Monday, October 9, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Numbers 33-36

We come today to the closing chapters of the Book of Numbers.  It is fitting that Numbers 33 begins with a look back at the providences of the LORD and His compassion on the twelve tribes of Israel.

The sovereignty of God is one of the great spiritual truths we take from this historical review of God’s providences.  From Israel’s triumphant exodus out of Egypt following the tenth plague (33:3-7), through the midst of the Red Sea (33:8), to the starts and stops of the nation’s forty-year journey in the wilderness and the LORD’s miraculous provision of water and food along the way (33:9-37).  Suddenly and unceremoniously we read:

Numbers 33:38-39 – And Aaron the priest went up into mount Hor at the commandment of the LORD, and died there, in the fortieth year after the children of Israel were come out of the land of Egypt, in the first day of the fifth month. 39  And Aaron was an hundred and twenty and three years old when he died in mount Hor.

The record of Aaron’s death at the threshold of the Promise Land reminds us a whole generation had died in the wilderness because they refused to trust the LORD and enter into the land He promised Israel forty-years before.  With the exception of Joshua and Caleb, all perished short of the journey’s destination.

The LORD promised Israel a fertile and fruitful land; however, it was a land inhabited by the Canaanites whom the people would have to drive out of the land in order to possess it (33:40, 50-54).  Israel was to destroy all the ways of the Canaanites, their idols and the high places where they worshipped.  God’s people were to be intolerant of the Canaanites in their midst, being warned their failure to drive them out would become “pricks in your eyes, and thorns in your sides, and shall vex you in the land wherein ye dwell” (33:55).  Indeed, Israel’s failure to fulfill God’s command would demand He do to them what He commanded them to do to the inhabitants of the land (33:56).

Numbers 34 records the boundaries of the land God promised His people.  The southern boundary (34:3-5), the western boundary (34:6), the northernmost boundary (34:7-9) and the eastern boundary (34:10-12) are determined.  The land was to be divided among the tribes by lot (34:13); this meaning God, not fate, would determine in the sight of the people their portion by tribe in the land.  Per their earlier request, the tribes of Reuben, Gad and the half-tribe of Manasseh had already received their inheritance east of the Jordan River (33:14-15).

Unlike the other tribes, the priestly tribe of Levi was not assigned a portion of the land.  Instead, the Levites were apportioned forty-eight cities in the midst of the tribal lands (35:1-5).  Six of the forty-eight cities were to serve as cities of refuge to which a man accused of slaying another might flee to seek justice (35:6-34).

The Book of Numbers ends on an interesting note as the matter of inheritance is raised.  Because lands were assigned by tribes and families, there was concern what would become of tribal lands should a man’s legal heirs be his daughters (Numbers 36:1-4).  It was argued the lands assigned to a tribe would be lost should a man’s daughters marry outside their tribal bloodline.  The dilemma was solved by requiring daughters to marry within the tribe of their father (36:5-9), thereby keeping the land within the tribe.

Numbers 36 concludes with the “daughters of Zelophedad” being assured of their inheritance in the land and them submitting to the LORD’s will that they marry men within their tribal bloodline, thus securing the inheritance not only for themselves, but also for the future generations of their family (36:10-13).

The context of the matter of a man’s heirs and the rights of his daughters began in Numbers 27 and concludes in Numbers 36.  The decision that a daughter had a right of inheritance in the absence of a son was a radical one for ancient times since women were viewed as less than men in society and in matters of inheritance.  As late as the 20th and early 21st century, the majority of women in our world live in oppressive conditions; however, such is not to be the case among God’s people.

The church and believers must recognize that, though gender roles differ, a spiritual synergy between male and female, husband and wife is God’s will.  When a man accepts a woman is not his servant, but his helpmeet and companion (Genesis 2:18; Ephesians 5:25) and the woman fulfills her role following her husband’s lead (Genesis 3:16; Ephesians 5:23-24), there is harmony, respect and peace (Ephesians 5:31-33).

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith