Reading Plan 
Daily Bible Reading (daily) February 10
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Numbers 18:1--20:29

Context
Responsibilities of the Priests

18:1 1 The Lord said to Aaron, “You and your sons and your tribe 2  with you must bear the iniquity of the sanctuary, 3  and you and your sons with you must bear the iniquity of your priesthood.

18:2 “Bring with you your brothers, the tribe of Levi, the tribe of your father, so that they may join 4  with you and minister to you while 5  you and your sons with you are before the tent of the testimony. 18:3 They must be responsible to care for you and to care for the entire tabernacle. However, they must not come near the furnishings of the sanctuary and the altar, or both they and you will die. 18:4 They must join 6  with you, and they will be responsible for the care of the tent of meeting, for all the service of the tent, but no unauthorized person 7  may approach you. 18:5 You will be responsible for the care of the sanctuary and the care of the altar, so that there will be 8  no more wrath on the Israelites. 18:6 I myself have chosen 9  your brothers the Levites from among the Israelites. They are given to you as a gift from the Lord, to perform the duties 10  of the tent of meeting. 18:7 But you and your sons with you are responsible for your priestly duties, for everything at the altar and within the curtain. And you must serve. I give you the priesthood as a gift for service; but the unauthorized person who approaches must be put to death.”

The Portion of the Priests

18:8 The Lord spoke to Aaron, “See, I have given you the responsibility for my raised offerings; I have given all the holy things of the Israelites to you as your priestly portion 11  and to your sons as a perpetual ordinance. 18:9 Of all the most holy offerings reserved 12  from the fire this will be yours: Every offering of theirs, whether from every grain offering or from every purification offering or from every reparation offering which they bring to me, will be most holy for you and for your sons. 18:10 You are to eat it as a most holy offering; every male may eat it. It will be holy to you.

18:11 “And this is yours: the raised offering of their gift, along with all the wave offerings of the Israelites. I have given them to you and to your sons and daughters with you as a perpetual ordinance. Everyone who is ceremonially clean in your household may eat of it.

18:12 “All the best of the olive oil and all the best of the wine and of the wheat, the first fruits of these things that they give to the Lord, I have given to you. 13  18:13 And whatever first ripe fruit in their land they bring to the Lord will be yours; everyone who is ceremonially clean in your household may eat of it.

18:14 “Everything devoted 14  in Israel will be yours. 18:15 The firstborn of every womb which they present to the Lord, whether human or animal, will be yours. Nevertheless, the firstborn sons you must redeem, 15  and the firstborn males of unclean animals you must redeem. 18:16 And those that must be redeemed you are to redeem when they are a month old, according to your estimation, for five shekels of silver according to the sanctuary shekel (which is twenty gerahs). 18:17 But you must not redeem the firstborn of a cow or a sheep or a goat; they are holy. You must splash 16  their blood on the altar and burn their fat for an offering made by fire for a pleasing aroma to the Lord. 18:18 And their meat will be yours, just as the breast and the right hip of the raised offering is yours. 18:19 All the raised offerings of the holy things that the Israelites offer to the Lord, I have given to you, and to your sons and daughters with you, as a perpetual ordinance. It is a covenant of salt 17  forever before the Lord for you and for your descendants with you.”

Duties of the Levites

18:20 The Lord spoke to Aaron, “You will have no inheritance in their land, nor will you have any portion of property 18  among them – I am your portion and your inheritance among the Israelites. 18:21 See, I have given the Levites all the tithes in Israel for an inheritance, for their service which they perform – the service of the tent of meeting. 18:22 No longer may the Israelites approach the tent of meeting, or else they will bear their sin 19  and die. 18:23 But the Levites must perform the service 20  of the tent of meeting, and they must bear their iniquity. 21  It will be a perpetual ordinance throughout your generations that among the Israelites the Levites 22  have no inheritance. 23  18:24 But I have given 24  to the Levites for an inheritance the tithes of the Israelites that are offered 25  to the Lord as a raised offering. That is why I said to them that among the Israelites they are to have no inheritance.”

