance, and to a smaller group a smaller one; each is to receive its inheritance according to the number of those listed. Be sure that the land is distributed by lot. What each group inherits will be according to the names for its ancestral tribe. Each inheritance is to be distributed by lot among the larger and smaller groups.” 

Levites are counted separately, because they receive no inheritance with the other Israelites. Levites total 23,000. 

The group of Israelites counted in this census by Moses and Eleazar is a completely different set of Israelites from the ones counted during the first time at Mount Sinai. Based on LORD'S wrath, everyone except Joshua an Caleb died in the wilderness. Of course, Moses is still with them. 

Zelophehad’s Daughters
There was a man named Zelophehad who had no sons, but five daughters named Mahlah, Noah, Hoglah, Milcah and Tirzah. The daughters approach Moses and Eleazar the High Priest, and demand to have their father’s inheritance:

“Our father died in the desert. He was not among Korah’s followers, who banded together against the LORD, but he died for his own sin and left no sons. Why should our father’s name disappear from his clan because he had no son? Give us property among our father’s relatives.”

Moses consulted the LORD and the Supreme Justice gave the verdict:

“What Zelophehad’s daughters are saying is right. You must certainly give them property as an inheritance among their father’s relatives and turn their father’s inheritance over to them.

Say to the Israelites, ‘If a man dies and leaves no son, turn his inheritance over to his daughter. If he has no daughter, give his inheritance to his brothers. If he has no brothers, give his inheritance to his father’s brothers. If his father had no brothers, give his inheritance to the nearest relative in his clan, that he may possess it. This is to be a legal requirement for the Israelites, as the LORD commanded Moses.’”

A tiny smile will break on the lips of the reader, when we learn that LORD commanded Moses to give the women their father's inheritance, which would have normally gone to some other men. This way, the women do not have to struggle so hard in their life.

Joshua to Succeed Moses
LORD is now preparing Moses to be “gathered to his people,” since Moses will not to be allowed to enter the Promised Land. His service to the world, and thus to the LORD will end prior to that.

If you pay attention to the plans of LORD, you will see a consistent approach here. For those who have been set apart for his work, He will give them sufficient time to pick, train and hand over responsibilities to a successor.

Moses listens to God's instructions and replies, “May the LORD, the God of the spirits of all mankind, appoint a man over this community to go out and come in before them, one who will lead them out and bring them in, so the LORD’s people will not be like sheep without a shepherd.”

LORD commanded Moses to lay his hand on Joshua, and then have Eleazar and the Israelites commission him. He told Moses to give Joshua some of his authority, so that the Israelites will obey him. Job responsibilities are well defines here, so that there is no ambiguity about who does what at a later stage. Joshua, the leader, and Eleazar, the High Priest, are to work together Eleazar is to obtain decisions from the LORD by using the Urim, and Joshua is the one who is to command the Israelites.

As instructed, Joshua is commissioned to lead the Israelites, once Moses is gone.

Moses is still alive. He just handed over some of his authority to Joshua and identified a new leader. Moses will be with us till the end of Deuteronomy.

Various Offerings
We are revisiting the offerings part. The earlier offerings were discussed about 38 years ago at the base of Mount Sinai, and this is a newer generation. The idea is to re-iterate LORD'S offerings to the entire Israelites once again.

Please refer the Bible for finer details.

Daily Offerings
- Daily two offerings to the LORD, on behalf of the entire nation,
- One in the morning, and
- One at twilight.
- A burnt offering
- A grain offering
- A drink offering

Sabbath Offerings
On the Sabbath, in addition to the daily offering,
- Offer two additional lambs, as burnt offerings,
- Along with the extra grain and drink offerings to go with them.

