Showing posts with label Numbers. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Numbers. Show all posts

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

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 - 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. 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
      % 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 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

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

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

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. 

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Numbers 13 - 17

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

Today we will look at Numbers 13 through 17. The children of Israel have almost made it to the border of the promised land, which is now known as Canaan. Once the children of Israel move in, the land will be known as Israel.

But before moving in such a large crowd into the country, people requested Moses to obtain an intelligence report on Canaan - to learn about the current inhabitants and the land. They wanted to collect data about:
- People - are they strong or weak?
- How large is the crowd?
- Condition of the land & Soil Analysis
- Sample fruits of the land

God let Moses fulfill people's request.

Exploring Canaan
Moses sent twelve spies into the Land of Canaan to spy out the land with regard to the strength of the people, the nature of the land, its cities and to bring back some of its fruit. These spies were the leaders from the tribes.

Tribe of Reuben - Shammua
Tribe of Simeon - Shaphat
Tribe of Judah - Caleb*
Tribe of Issachar - Igal
Tribe of Ephraim - Joshua*
Tribe of Benjamin - Palti
Tribe of Zebulun - Gaddiel
Tribe of Manasseh - Gaddi
Tribe of Dan - Ammiel
Tribe of Ashe - Sethur
Tribe of Naphtali - Nahbi
Tribe of Gad - Geuel
Pay attention to the two spies - Caleb and Joshua, who will re-surface soon.

The team of 12 took off on a mission for 40 days, to skirt the entire geography and large walled cities. They went from the southern part and crossed Hebron to reach north - returning back. While in Hebron, Caleb also paid a visit to the 'Cave of Machpelah' where Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were buried.

Click here for an animated map of the cities they visited. The spies returned with some of the magnificent fruits from the country, such as figs, pomegranates, and grapes. The grape cluster was so heavy that they had to carry it on poles. They confirmed the land was indeed flowing with milk and honey.

They also reported (except Caleb) that the land was inhabited by mighty formidable men, including the fierce race of giants. Some even mentioned spotting Nephilims (see below). Their recommendation was to return to Egypt, than to go to this promised land. The hearts of the people sank within themselves when they heard this account. They did not have the strength to encounter such formidable men. Bad news spread like wildfire within the camp.

Caleb, tried to inspire them by saying, "We could defeat them." Nobody gave heed to Caleb's words. The gossip had already done it's share of damage.

That night, the entire camp was weeping and crying. They wanted to choose a leader who could lead them back to Egypt. Bitter complaint was raised against Moses and Aaron, for bringing them this far. They were murmuring about their current fate. They were grumbling and revolting against LORD for bringing this fate upon them and their family. Moses and Aaron fell face-down because they could not take this anymore.

In vain, Joshua joined Caleb in describing the abundance of the land, reminding the support from LORD - which was better than military might. The violent crowd, in a mood of defiance and revolt, was about to stone Joshua and Caleb to death. Just then LORD appeared over the sanctuary, and spoke to Moses in their presence:

“How long will these people treat me with contempt?
How long will they refuse to believe in me, in spite of all the signs I have performed among them?
I will strike them down with a plague and destroy them, but I will make you into a nation greater and stronger than they.”

The LORD has absolutely no reason to be faithful to these people, but only because of His nature.

Moses begs not to destroy these people. LORD is pacified for the time being, but He makes sure that nobody over the current age of 20 (except Caleb and Joshua) will enter the promised land. The children of those unfaithful to LORD, will wander in the wilderness for forty years as a punishment.

Those spies, responsible for spreading the bad report, and causing all this havoc were stuck down by a plague and died - except Caleb and Joshua.

Supplementary Offerings
In chapter 15, The LORD even though was angry earlier, out of His love for the Israelites, now once again confirmed His promise of the Land by describing specific sacrifices once they enter the land.
- to offer the first of their dough when they enter the land for blessing from the LORD (procedure provided in Bible)
- for unintentional sins in the Land while dealing justly with deliberate sin (procedure provided in Bible)

Tassels on Garments
The LORD made another rule for the Israelites, concerning their clothing.
- Israelites were to always put tassels on the corners of their garments, with a blue cord on each tassel.
- The idea was to remind the Israelites to avoid lust, adultery, and other sexual immorality.
- Any time an Israelite was tempted to look at another Israelite lustfully, or as his/her eyes began to roam lustfully, they would see the tassels, which would serve as a reminder that they were to stay away from prostituting themselves by going after the lusts of their hearts and eyes (see below).

