Good morning! Well, to this point in Numbers all the details have been assigned, the leaders designated and the gifts given, so today’s chapters (8-10) describe the final preparations and the first setting-out of the tabernacle. According to the Priestly tradition, this is what it looks like when the people are in lockstep with God’s commands, and God consents to be visibly with the people.
After a description of seven lamps (which may have been an inspiration for the seven spirits of God at the beginning of Revelation), Numbers 8 sets forth the consecration of the Levites. Trying to put myself in the place of the Levites—who have been getting instructions from Moses and other higher-ups on all manner of things regarding their status and roles in carrying parts of the tabernacle—I’m quite sure one of them must have said, “You want me to do what now? Get naked, wash my clothes and shave my whole body to be holy? What else is going to be asked??” Still, once their consecration is complete all Levites males are entrusted to perform service at the tent of meeting (presumably not priestly service, but the setup, carrying and teardown parts) for from ages 25-50.
Before the people leave they must also celebrate the high holy days of Passover. Numbers 9 begins with a narration of what was commanded in Leviticus 23, but then details of the Passover meal are given for the first time. The writer assumes there’s widespread understanding of the bitter herbs and unbroken bone parts of the food, in addition to the unleavened bread. The festival is open to resident aliens without any special provisions, in a striking act of universality. Chapter 9 concludes by describing how the staying or moving of the people is governed by the staying or moving of the cloud of God’s presence. Wouldn’t it be nice to have the clarity of knowing exactly where/when to go? Forget even GPS satellites—this is direct divine guidance!
With the help of specially made silver trumpets for calling together the people and choreographing movements, the priests coordinate the departure of the people from Sinai in Numbers 10. The march sounds something like a Thanksgiving Day parade—with all the different contingents lined up and proceeding in turns. Moses’ father-in-law is referenced again here, but by the name Reuel the Midianite rather than his earlier name of Jethro. One final curiosity is that the Ark of the Covenant is not mentioned going with the people, but rather moving around separately up to three days’ journey away. I’m not sure why this is, since I thought the whole point of the tribal phalanxes was to protect the ark. Happy reading!
Please join discussion of this passage at the Daily Bible Facebook group, or comment below. Tomorrow’s passage is Numbers 11-12. Thanks for reading!