Monthly Offerings
On the first of every month (new moon)
- Burnt offerings,
- Grain offerings,
- Drink offerings,

The Passover
- Held on the fourteenth day of the first month,
- begin celebrations with a “sacred assembly”  and do no work,
For seven days,
- eat bread made without yeast,
On the seventh day,
- have another sacred assembly, and do no work.
Each day of the festival, offer the following, plus normal daily offering:
- Burnt offerings,
- Grain offerings

The Festival of Weeks
On the “day of firstfruits”
- have a sacred assembly, and do no work.
Offer the following:
- Burnt offerings
- Grain offerings

Feast of Trumpets
Held on the first day of the seventh month,
- have a sacred assembly, and do no regular work.
- sound their trumpets, hence the name “Feast of Trumpets.”
Offer the following:
- A burnt offering,
- A sin offering.

Day of Atonement
Held on the tenth day of the seventh month,
the Israelites were to do a fasting, and do no work.
Offer the following:
A burnt offering
Grain offerings
A sin offering

Feast of Tabernacles
Held on the fifteenth day of the seventh month,
- to hold another sacred assembly, and do no regular work.
This was like a kick off of a festival, which they were to celebrate for seven days.

On each day of the festival,
- Present a series of offerings, of bulls, rams, and lambs.
- Provide the appropriate grain and drink offerings, for each animal;
Here were the sacrifices they were to make:
Day 1: 13 young bulls, 2 rams, and 14 male lambs
Day 2: 12 young bulls, 2 rams, and 14 male lambs
Day 3: 11 young bulls, 2 rams, and 14 male lambs
Day 4: 10 young bulls, 2 rams, and 14 male lambs
Day 5: 9 young bulls, 2 rams, and 14 male lambs
Day 6: 8 young bulls, 2 rams, and 14 male lambs
Day 7: 7 young bulls, 2 rams, and 14 male lambs
Day 8: 1 young bull, 1 ram, and 7 male lambs

In addition, have another assembly on the eighth day, doing no regular work.

Reading Assignment:
Numbers 23
Numbers 24
Numbers 25
Numbers 26
Numbers 27
Numbers 28
Numbers 29

Tomorrow (Thursday) we will wrap up the book of Numbers.

------------------------------------Additional Info 1
Baal-Peor
Baal Peor means 'lord of the opening'. Peor is the Hebrew stem p‘r 'open', which means 'open wide' and is used in connecting with the mouth, bowels and genitals. During their rituals, there is no prohibition against oral sex or anal sex; all openings of the body are sacred and used to worship. Sex is considered a sacred act and they open all of themselves to their partner as they open to Baal Peor. One rituals is to get people to participate in eating from places where body waste is excreted. There is no concept of sin. Fetish activities cast a 'spell' on the subjects and numerous strange and deviant themes including bowing down before the idols are part of the ceremony. King Balak had set up the trap in a clever manner, and was able to attract several thousands of Israelite men.

We will see lot more of Baal during our guided tour.


Image of Baal-Peor

------------------------------------Additional Info 2
Phinehas in lyrics
Let me call your attention to the hymn before public celebration of Holy Eucharist (Qurbana) among Orthodox Christians of Kerala - Velivu niranjoreeso nin velivaal......
In that song, there is a stanza which specifies about Phinehas.

Aharon-teyu-maa skariah thann-udeyum doopa-mathum
Mara-nathe neekiya phina-ha-ssin praar-thanayum pol
Adiyaarude doopa-the-yum
Anpudayone-kai-kko-lka

It refers to the prayer of Phinehas which stopped the plague of death.

------------------------------------Additional Info 3
Urim and Thummim
A priestly device for obtaining oracles. Situated on the high priest's ephod. Urim means light, and Thummim means perfect. By means of the Urim and Thummim, the high priest inquired LORD on behalf of the ruler (King, Judge, or someone serving in the community) about a certain question. One of the stones will be pulled out as a sacred lot and the answer is either "Yes" or "No." 