Instructions for the Levites

18:25 The Lord spoke to Moses: 18:26 “You are to speak to the Levites, and you must tell them, ‘When you receive from the Israelites the tithe that I have given you from them as your inheritance, then you are to offer up 26  from it as a raised offering to the Lord a tenth of the tithe. 18:27 And your raised offering will be credited 27  to you as though it were grain from the threshing floor or as new wine 28  from the winepress. 18:28 Thus you are to offer up a raised offering to the Lord of all your tithes which you receive from the Israelites; and you must give the Lord’s raised offering from it to Aaron the priest. 18:29 From all your gifts you must offer up every raised offering due 29  the Lord, from all the best of it, and the holiest part of it.’ 30 

18:30 “Therefore you will say to them, 31  ‘When you offer up 32  the best of it, then it will be credited to the Levites as the product of the threshing floor and as the product of the winepress. 18:31 And you may 33  eat it in any place, you and your household, because it is your wages for your service in the tent of meeting. 18:32 And you will bear no sin concerning it when you offer up the best of it. And you must not profane the holy things of the Israelites, or else you will die.’” 34 

The Red Heifer Ritual

19:1 35 The Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron: 19:2 “This is the ordinance of the law which the Lord has commanded: ‘Instruct 36  the Israelites to bring 37  you a red 38  heifer 39  without blemish, which has no defect 40  and has never carried a yoke. 19:3 You must give it to Eleazar the priest so that he can take it outside the camp, and it must be slaughtered before him. 41  19:4 Eleazar the priest is to take 42  some of its blood with his finger, and sprinkle some of the blood seven times 43  directly in front of the tent of meeting. 19:5 Then the heifer must be burned 44  in his sight – its skin, its flesh, its blood, and its offal is to be burned. 45  19:6 And the priest must take cedar wood, hyssop, 46  and scarlet wool and throw them into the midst of the fire where the heifer is burning. 47  19:7 Then the priest must wash 48  his clothes and bathe himself 49  in water, and afterward he may come 50  into the camp, but the priest will be ceremonially unclean until evening. 19:8 The one who burns it 51  must wash his clothes in water and bathe himself in water. He will be ceremonially unclean until evening.

19:9 “‘Then a man who is ceremonially clean must gather up the ashes of the red heifer and put them in a ceremonially clean place outside the camp. They must be kept 52  for the community of the Israelites for use in the water of purification 53  – it is a purification for sin. 54  19:10 The one who gathers the ashes of the heifer must wash his clothes and be ceremonially unclean until evening. This will be a permanent ordinance both for the Israelites and the resident foreigner who lives among them.

Purification from Uncleanness

19:11 “‘Whoever touches 55  the corpse 56  of any person 57  will be ceremonially unclean 58  seven days. 19:12 He must purify himself 59  with water on the third day and on the seventh day, and so will be clean. But if he does not purify himself on the third day and the seventh day, then he will not be clean. 19:13 Anyone who touches the corpse of any dead person and does not purify himself defiles the tabernacle of the Lord. And that person must be cut off from Israel, 60  because the water of purification was not sprinkled on him. He will be unclean; his uncleanness remains on him.

19:14 “‘This is the law: When a man dies 61  in a tent, anyone who comes into the tent and all who are in the tent will be ceremonially unclean seven days. 19:15 And every open container that has no covering fastened on it is unclean. 19:16 And whoever touches the body of someone killed with a sword in the open fields, 62  or the body of someone who died of natural causes, 63  or a human bone, or a grave, will be unclean seven days. 64 

19:17 “‘For a ceremonially unclean person you must take 65  some of the ashes of the heifer 66  burnt for purification from sin and pour 67  fresh running 68  water over them in a vessel. 19:18 Then a ceremonially clean person must take hyssop, dip it in the water, and sprinkle it on the tent, on all its furnishings, and on the people who were there, or on the one who touched a bone, or one killed, or one who died, or a grave. 19:19 And the clean person must sprinkle the unclean on the third day and on the seventh day; and on the seventh day he must purify him, 69  and then he must wash his clothes, and bathe in water, and he will be clean in the evening. 19:20 But the man who is unclean and does not purify himself, that person must be cut off from among the community, because he has polluted the sanctuary of the Lord; the water of purification was not sprinkled on him, so he is unclean.

