Reflection and Discussion
Read each of the passages indicated below, pausing to interact with the reflection prompts provided. The first selection (33:1–49) may be the most difficult to read, as it contains a travelogue with many strange place names. Pay particular attention to the short stories included at two points in the travelogue, and count how many locations are listed. (See the notes in the ESV Study Bible, pages 317–323, for additional insights as you read; available online at www.esv.org.)
Reviewing the Journey (33:1–49)
This travelogue encompasses the entire journey from Exodus 12:1 through Numbers 22:1, “stage by stage” (v. 2). Discounting the departure site of Rameses (v. 3) and the two named sites locating “the plains of Moab” at Israel’s arrival (v. 49), how many locations are listed?
Dividing that number by the people’s 40 years of wandering, how many staging encampments per year are listed, on average?
The travelogue is divided into two parts, each introduced with a short narrative and a date (see vv. 3–4 and vv. 38–40). What common themes link these two short stories?
Inheritance Instruction: Remove Idolatry (33:50–56)
This is the first of three sets of inheritance instructions that follow the travelogue. This instruction addresses driving out the idolatry of the land. What will happen to Israel if they adopt Canaanite worship (v. 56)?
Inheritance Instruction: Allot the Land (34:1–29)
The second instruction lays out the division of the land among the tribes. This section specifies the external borders of the land (vv. 1–12; see page 320 of the ESV Study Bible) and appoints what might be called a “boundary commission” to determine each tribe’s inheritance within the land (vv. 16–29). Who are the “cochairmen” of this commission (v. 17)?
The members of the boundary commission include chiefs from only 10 of the tribes. Which two of the land-inheriting tribes are not represented, and why (see 32:1, 19)?
Inheritance Instruction: Levitical Cities (35:1–34)
The final inheritance instruction provides for the Levites. The other tribes receive land and cities in order to farm and build businesses, but the Levites are to be devoted to the nation’s worship and education in God’s ways. How will the location of the Levitical cities facilitate this calling?
The Levites will not own the cities where they settle. These cities will remain the possession of their host tribes, among whom the Levites will live. One key provision in this arrangement is the grant of exclusive use of the city’s best pastureland for the Levites (vv. 3–5). What does this provision indicate about the attitude a city’s economic leaders should have toward its economically non-productive Levites?
Of the 48 cities where Levites will settle, six are designated “cities of refuge” (v. 6). These cities will provide accessible locations for those accused of a capital crime to obtain a fair trial under Levitical protection. Compare the six kinds of manslaughter worthy of condemnation (vv. 16–21) with the three that are not to be avenged (vv. 22–24). What do these examples tell us about the importance of the condition of the perpetrator’s heart in determining guilt?
Even accidental manslaughter is the perpetrator’s responsibility. The avenger is allowed to execute the accidental killer if encountered outside the city of refuge. If the perpetrator takes up residence in the city of refuge, however, he is to be sheltered. When the current high priest dies, the high priest’s blood is to be accepted by God as substitution for the accidental killer (v. 28). How does this provision of substitutionary satisfaction by the high priest illustrate the ultimate satisfaction provided by the Great High Priest, Christ Jesus?
New Generation Role Models, Part 2 (36:1–13)
The faithfulness of the settlement generation is modeled by the daughters of Zelophehad, whose story frames their generation’s section in Numbers. Review the first half of their story (27:1–11; see the section on “New Generation Role Models” in Week 9, above) and jot down a few notes to refresh your memory on their inheritance dilemma and how it was resolved in that passage.
In the previous passage about Zelophehad’s daughters, concern for their father’s name was addressed. But there remains a threat to the clan’s interests. If these women marry into a different clan or tribe, the estate of Zelophehad would be transferred from the clan of Gilead to another clan. How does Moses instruct the women to avoid this outcome (vv. 5–8)?
In the final verses of the book, we are told how the daughters of Zelophehad honor their family and their clan heritage in their marriage decisions (vv. 10–12). Why do you suppose the book of Numbers concludes its lessons on faithfulness with the testimony of these five women?
Read through the following three sections on Gospel Glimpses, Whole-Bible Connections, and Theological Soundings. Then take time to consider the Personal Implications these sections may have for you.