------------------------------------Additional Info 4
The Number SEVEN:   
Seven represents Spiritual perfection and fullness or completion.  It is the number of Covenant and of the Holy Spirit. 
Seven is the second perfect number.
In Hebrew seven is shevah (shebah) from the root shava (shaba or sheba), meaning “to be full.” 
God rested on the seventh day (Saturday) after Creation 
To swear an oath in Hebrew is “to seven oneself.”
There are seven gifts of the Holy Spirit 
The sacred Menorah has seven branches (six on each side of a central shaft) and seven cup shaped lamps for the olive oil
There were seven classes of furniture in the Tabernacle: Bronze sacrificial Altar, Bronze Laver, Golden Menorah, Golden Table of the Bread of the Presence, Golden Altar of Incense, Ark of the Covenant and the Mercy-seat/Seat of Atonement.
The Tabernacle was built in six days and dedicated on the seventh 
It took Solomon seven years to build the Temple in Jerusalem. 
There are seven annual holy feast days observed under the Law of the Sinai Covenant 
The Feast of Passover is the 1st month of the liturgical year but the seventh month of the civil year. 
The Feast of Tabernacles completes the cycle of Holy Days in the seventh month of the liturgical year.
In the Book of Revelation: There are 55 sevens and 5 sevenths, 5x7 (35) phrases of sevens in the Book of Revelation.
Man’s pulse beats on the seven-day principle.  For six days out of seven it beats faster in the morning than in the evening while on the seventh day it beats slower.
The seventh day is the day of rest!
7 days in a week
7 colors in the spectrum—the seven colored rainbow was the sign of the covenant with Noah
There are 168 hours in a week = 7 x 24 


Moses Ordering the Slaughter of the Midianitic - Moeyaert, Claes Cornelisz - 1650

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Numbers 18 - 22


The Brazen Serpent Anthony Van Dyck - 1618

Plan for week of Aug 4, 2013
Aug 5, Monday - Numbers 6 - 12
Aug 6, Tuesday - Numbers 13 - 17
Aug 7, Wednesday - Numbers 18 - 22
Aug 8, Thursday - Numbers 23 - 29
Aug 9, Friday - Numbers 30 - 36
Aug 10, Saturday - Deuteronomy 1 - 6
------------------------

Background
During yesterday's tour, we saw the crowd yearning with nostalgia about Egypt. After hearing the 'Spy Reports', many were discouraged to go to Canaan. LORD was unhappy at the murmuring of the people, and was doing His best not to destroy them all. Despite His patience, those 10 spies were killed by a plague,  Korah and his associates were swallowed by earth, those 250 plus leaders who encroached the tabernacle and offered unofficial incense were consumed by fire, the rebellious 14,700 people met their end with a plague. The death toll is increasing within the camp and the morale of people is going down. There is burial, followed by mourning, and a period of uncleanliness. As a result, people now dread the Tabernacle and do not want to go near it.

To alleviate the fear of people, to provide assurance to them, to maintain the holiness of the sanctuary without corpse contamination, and sanctity the priesthood, certain steps are taken. That is the background leading us towards chapters 18 and 19.

Duties of Priests and Levites
As a measure to reduce fear, LORD told Aaron:
- his son, (the priests) shall bear the guilt in connection with the sanctuary in the future
- their Levite brothers are supposed to assist them
- only the priests may go near the inside of the sanctuary (the furnishing and the alter)
- else they will die with whoever comes near

Offerings for Priests and Levites
- priests were given a portion of offerings, first fruits, first of the womb, the redemption price of men and unclean animals, and the meat of the first born of the ox and lamb.
- Aaron would have no inheritance in their land, but the LORD shall be their portion and the tithe from the sons of Israel shall be the LORD'S provision for the sons of Levite.
- The Levites could take 1/10 of the tithe offered to the Tabernacle. They were to offer the best of it to the Lord, and enjoy the rest.

