Numbers 5:1-6:21 Civil and religious laws
Many of the civil and religious laws of Israel and the rites connected with them are hard for us to understand. They may seem strangely abhorrent, sometimes inhumane or quasimagical in character. It is important to bear in mind: (a) the authority of the priest in every sphere of Israel’s life, including that of cleanliness and hygiene, which were as much a part of ‘religious’ ceremony as the worship in the tabernacle; (b) the background of religious rites common to the whole of the ancient Near East and used by Israel, thought transformed both by her faith in the one true God, and in order to make them usable in his worship; and (c) the need that this new, God-chosen nation should be constantly reminded of the holiness and moral demands of her God.
- What sort of people were to be ‘put out’ of the camp, and why? Cf. Lev. 13:46; 15:31. What interests of humanitarian justice are satisfied in the commands of 5:11-31? These seem like purely magical rites, but note verse 16, 18, 21 and 30.
- How did the Nazirite’s separation to God find expression? What was the point of it all, since it was apparently not an act of service that could be offered to God as acceptable in and of itself apart from the regular offerings of the tabernacle? See 6:14-15; and cf. Lev. 1-7 for details. How far is there a similar challenge to consecration confronting the believer in Christ? Cf. Heb. 9:10-14; Rom. 12:1, 2.
Note 6:2. A ‘Nazirite’ was a man who desired for a period to set himself apart for God in an unusual way. The Hebrew root, nazir, expresses the idea of separation or consecration.
Numbers 6:22-7:89 Dedication if the tabernacle
- What did it mean for Aaron and his sons to ‘put’ God’s name ‘on the Israelites’? How did the blessing effect this? See Deut. 28:9, 10; Dan. 9:18 19; and cf. 1 Cor. 6:11; 2 Cor. 13:14.
- Notice how often the words ‘offering’ or ‘dedication offering’ are used in chapter 7. The solemnity is emphasized by repetition. In what way is 7:89 a fitting climax to this ‘build-up’? What did it all mean to Israel? Do we ‘offer’ to God in this atmosphere of reverence? What similar climax can we expect when we thus approach God? Cf. Heb. 3:7; 4:16.
Note. 6:26. ‘Peace’ (Heb. Shalom) does not mean simply ‘cessation of hostility’. It indicates ‘completeness’, ‘perfection’ or ‘well-being’.