19:21 “‘So this will be a perpetual ordinance for them: The one who sprinkles 70  the water of purification must wash his clothes, and the one who touches the water of purification will be unclean until evening. 71  19:22 And whatever the unclean person touches will be unclean, and the person who touches it will be unclean until evening.’”

The Israelites Complain Again

20:1 72 Then the entire community of Israel 73  entered the wilderness of Zin in the first month, 74  and the people stayed in Kadesh. 75  Miriam died and was buried there. 76 

20:2 And there was no water for the community, and so they gathered themselves together against Moses and Aaron. 20:3 The people contended 77  with Moses, saying, 78  “If only 79  we had died when our brothers died before the Lord! 20:4 Why 80  have you brought up the Lord’s community into this wilderness? So that 81  we and our cattle should die here? 20:5 Why 82  have you brought us up from Egypt only to bring us to 83  this dreadful place? It is no place for grain, or figs, or vines, or pomegranates; nor is there any water to drink!”

Moses Responds

20:6 So Moses and Aaron went from the presence of the assembly to the entrance to the tent of meeting. They then threw themselves down with their faces to the ground, and the glory of the Lord appeared to them. 20:7 Then the Lord spoke to Moses: 20:8 “Take the staff and assemble the community, you and Aaron your brother, and then speak 84  to the rock before their eyes. It will pour forth 85  its water, and you will bring water out of the rock for them, and so you will give the community and their beasts water to drink.”

20:9 So Moses took the staff from before the Lord, just as he commanded him. 20:10 Then Moses and Aaron gathered the community together in front of the rock, and he said to them, “Listen, you rebels, 86  must we bring 87  water out of this rock for you?” 20:11 Then Moses raised his hand, and struck the rock twice with his staff. And water came out abundantly. So the community drank, and their beasts drank too.

The Lord’s Judgment

20:12 Then the Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron, “Because you did not trust me enough 88  to show me as holy 89  before 90  the Israelites, therefore you will not bring this community into the land I have given them.” 91 

20:13 These are the waters of Meribah, because the Israelites contended with the Lord, and his holiness was maintained 92  among them.

Rejection by the Edomites

20:14 93 Moses 94  sent messengers from Kadesh to the king of Edom: 95  “Thus says your brother Israel: ‘You know all the hardships we have experienced, 96  20:15 how our ancestors went down into Egypt, and we lived in Egypt a long time, 97  and the Egyptians treated us and our ancestors badly. 98  20:16 So when we cried to the Lord, he heard our voice and sent a messenger, 99  and has brought us up out of Egypt. Now 100  we are here in Kadesh, a town on the edge of your country. 101  20:17 Please let us pass through 102  your country. We will not pass through the fields or through the vineyards, nor will we drink water from any well. We will go by the King’s Highway; 103  we will not turn to the right or the left until we have passed through your region.’” 104 

20:18 But Edom said to him, “You will not pass through me, 105  or I will come out against 106  you with the sword.” 20:19 Then the Israelites said to him, “We will go along the highway, and if we 107  or our cattle drink any of your water, we will pay for it. We will only pass through on our feet, without doing anything else.”

20:20 But he said, “You may not pass through.” Then Edom came out against them 108  with a large and powerful force. 109  20:21 So Edom refused to give Israel passage through his border; therefore Israel turned away from him.

Aaron’s Death

20:22 So the entire company of Israelites 110  traveled from Kadesh and came to Mount Hor. 111  20:23 And the Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron in Mount Hor, by the border of the land of Edom. He said: 20:24 “Aaron will be gathered to his ancestors, 112  for he will not enter into the land I have given to the Israelites because both of you 113  rebelled against my word 114  at the waters of Meribah. 20:25 Take Aaron and Eleazar his son, and bring them up on Mount Hor. 20:26 Remove Aaron’s priestly garments 115  and put them on Eleazar his son, and Aaron will be gathered to his ancestors 116  and will die there.”

20:27 So Moses did as the Lord commanded; and they went up Mount Hor in the sight 117  of the whole community. 20:28 And Moses removed Aaron’s garments and put them on his son Eleazar. So Aaron died there on the top of the mountain. And Moses and Eleazar came down from the mountain. 20:29 When all the community saw that Aaron was dead, the whole house of Israel mourned for Aaron thirty days.

