Numbers 27-28

Good morning! Today in Numbers 27-28 we first see several stories of new precedents set by new voices who have come of age in the wilderness, then follow it up with a chapter that clarifies the offerings that are to be part of the regular sacrifices of Israel.

The stories of new precedents come in Numbers 27. First is the matter of the daughters of Zelophehad, notable women mentioned by name in the Numbers 26 census. They ask for a favorable judgment on their claim to their father’s property. Because he didn’t have any sons the property would previously have gone to his brothers, but God agrees that their argument is valid and grants them the inheritance that would otherwise have gone to their uncles. By speaking up when they perceived the tables so dramatically tilted against them, Mahlah, Noah, Hoglah, Milcah, and Tirzah gain a measure of autonomy for themselves and for women after them, creating a new statute and ordinance for Israel. Their story is an admirable early example of an aggrieved people lobbying leadership and thereby changing law.

God then foretells of Moses’ imminent death before they cross over into Canaan, and he asked God to appoint a new “shepherd” for Israel. God picks Joshua to receive “some of your authority”, but asks that the selection be ratified with the Urim (a process of discernment-through-chance by which colored stones were drawn from a bag) by Eleazar the high priest. Joshua is thus commissioned by Moses with the “advice and consent” of Eleazar, in our current constitutional language for the collaboration of distinct governmental powers. This results in a new prerogative for high priests—to ratify the leaders of Israel, rather than just being subject to whomever the previous leader chooses (with God’s input). The precedent both affirms a continued need for a military leader and voice of the people, but also limits that power to the consent of the high priest. This theo-political relationship shouldn’t be thought of as a sacred-secular split, but it does pave the way for a time when the main leader is not a priest of the tribe of Levi. Moses was both, but Joshua was of the tribe of Ephraim.

Numbers 28 lays out a series of instructions regarding offerings. It calls for daily sacrifices of a lamb each morning and night, with grain and drink offerings. On the Sabbath, the priests were to offer twice as much, adding to the daily offerings. The beginning of each month was marked by an offering of two young bulls and some other livestock, along with further grain and drink offerings. The two festival offerings for Passover and the Festival of Weeks mimic the offerings at the beginning of each month with the addition of a male goat for atonement. I’m left wondering where all these animals come from. I’m not certain, but I think they emerge from the tithe donations to the Levites, who then pass their tithe on to the priests. Priestly managers would need to keep track of the livestock and make sure there were enough for each occasion. My understanding is that these sacrifices are in addition to other incidental offerings that individual Hebrews would offer for personal sins, purification, thank offerings, etc. Happy reading!

Read Numbers 27-28.

Please join discussion of this passage at the Daily Bible Facebook group, or comment below. Tomorrow’s passage is Numbers 29-30. Thanks for reading!

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