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Numbers 7:89--8:1


7:89 Now when Moses went into 1  the tent of meeting to speak with the Lord, 2  he heard the voice speaking to him from above the atonement lid 3  that was on the ark of the testimony, from between the two cherubim. 4  Thus he spoke to him.

Lighting the Lamps

8:1 5 The Lord spoke to Moses:

1 tn The adverbial clause of time is constructed with the infinitive construct of the verb “to enter” (בּוֹא, bo’) with the preposition and with the subjective genitive that follows serving as the subject of the clause. The verse is strategic in the structure of the book: At the completion of the dedication with the offerings Moses received more revelation from the Lord in the tent. This verse therefore lays the foundation for what follows.

2 tc The MT is obscure here, simply giving the purpose infinitive and the prepositional phrase (“with him”). But the following clause using the Hitpael of the same verb, introducing a reflexive sense: “then he heard the voice speaking with him.” The Greek clarified it by inserting “Lord” after the word “voice.” The editor of BHS favors emendation of the form to a Piel participle rather than the Hitpael of the MT (reading מְדַבֵּר [mÿdabber] instead of מִדַּבֵּר [middabber], the Hitpael with assimilation). Most commentators agree with the change, assuming there was a mistaken pointing in the MT.

3 tn The Hebrew word כַּפֹּרֶת (kapporet) has been traditionally rendered “mercy seat,” but since the ark is the footstool (see Ps 132), this translation is somewhat misleading. The word is etymologically connected to the verb “to make atonement.” A technical translation would be “place of atonement” or “propitiatory”; a more common translation would be “cover, lid” – provided that the definition “to cover” does not get transferred to the verb “to atone,” for that idea belongs to a homonym. See also Exod 25:17.

4 tn The cherubim are the carved forms of the angels attached to the ark. They indicate the guarding role of this order of angels in the holy of holies. They were also embroidered on the curtains. For basic material see ZPEB 1:788-90, and R. K. Harrison, ISBE 1:642-43.

5 sn This chapter has three main sections to it: the lighting of the lamps (vv. 1-4), the separation of the Levites (vv. 5-22), and the work of the Levites (vv. 23-26). Many modern scholars assume that the chapter belongs to P and was added late. But the chapter reiterates some of the Mosaic material concerning the work of the Levites in the new sanctuary. For the chapter to make sense the historical setting must be accepted; if the historical setting is accepted, the chapter is necessary as part of that early legislation. For more reading, see M. Haran, “The Nature of the’ohel mo‘edh in the Pentateuchal Sources,” JSS 5 (1960): 50-65, and “The Priestly Image of the Tabernacle,” HUCA 36 (1965): 191-226; and C. L. Meyers, The Tabernacle Menorah.

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