1 sn This chapter and the next may have been inserted here to explain how the priests are to function because in the preceding chapter Aaron’s position was affirmed. The chapter seems to fall into four units: responsibilities of priests (vv. 1-7), their portions (vv. 8-19), responsibilities of Levites (vv. 20-24), and instructions for Levites (vv. 25-32).

2 tn Heb “your father’s house.”

3 sn The responsibility for the sanctuary included obligations relating to any violation of the sanctuary. This was stated to forestall any further violations of the sanctuary. The priests were to pay for any ritual errors, primarily if any came too near. Since the priests and Levites come near all the time, they risk violating ritual laws more than any. So, with the great privileges come great responsibilities. The bottom line is that they were responsible for the sanctuary.

4 sn The verb forms a wordplay on the name Levi, and makes an allusion to the naming of the tribe Levi by Leah in the book of Genesis. There Leah hoped that with the birth of Levi her husband would be attached to her. Here, with the selection of the tribe to serve in the sanctuary, there is the wordplay again showing that the Levites will be attached to Aaron and the priests. The verb is יִלָּווּ (yillavu), which forms a nice wordplay with Levi (לֵוִי). The tribe will now be attached to the sanctuary. The verb is the imperfect with a vav (ו) that shows volitive sequence after the imperative, here indicating a purpose clause.

5 tn The clause is a circumstantial clause because the disjunctive vav (ו) is on a nonverb to start the clause.

6 tn Now the sentence uses the Niphal perfect with a vav (ו) consecutive from the same root לָוָה (lavah).

7 tn The word is “stranger, alien,” but it can also mean Israelites here.

8 tn The clause is a purpose clause, and the imperfect tense a final imperfect.

9 tn Heb “taken.”

10 tn The infinitive construct in this sentence is from עָבַד (’avad), and so is the noun that serves as its object: to serve the service.

11 tn This is an uncommon root. It may be connected to the word “anoint” as here (see RSV). But it may also be seen as an intended parallel to “perpetual due” (see Gen 47:22; Exod 29:28; Lev 6:11 [HT]).

12 tn Heb “from the fire.” It probably refers to those parts that were not burned.

13 tn This form may be classified as a perfect of resolve – he has decided to give them to them, even though this is a listing of what they will receive.

14 tn The “ban” (חֵרֶם, kherem) in Hebrew describes that which is exclusively the Lord’s, either for his sanctuary use, or for his destruction. It seems to refer to an individual’s devoting something freely to God.

15 tn The construction uses the infinitive absolute and the imperfect tense of the verb “to redeem” in order to stress the point – they were to be redeemed. N. H. Snaith suggests that the verb means to get by payment what was not originally yours, whereas the other root גָאַל (gaal) means to get back what was originally yours (Leviticus and Numbers [NCB], 268).

16 tn Or “throw, toss.”

17 sn Salt was used in all the offerings; its importance as a preservative made it a natural symbol for the covenant which was established by sacrifice. Even general agreements were attested by sacrifice, and the phrase “covenant of salt” speaks of such agreements as binding and irrevocable. Note the expression in Ezra 4:14, “we have been salted with the salt of the palace.” See further J. F. Ross, IDB 4:167.

18 tn The phrase “of property” is supplied as a clarification.

19 tn The Hebrew text uses the infinitive construct of the verb “to bear” with the lamed (ל) preposition to express the result of such an action. “To bear their sin” would mean that they would have to suffer the consequences of their sin.

20 tn The verse begins with the perfect tense of עָבַד (’avad) with vav (ו) consecutive, making the form equal to the instructions preceding it. As its object the verb has the cognate accusative “service.”

21 sn The Levites have the care of the tent of meeting, and so they are responsible for any transgressions against it.

22 tn Heb “they”; the referent (the Levites) has been supplied in the translation for clarity.

23 tn The Hebrew text uses both the verb and the object from the same root to stress the point: They will not inherit an inheritance. The inheritance refers to land.

24 tn The classification of the perfect tense here too could be the perfect of resolve, since this law is declaring what will be their portion – “I have decided to give.”