The Sabbath-Breaker Put to Death
A man was found gathering wood on the Sabbath while the nation was in the wilderness.

He was brought before Moses and Aaron and then stoned by the congregation outside of the camp as the LORD commanded.

(Glad we changed our guided tour schedule, just in the nick of time!)

Korah and Associates
Korah was one of the rich Levite leaders, who happened to be a cousin of Aaron and Moses. Since he did not get any elevated status within the priestly clan, he devised a scheme to rebel against Moses and Aaron.

By holding regular and lavish banquets to honor members of the Ruben tribe, Korah was able to sway the opinion of those leaders in his favor. Dathan and Abiram of Ruben tribe, since their days at Egypt, were trouble makers and ringleaders experts at stirring up rebellion. These two were the first members from Ruben tribe to team up with Korah (against Moses and Aaron).

Campaigns and secret meetings were held where Ruben was sponsoring those events with his wealth. As a result of clever and active campaigning, 250 leaders of the community were willing to lead a rebellion against Moses and Aaron. With the support of Dathan, Abiram and 250 elders, Korah championed the rebellion against Moses. The topic of debate here was Holiness. Korah's argument against Moses was, “You have gone too far! The whole community is holy, every one of them, and the LORD is with them. Why do you set yourselves above the LORD'S assembly?”

Moses humbly affirmed that the LORD would decide this matter by choosing the one who is holy - either these leaders with their censers of incense and fire or Moses and Aaron. An 'Incense Test for Holiness' was set up.

Moses was extremely disappointed to discover this rebellion stemming up within his own Levite tribe. He rebuked Korah and the Levites, for rebelling against God, for wanting themselves to be priests and grumbling against Aaron.

Talks with Dathan and Abiram
When Moses learned about the involvement of Dathan and Abiram, he sent people to the Ruben tribe to hold negotiations. Moses summoned Dathan and Abiram to come towards him. They refused to even go towards Moses and accused Moses with venomous attacks - for misleading them, bringing them out of a land already flowing with milk and honey (Egypt), away from their inheritance, and treating them as slaves.

Moses became very angry and asked the LORD not to accept their offering since he had not wronged anyone.

The next day, Korah and his company of 250 strong arrived at the Tabernacle for the 'Incense Test', with their censors filled with charcoal and incense. Aaron was with his censor as well. When they met at the Tent of the Meeting, the Glory of the LORD appeared to all of them, with the intention of destroying the entire congregation except Moses and Aaron.

The punishment of Korah, Dathan and Abiram - Botticelli 

Moses interceded and the LORD decided to destroy the dwellings of Korah, Dathan and Abiram. The LORD opened the earth under them and the ground swallowed up the households of Korah, Dathan and Abiram. A fire from the LORD consumed the 250 men who were offering incense - LORD also instructed what to do with those holy censors. People who witnessed these, fled with terror.

In an interesting turn, the following day, people grumbled and held Moses and Aaron accountable for killing Korah, Dathan Abiram and those 250 influential leaders. A large gathering of people opposing Moses and Aaron approached the Tent of the Meeting. LORD appeared in a cloud, and a plague was sent to them. Moses rushed Aaron to put incense and burning coal into his censor to make atonement for them. God's wrath had already come out and before Aaron could make the atonement, 14,700 additional people died of plague.

The Budding of Aaron’s Staff
LORD wanted to prove a point to the Israelites that Aaron was the recognized high priest, and He wanted to put an end to those who grumbled against Aaron.

Every tribal leader of Israel presented a staff to Moses with their name written on it. The staff of Levi tribe had Aaron's name on it. These staffs were put near the Ark of the Covenant. The next day they were examined in the presence of everyone. LORD caused Aaron’s staff to blossom and produce ripe almonds. Everyone was convinced of Aaron's right of priesthood. LORD instructed Moses to keep Aaron's staff in front of the Ark of the Covenant as a sign against the rebels.

So many people were dying and people responded with fear and panic. In their observation, whenever anyone came near the Tabernacle of LORD, or confronted against Moses, they were smitten with death. Now they were afraid of being lost, and engulfed with the fear of perishing.

Let's wrap up here for today.

