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Numbers 15:32-36

Context

15:32 When the Israelites were 1  in the wilderness they found a man gathering wood on the Sabbath day. 2  15:33 Those who found him gathering wood brought him to Moses and Aaron and to the whole community. 15:34 They put him in custody, because there was no clear instruction about what should be done to him. 15:35 Then the Lord said to Moses, “The man must surely be put to death; the whole community must stone 3  him with stones outside the camp.” 15:36 So the whole community took him outside the camp and stoned him to death, 4  just as the Lord commanded Moses.

1 tn The preterite of the verb “to be” is here subordinated to the next, parallel verb form, to form a temporal clause.

2 sn For this brief passage, see A. Phillips, “The Case of the Woodgatherer Reconsidered,” VT 19 (1969): 125-28; J. Weingreen, “The Case of the Woodgatherer (Numbers XV 32-36),” VT 16 (1966): 361-64; and B. J. Bamberger, “Revelations of Torah after Sinai,” HUCA 16 (1941): 97-113. Weingreen argues that there is something of the Rabbinic method of setting a fence around the Law here; in other words, if this sin were not punished, the Law would have been violated in greater ways. Gathering of wood, although seemingly harmless, is done with intent to kindle fire, and so reveals a culpable intent.

3 tn The sentence begins with the emphatic use of the infinitive absolute with the verb in the Hophal imperfect: “he shall surely be put to death.” Then, a second infinitive absolute רָגוֹם (ragom) provides the explanatory activity – all the community is to stone him with stones. The punishment is consistent with other decrees from God (see Exod 31:14,15; 35:2). Moses had either forgotten such, or they had simply neglected to (or were hesitant to) enact them.

4 tn Heb “stoned him with stones, and he died.”



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