25 tn In the Hebrew text the verb has no expressed subject (although the “Israelites” is certainly intended), and so it can be rendered as a passive.

26 tn The verb in this clause is the Hiphil perfect with a vav (ו) consecutive; it has the same force as an imperfect of instruction: “when…then you are to offer up.”

27 tn The verb is חָשַׁב (khashav, “to reckon; to count; to think”); it is the same verb used for “crediting” Abram with righteousness. Here the tithe of the priests will be counted as if it were a regular tithe.

28 tn Heb “fullness,” meaning the fullness of the harvest, i.e., a full harvest.

29 tn The construction is “every raised offering of the Lord”; the genitive here is probably to be taken as a genitive of worth – the offering that is due the Lord.

30 tn Or “its hallowed thing.”

31 tn The wording of this verse is confusing; it may be that it is addressed to the priests, telling them how to deal with the offerings of the Levites.

32 tn The clause begins with the infinitive construct with its preposition and suffixed subject serving to indicate the temporal clause.

33 tn The verb is the perfect tense with vav (ו) consecutive; it functions as the equivalent of the imperfect of permission.

34 tn The final clause could also be rendered “in order that you do not die.” The larger section can also be interpreted differently; rather than take it as a warning, it could be taken as an assurance that when they do all of this they will not be profaning it and so will not die (R. K. Harrison, Numbers [WEC], 253).

35 sn In the last chapter the needs of the priests and Levites were addressed. Now the concern is for the people. This provision from the sacrifice of the red heifer is a precaution to ensure that the purity of the tabernacle was not violated by pollutions of impurity or death. This chapter has two main parts, both dealing with ceremonial purity: the ritual of the red heifer (vv. 1-10), and the purification from uncleanness (vv. 11-22). For further study see J. Milgrom, “The Paradox of the Red Cow (Num 19),” VT 31 (1981): 62-72.

36 tn Heb “speak to.”

37 tn The line literally reads, “speak to the Israelites that [and] they bring [will bring].” The imperfect [or jussive] is subordinated to the imperative either as a purpose clause, or as the object of the instruction – speak to them that they bring, or tell them to bring.

38 tn The color is designated as red, although the actual color would be a tanned red-brown color for the animal (see the usage in Isa 1:18 and Song 5:10). The reddish color suggested the blood of ritual purification; see J. Milgrom, “The Paradox of the Red Cow (Num 19),” VT 31 (1981): 62-72.

39 sn Some modern commentators prefer “cow” to “heifer,” thinking that the latter came from the influence of the Greek. Young animals were usually prescribed for the ritual, especially here, and so “heifer” is the better translation. A bull could not be given for this purification ritual because that is what was given for the high priests or the community according to Lev 4.

40 tn Heb “wherein there is no defect.”

41 tc The clause is a little ambiguous. It reads “and he shall slaughter it before him.” It sounds as if someone else will kill the heifer in the priest’s presence. Since no one is named as the subject, it may be translated as a passive. Some commentators simply interpret that Eleazar was to kill the animal personally, but that is a little forced for “before him.” The Greek text gives a third person plural sense to the verb; the Vulgate follows that reading.

42 tn The verb is the perfect tense with vav (ו) consecutive; it functions here as the equivalent of the imperfect of instruction.

43 sn Seven is a number with religious significance; it is often required in sacrificial ritual for atonement or for purification.

44 tn Again, the verb has no expressed subject, and so is given a passive translation.

45 tn The imperfect tense is third masculine singular, and so again the verb is to be made passive.

46 sn In addition to the general references, see R. K. Harrison, “The Biblical Problem of Hyssop,” EvQ 26 (1954): 218-24.

47 sn There is no clear explanation available as to why these items were to be burned with the heifer. N. H. Snaith suggests that in accordance with Babylonian sacrifices they would have enhanced the rites with an aroma (Leviticus and Numbers [NCB], 272). In Lev 14 the wood and the hyssop may have been bound together by the scarlet wool to make a sprinkling device. It may be that the symbolism is what is important here. Cedar wood, for example, is durable; it may have symbolized resistance to future corruption and defilement, an early acquired immunity perhaps (R. K. Harrison, Numbers [WEC], 256).