The Water of Cleansing
Anyone who touched a dead body, or entered the tent of one who has died, or if there was an open vessel in the tent of one who died, they were considered unclean for seven days. Similar restrictions were held for one who touched a human bone or a grave. The water of cleansing was a mixture of water and ashes - with cedar wood, hyssop, and scarlet from a red heifer (cow) without defect or blemish, who was slain and wholly burnt outside of the camp. The water of cleansing was used to cleanse them, on the third and seventh day by sprinkling upon them.

The one who sprinkled the water of cleansing had to wash his clothes. Anyone who touched the water of cleansing would be considered unclean till evening. Anything that an unclean person touched became unclean, and anyone who touched this 'unclean object' was considered unclean until evening.

Fortieth Year
We have come to the 40th year after their exodus. Most of the people who were 20 years or old when the 12 spies went out to the promised land have died now. A large part of the desert wandering is left without much record. Their central camp was at Kadesh, and they were supported by manna falling from heaven every day. Their adjacent district is the desert of Zin. One can imagine how many rebellions would have taken place at the camp, during this period and how many times God would have attempted to destroy these people.

Miriam's well
Moses, Miriam and Aaron were the three great leaders of Israel, and through them, they received three great gifts - the manna, a well, and the pillar of cloud and fire. The manna was due to merits of Moses, the pillar of cloud and fire was merits of Aaron, and the well known as 'Miriam's well' was gifted due to the merits of Miriam. During their sojourn in the wilderness, these three gifts provided them with food, water and shelter.

Miriam's well was essentially a rolling rock with holes, which trickled fresh water from it. The convenient part was that it was a mobile (portable) wondrous well and they could carry it with them wherever they went. When the pillar of cloud moved to a new location and stood still, Miriam's well was placed near the tabernacle, which overflowed and created a canal system, supplying fresh water to all twelve tribes and their livestock.

Miriam's Death
During the fortieth year of their journey through the wilderness, while they were in kadesh, on the 10th day of Nissan, 2487 years since the creation of world, at the age of 127, Miriam's soul passed away. According to the Rabbis, the Angel of Death had no power over Miriam and she died with a kiss by God, which is a death reserved for the righteous. Miriam served her generation in loyalty to the best and with fear of God Almighty.

A strange thing happened when Miriam died - Miriam's well suddenly stopped giving out water, and there was no water for the community. This is where chapter 20 starts.

Water from the Rock
Once there was no water, people gathered in opposition of Moses and Aaron and even started quarreling with them. Murmurings followed the quarrel they were blaming Moses for bringing them this far - now forty years of wandering in the wilderness. After hearing these complaints repeatedly, the patience and tolerance level of Moses would have been razor thin as well. He and Aaron approach the LORD at the Tent of the Meeting and fell face-down, and the glory of the LORD appeared to them.

Pay attention to what happens next (we are in chapter 20)

7 The Lord said to Moses,
8 “Take the staff, and you and your brother Aaron gather the assembly together. Speak to that rock before their eyes and it will pour out its water. You will bring water out of the rock for the community so they and their livestock can drink.”
9 So Moses took the staff from the Lord’s presence, just as he commanded him.
10 He and Aaron gathered the assembly together in front of the rock and Moses said to them, “Listen, you rebels, must we bring you water out of this rock?”
11 Then Moses raised his arm and struck the rock twice with his staff. Water gushed out, and the community and their livestock drank.

LORD was disappointed with his best friend Moses, and in His eyes, Moses had committed a sin of not trusting in Him. Due to this sin, LORD refused Moses from entering into the promised land - even though Moses waited and 'managed' the Israelites for 40 years.

Now, what exactly happened here to cause God to get angry? There seems to be some confusion or ambiguity. Let's play the conversation once again and verify it.

---- Analysis --------
8 Take the staff, and you and your brother Aaron gather the assembly together =  Ok; Gather them.
Speak to that rock = Moses is supposed to speak to that rock called Miriam's well.
before their eyes = Ok, in their presence
and it will pour out its water = Moses has to speak to the rock, and water will come out. This has not occurred before - the last couple of times, Moses was told to hit the rock with his staff.