Reading Assignment:
Numbers 13
Numbers 14
Numbers 15
Numbers 16
Numbers 17

-----------------------------Additional Info 1
Were the offspring of 'sons of God' and 'daughters of men' which we read about in Genesis chapter 6. It was because of their population increase God flooded earth and killed everyone except Noah's family.

This was a hoax news about the discovery of a giant skeleton, claiming to be captured from a military helicopter which eventually 'leaked'.

Snopes says this image was part of a competition, 'Archaeological Anomalies' where contestants manipulate photographs using digital editor software.

Another hoax that appeared in 'Times of India' in 2007, about Bhima's son's skeleton found (click here).

Few other digitally modified images below:

 Believed to be digitally modified images.

  Univ of Chicago excavation team digging a dinasour. Someone with creativity, digitally added a large human skull. 

  Believed to be digitally modified images.

 Believed to be digitally modified images.

-----------------------------Additional Info 2
Tassels on Garments
Twisted cords fastened to the four corners of the outer garment, worn by observant Jews as a reminder of covenant obligations in Numbers 15: 38 - 39. Most christian women wear it as a fashionable item - as part of their clothing, with little knowledge of what it originally meant for.

Various Tassels
Numbers 15:
37 The LORD said to Moses,
38 “Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘Throughout the generations to come you are to make tassels on the corners of your garments, with a blue cord on each tassel.
39 You will have these tassels to look at and so you will remember all the commands of the LORD, that you may obey them and not prostitute yourselves by chasing after the lusts of your own hearts and eyes.
40 Then you will remember to obey all my commands and will be consecrated to your God.
41 I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt to be your God. I am the LORD your God.’”


We come across the tassel in New Testament in the Gospel of St. Matthew:

Matthew 9: 20-22
A woman suffering hemorrhages for twelve years came up behind him and touched the tassel on his cloak. She said to herself, "If only I can touch his cloak, I shall be cured."
Jesus turned around and saw her, and said, "Courage, daughter! Your faith has saved you." And from that hour the woman was cured.

The story of the bleeding woman is also documented in Mark 5: 25-34 & Luke 8: 40-48. Certain translations mention it as the 'hem of His outer garment' or just outer garment.

Christ and the Woman with the Issue of Blood - Paolo Veronese

Christ Healing a Woman with an Issue of Blood - Veronese, London, National Gallery

-----------------------------Additional Info 3
CIA and Bible Spies
The CIA classified journal, Studies in Intelligence, published an article, "A Bible Lesson on Spying" (link provided)  Link to unclassified source on CIA website.

Few points from that article: 
CIA states it was Moses' decisions that were flawed, in sending high-ranking leaders of the tribes out to be spies into Canaan.

If that was true (as it was not), the CIA concludes it was upon Moses' head that things fell apart.

Egos and conflicting roles among immediate task and old allegiances took over, and too much public airings of issues just panicked the people, accordingly meant that Moses erred in transparency and lack of reality-testing.

The leaders returned and testified publicly of what they, the spies, found (each Ego had to be heard).

Transparency led to public panic when 10 of the 12 cowered in the face of Canaanite fortress cities and their tall stature (think Goliath).  There was popular loss of confidence in God and Moses.

Interested in becoming a spy? Start here!

-----------------------------Additional Info 4
The sons of Korah
While God punished Korah and his associates, Korah’s wife and children evidently were spared. Many Bible scholars believe Psalms 42-49, 84, 85, 87, and 88 were written by descendants of this rebel leader, the “Sons of Korah.”

Here is some sample work: 

Psalm 42:1 - As the deer pants for streams of water,
                    so my soul pants for you, O God.

Psalm 43:3 - Send forth your light and your truth,
                   let them guide me;
                   let them bring me to your holy mountain,
                   to the place where you dwell.

Psalm 46:1 - God is our refuge and strength,
                   an ever-present help in trouble.

Psalm 46:10 - Be still and know that I am God;
                     I will be exalted among the nations,
                     I will be exalted in the earth.

Psalm 47:1 - Clap your hands, all you nations;
                   shout to God with cries of joy.

Psalm 84:10 - Better is one day in your courts
                     than a thousand elsewhere;
                     I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God
                     than dwell in the tents of the wicked.

Psalm 85:10 - Love and faithfulness meet together;
                     righteousness and peace kiss each other.