48 tn The sequence continues with the perfect tense and vav (ו) consecutive.

49 tn Heb “his flesh.”

50 tn This is the imperfect of permission.

51 sn Here the text makes clear that he had at least one assistant.

52 tn Heb “it will be.”

53 tn The expression לְמֵי נִדָּה (lÿme niddah) is “for waters of impurity.” The genitive must designate the purpose of the waters – they are for cases of impurity, and so serve for cleansing or purifying, thus “water of purification.” The word “impurity” can also mean “abhorrent” because it refers to so many kinds of impurities. It is also called a purification offering; Milgrom notes that this is fitting because the sacrificial ritual involved transfers impurity from the purified to the purifier (pp. 62-72).

54 sn The ashes were to be stored somewhere outside the camp to be used in a water portion for cleansing someone who was defiled. This is a ritual that was enacted in the wilderness; it is something of a restoring rite for people alienated from community.

55 tn The form is the participle with the article functioning as a substantive: “the one who touches.”

56 tn Heb “the dead.”

57 tn The expression is full: לְכָל־נֶפֶשׁ אָדָם (lÿkhol-nefeshadam) – of any life of a man, i.e., of any person.

58 tn The verb is a perfect tense with vav (ו) consecutive; it follows only the participle used as the subject, but since the case is hypothetical and therefore future, this picks up the future time. The adjective “ceremonially” is supplied in the translation as a clarification.

59 tn The verb is the Hitpael of חָטָא (khata’), a verb that normally means “to sin.” But the Piel idea in many places is “to cleanse; to purify.” This may be explained as a privative use (“to un-sin” someone, meaning cleanse) or denominative (“make a sin offering for someone”). It is surely connected to the purification offering, and so a sense of purify is what is wanted here.

60 sn It is in passages like this that the view that being “cut off” meant the death penalty is the hardest to support. Would the Law prescribe death for someone who touches a corpse and fails to follow the ritual? Besides, the statement in this section that his uncleanness remains with him suggests that he still lives on.

61 tn The word order gives the classification and then the condition: “a man, when he dies….”

62 tn The expression for “in the open field” is literally “upon the face of the field” (עַל־פְּנֵי הַשָּׂדֶה, ’al pÿne hassadeh). This ruling is in contrast now to what was contacted in the tent.

63 tn Heb “a dead body”; but in contrast to the person killed with a sword, this must refer to someone who died of natural causes.

64 sn See Matt 23:27 and Acts 23:3 for application of this by the time of Jesus.

65 tn The verb is the perfect tense, third masculine plural, with a vav (ו) consecutive. The verb may be worded as a passive, “ashes must be taken,” but that may be too awkward for this sentence. It may be best to render it with a generic “you” to fit the instruction of the text.

66 tn The word “heifer” is not in the Hebrew text, but it is implied.

67 tn Here too the verb is the perfect tense with vav (ו) consecutive; rather than make this passive, it is here left as a direct instruction to follow the preceding one. For the use of the verb נָתַן (natan) in the sense of “pour,” see S. C. Reif, “A Note on a Neglected Connotation of ntn,” VT 20 (1970): 114-16.

68 tn The expression is literally “living water.” Living water is the fresh, flowing spring water that is clear, life-giving, and not the collected pools of stagnant or dirty water.

69 tn The construction uses a simple Piel of חָטָא (khata’, “to purify”) with a pronominal suffix – “he shall purify him.” Some commentators take this to mean that after he sprinkles the unclean then he must purify himself. But that would not be the most natural way to read this form.

70 tn The form has the conjunction with it: וּמַזֵּה (umazzeh). The conjunction subordinates the following as the special law. It could literally be translated “and this shall be…that the one who sprinkles.”

71 sn This gives the indication of the weight of the matter, for “until the evening” is the shortest period of ritual uncleanness in the Law. The problem of contamination had to be taken seriously, but this was a relatively simple matter to deal with – if one were willing to obey the Law.