9 So Moses took the staff from the Lord’s presence, just as he commanded him = Good.

10 He and Aaron gathered the assembly together in front of the rock = So far so good.
and Moses said to them, “Listen, you rebels,  = Was calling them 'rebels' too harsh - probably not; LORD Himself has done that in the past.
must we bring you water out of this rock?” = Should Moses & Aaron take the credit of bringing water out of this rock called, "Miriam's well?"

11 Then Moses raised his arm and struck the rock twice with his staff. Water gushed out, and the community and their livestock drank = OMG - was he supposed to do that? He was told just to talk to that rock.
Did Moses have to hit it twice?
Did he not trust LORD that if just said so, water would come out?
----------------

Edom Denies Israel Passage
Edomites were descendants of Esau. Moses twice requested the king of Edom, to let them have transit passage through their land, with assurances that they would not touch any of their land. The request was rejected twice and an army was dispatched to ensure Israel turned away. This made their journey all too cumbersome.

The Death of Aaron
When Aaron was 123 years of age, LORD appeared to Moses and told him to go tell Aaron that his last day was here.  The following morning, Moses went to Aaron's tent early and consulted about some portions of Genesis - how Adam and Eve sinned and brought death upon mankind. Moses did not have the heart to talk about Aaron's death to him yet. Finally, Moses asked Aaron to get dressed up and go to Mount Hor. By that time, all the elders had arrived at the mountains's base.

Only Moses, Aaron, and Eleazar (Aaron's son) were supposed to go up. Once on top of the mountain, Moses asked Aaron if he was ready to return something which LORD had entrusted with him. At first Aaron thought it was the Tabernacle. Next, he guessed it was the Altar, then he assumed it was the Menorah - finally he realized it was his own soul, which the LORD was seeking. Aaron told Moses that he was ready.

They found a cave near the top of the mountain. Inside, there was a lit candle on a table, and a bed. Moses asked Aaron to remove his High Priest robes and put them on his son, Eleazar. Aaron did so, and was laid on the bed. The clouds of glory surrounded him, and his face became radiant. Aaron passed away peacefully in God's care. Moses was sad, happy and jealous to see his brother pass away so peacefully.

When Moses and Eleazar returned alone from the mountain top, Eleazar wearing the robes of the High Priest, the elders waiting at the bottom almost figured out about Aaron's demise. They saw a vision of Aaron lying peacefully and motionless in a cave with a lit candle near his bed.

Another strange phenomenon took place at that very moment - the pillar of cloud and fire which used to guide and accompany the Israelites throughout the wilderness suddenly vanished.

The Israelites mourned Aaron's death for 30 days.

Arad Destroyed
While the Israelites were moving northward toward the land of Canaan, the Canaanites under the King of Arad attacked them. The Lord delivered the Canaanites into the hand of Israel and they completely destroyed them.

The Bronze Snake
When Israelites were going from Mount Hor to the land of Edom, they began to grumble against God and Moses (again!!!). This time the reasons were wilderness, food and water. The LORD sent fiery serpents which bit the people so that they died.

Only the ones who looked  upon the Bronze serpent which Moses made and set upon a stand could could be delivered.

Symbols play a vital role in human life. Snake is both a symbol of death and fertility. The fertility symbol comes from the fact that snakes shed their skin which regrows soon.

The Journey to Moab
Israel moved from Mount Hor, around Moab between Armon and Moab to Bamoth.

Defeat of Sihon and Og
Sihon, the king of Ammon refused with force when Israel peacefully requested to simply pass through their land. Israel defeated them and lived in their cities.

Og, the king of Bashan, came against the Israelites. The LORD told Moses not to fear him and they defeated those Bashans, adding their land to Israel’s possession.