72 sn This chapter is the account of how Moses struck the rock in disobedience to the Lord, and thereby was prohibited from entering the land. For additional literature on this part, see E. Arden, “How Moses Failed God,” JBL 76 (1957): 50-52; J. Gray, “The Desert Sojourn of the Hebrews and the Sinai Horeb Tradition,” VT 4 (1954): 148-54; T. W. Mann, “Theological Reflections on the Denial of Moses,” JBL 98 (1979): 481-94; and J. R. Porter, “The Role of Kadesh-Barnea in the Narrative of the Exodus,” JTS 44 (1943): 130-43.

73 tn The Hebrew text stresses this idea by use of apposition: “the Israelites entered, the entire community, the wilderness.”

74 sn The text does not indicate here what year this was, but from comparing the other passages about the itinerary, this is probably the end of the wanderings, the fortieth year, for Aaron died some forty years after the exodus. So in that year the people come through the wilderness of Zin and prepare for a journey through the Moabite plains.

75 sn The Israelites stayed in Kadesh for some time during the wandering; here the stop at Kadesh Barnea may have lasted several months. See the commentaries for the general itinerary.

76 sn The death of Miriam is recorded without any qualifications or epitaph. In her older age she had been self-willed and rebellious, and so no doubt humbled by the vivid rebuke from God. But she had made her contribution from the beginning.

77 tn The verb is רִיב (riv); it is often used in the Bible for a legal complaint, a law suit, at least in form. But it can also describe a quarrel, or strife, like that between Abram’s men and Lot’s men in Genesis 13. It will be the main verb behind the commemorative name Meribah, the place where the people strove with God. It is a far more serious thing than grumbling – it is directed, intentional, and well-argued. For further discussion, see J. Limburg, “The Root ‘rib’ and the Prophetic Lawsuit Speeches,” JBL 88 (1969): 291-304.

78 tn Heb “and they said, saying.”

79 tn The particle לוּ (lu) indicates the optative nuance of the line – the wishing or longing for death. It is certainly an absurdity to want to have died, but God took them at their word and they died in the wilderness.

80 tn Heb “and why….” The conjunction seems to be recording another thing that the people said in their complaint against Moses.

81 tn The clause uses the infinitive construct with the lamed (ל) preposition. The clause would be a result clause in this sentence: “Why have you brought us here…with the result that we will all die?”

82 tn Heb “and why.”

83 tn Here also the infinitive construct (Hiphil) forms the subordinate clause of the preceding interrogative clause.

84 tn The verb is the Piel perfect with vav (ו) consecutive, following the two imperatives in the verse. Here is the focus of the instruction for Moses.

85 tn Heb “give.” The verb is the perfect tense with vav (ו) consecutive, as are the next two in the verse. These are not now equal to the imperatives, but imperfects, showing the results of speaking to the rock: “speak…and it will…and so you will….”

86 tn The word is הַמֹּרִים (hammorim, “the rebels”), but here as a vocative: “you rebels.” It was a harsh address, although well-earned.

87 tn The word order and the emphasis of the tense are important to this passage. The word order is “from this rock must we bring out to you water?” The emphasis is clearly on “from this rock!” The verb is the imperfect tense; it has one of the modal nuances here, probably obligatory – “must we do this?”

88 tn Or “to sanctify me.”

sn The verb is the main word for “believe, trust.” It is the verb that describes the faith in the Word of the Lord that leads to an appropriate action. Here God says that Moses did not believe him, meaning that what he did showed more of Moses than of what God said. Moses had taken a hostile stance toward the people, and then hit the rock twice. This showed that Moses was not satisfied with what God said, but made it more forceful and terrifying, thus giving the wrong picture of God to the people. By doing this the full power and might of the Lord was not displayed to the people. It was a momentary lack of faith, but it had to be dealt with.

89 sn Using the basic meaning of the word קָדַשׁ (qadash, “to be separate, distinct, set apart”), we can understand better what Moses failed to do. He was supposed to have acted in a way that would have shown God to be distinct, different, holy. Instead, he gave the impression that God was capricious and hostile – very human. The leader has to be aware of what image he is conveying to the people.

90 tn Heb “in the eyes of.”

91 tn There is debate as to exactly what the sin of Moses was. Some interpreters think that the real sin might have been that he refused to do this at first, but that fact has been suppressed from the text. Some think the text was deliberately vague to explain why they could not enter the land without demeaning them. Others simply, and more likely, note that in Moses there was unbelief, pride, anger, impatience – disobedience.

92 tn The form is unusual – it is the Niphal preterite, and not the normal use of the Piel/Pual stem for “sanctify/sanctified.” The basic idea of “he was holy” has to be the main idea, but in this context it refers to the fact that through judging Moses God was making sure people ensured his holiness among them. The word also forms a wordplay on the name Kadesh.

93 sn For this particular section, see W. F. Albright, “From the Patriarchs to Moses: 2. Moses out of Egypt,” BA 36 (1973): 57-58; J. R. Bartlett, “The Land of Seir and the Brotherhood of Edom,” JTS 20 (1969): 1-20, and “The Rise and Fall of the Kingdom of Edom,” PEQ 104 (1972): 22-37, and “The Brotherhood of Edom,” JSOT 4 (1977): 2-7.

94 tn Heb “And Moses sent.”

95 sn Some modern biblical scholars are convinced, largely through arguments from silence, that there were no unified kingdoms in Edom until the 9th century, and no settlements there before the 12th century, and so the story must be late and largely fabricated. The evidence is beginning to point to the contrary. But the cities and residents of the region would largely be Bedouin, and so leave no real remains.

96 tn Heb “found.”

97 tn Heb “many days.”

98 tn The verb רָעַע (raa’) means “to act or do evil.” Evil here is in the sense of causing pain or trouble. So the causative stem in our passage means “to treat wickedly.”

99 tn The word could be rendered “angel” or “messenger.” Some ambiguity may be intended in this report.

100 tn The Hebrew text uses הִנֵּה (hinneh) to emphasize the “here and now” aspect of the report to Edom.

101 tn Heb “your border.”

102 tn The request is expressed by the use of the cohortative, “let us pass through.” It is the proper way to seek permission.

103 sn This a main highway running from Damascus in the north to the Gulf of Aqaba, along the ridge of the land. Some scholars suggest that the name may have been given by the later Assyrians (see B. Obed, “Observations on Methods of Assyrian Rule in Transjordan after the Palestinian Campaign of Tiglathpileser III,” JNES 29 [1970]: 177-86). Bronze Age fortresses have been discovered along this highway, attesting to its existence in the time of Moses. The original name came from the king who developed the highway, probably as a trading road (see S. Cohen, IDB 3:35-36).

104 tn Heb “borders.”

105 tn The imperfect tense here has the nuance of prohibition.

106 tn Heb “to meet.”

107 tn The Hebrew text uses singular pronouns, “I” and “my,” but it is the people of Israel that are intended, and so it may be rendered in the plural. Similarly, Edom speaks in the first person, probably from the king. But it too could be rendered “we.”

108 tn Heb “to meet him.”

109 tn Heb “with many [heavy] people and with a strong hand.” The translation presented above is interpretive, but that is what the line means. It was a show of force, numbers and weapons, to intimidate the Israelites.

110 tn Again the passage uses apposition: “the Israelites, the whole community.”

111 sn The traditional location for this is near Petra (Josephus, Ant. 4.4.7). There is serious doubt about this location since it is well inside Edomite territory, and since it is very inaccessible for the transfer of the office. Another view places it not too far from Kadesh Barnea, about 15 miles (25 km) northeast at Jebel Madurah, on the northwest edge of Edom and so a suitable point of departure for approaching Canaan from the south (see J. L. Mihelec, IDB 2:644; and J. de Vaulx, Les Nombres [SB], 231). Others suggest it was at the foot of Mount Hor and not actually up in the mountains (see Deut 10:6).

112 sn This is the standard poetic expression for death. The bones would be buried, often with the bones of relatives in the same tomb, giving rise to the expression.

113 tn The verb is in the second person plural form, and so it is Moses and Aaron who rebelled, and so now because of that Aaron first and then Moses would die without going into the land.

114 tn Heb “mouth.”

115 tn The word “priestly” is supplied in the translation for clarity.

116 tn Heb “will be gathered”; this is a truncated form of the usual expression “gathered to his ancestors,” found in v. 24. The phrase “to his ancestors” is supplied in the translation here.

117 tn Heb “eyes.”



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