Balak Summons Balaam
When the kings of Moab and Midian, foes for many generations, heard about the arrival if Isralites, they united for the purpose of a common goal - attack the children of Israel. Balak, the newly elected king of Moab, had been put in charge of the plans.

Balaam, a sorcerer, was summoned by King Balak to curse the Israelites. Balak promised to pay Balaam handsomely for bringing evil upon the Hebrews.

In the night God came to Balaam, telling him not to curse the Israelites. Balaam sent the king's messengers away. He however went with a second set of Balak's messengers after being warned by God.

Balaam’s Donkey
On the way, Balaam's donkey saw the angel of God standing in their path, holding a sword. The donkey turned, drawing a beating from Balaam. The second time the animal saw the angel, she pressed against a wall, crushing Balaam's foot. Again he beat the donkey. The third time the donkey saw the angel, she lay down under Balaam, who beat her severely with his staff.

Now, the LORD opened the donkey's mouth and it started to speak to Balaam, "What have I done to you to make you beat me these three times?"

After Balaam argued with the beast, the LORD opened the eyes of Balaam so that he could see the angel. The angel ordered him to go to Balak, but to speak only what God told him to.

Reading Assignment:
Numbers 18
Numbers 19
Numbers 20
Numbers 21
Numbers 22

Food for thought 
Out of those 603,550 men of 20 plus age counted for war (excluding Levites), only two - Joshua and Caleb, are going to make it to the land of Canaan. That is less than mere 0.00033% - precisely the odds of winning the EuroMillions jackpot - 1 in 300,000. The odds of being stuck by a lightning during one's lifetime is also about 1 in 300,000.

-----------------------------------Additional Info 1
Miriam's well discovered 
The well was deposited somewhere near Mt. Carmel or in the Sea of Galilee when the Israelites crossed into the promised land.


Location of Miriam's well

During Passover, certain Jewish folks place a 'Cup of Miriam' filled with water. The cup contains water in memory of Miriam's well, which accompanied the Israelites on their journey through the desert. Click here to read the article about discovery of Miriam's well.

-----------------------------------Additional Info 2
The rod of Asclepius
Star of Life

The rod of Asclepius is an ancient Greek symbol associated with astrology and with healing the sick through medicine. It consists of a serpent entwined around a staff. Asclepius, the son of Apollo, was a practitioner of medicine in ancient Greek mythology. It symbolizes the healing arts by combining the serpent, which in shedding its skin is a symbol of rebirth and fertility, with the staff, a symbol of authority befitting the god of Medicine.

The Caduceus, which has two snakes and a pair of wings (below) is.often incorrectly used as a symbol for medicine or doctors, in place of the rod of Asclepius which is the usual symbol of the medical profession.
The Caduceus (incorrectly used as a symbol of medical profession) 

----------------------------------- Paintings

Miriam - Sir Edward Burne-Jones 1833 – 1893


Moses and Brazen Serpant - Flemish, Burges and Ghent 1510 - 1520

The Brazen Serpent, by Benjamin West

Moses and the Brazen Serpent, Sebastien Bourdon, 1653-54

Moses and the Brazen Serpent, Vincenzo Danti, 1560-61


The Brazen Serpent - Peter Paul Rubens 

The Brazen Serpent - MICHELANGELO Buonarroti

The Brazen Serpent, Corrado Giaquinto, 1743-4


Balaam and the Ass -  Pieter Lastman ca. 1583 – 1633

Balaam and the Ass - Bartholomeus Breenbergh 1622

Moses chooses seventy elders, Jacob de Wit 1695 – 1754

The Gathering of Manna - Giovan Battista Tiepolo 1696 – 1770

Aaron's rod that budded - 1890 Holman Bible


Budding of Aaron's staff - 1860 Bible in pictures



Note: 
Please bring any typo or grammar mistakes to my attention. By the time I complete this, usually I am bit tired and lazy to do a proof reading - hence high probability of error.