Numbers, chapters 33-36

‘They may marry whomever they wish. However, they should marry someone from a family of the tribe of their father.” […]
The daughters of Zelophehad did just as Jehovah had commanded Moses. […] so that their inheritance would remain in the tribe of their father’s family.
~Numbers 36:6,10,12

When looking up information on Zelophehad, what we know about him mostly comes from the story about what his five daughters did after he passed away (Insight on the Scriptures, vol. II, pp. 1228-1229).

He was a descendant of Manasseh, having died during the forty years in which Israel wandered the desert, and he never had any sons (Nu. 26:29-33; 27:3).

Had he had at least one son, his family line would have most likely blended into the Scriptures along with the names of Jacob’s many other descendants.

Originally, the promised land was to be distributed from fathers to sons.

But when Zelophehad’s daughters asked, “Why should the name of our father be lost from his family because he had no son? Give us a possession among our father’s brothers,” Jehovah replied through Moses:

“The daughters of Ze·lo′phe·had are correct. You should by all means give them the possession as an inheritance among their father’s brothers and transfer their father’s inheritance to them,” (Nu. 27:4-7).

Zelophehad had no way of knowing that after his death, his name would not only remain, but be used as a reference in matters concerning the just distribution of inheritances and as an example of pious obedience and loyalty.

Who knows what personal sacrifices his five daughters had to make in order to obey Jehovah’s new law concerning the marriage and inheritance of brother-less women.

Did they already have boyfriends or their own personal plans for the future?

At least one of them, perhaps Mahlah, had to be old enough to take the initiative and guide the others before the entire assembly (Nu. 27:2).

In any case, by marrying men within their own tribe, they demonstrated a respect toward God that was obviously influenced by their upbringing.

Zelophehad must have been an excellent father. He would have been very proud of his daughters.

We have no way of knowing the extent to which our actions influence the future, so even when we feel irrelevant, it is important to try wholeheartedly to carry out our roles the best we can.

 

 

 

Numbers, chapters 30-32

Regarding any vow or any oath involving an abstinence vow to practice self-denial, her husband should establish it or her husband should annul it.
~Numbers 30:13

Under Mosaic Law, if a married Israelite woman made a vow to God, she had to communicate that vow to her husband that same day.

As head of the household, her husband had authority to either establish or annul the vow.

At first view, it seems God did not trust married women to make their own decisions, which could offend some of us.

However seeing it from a financial perspective it makes sense, because it was the husband’s responsibility to make ends meet and so any vow incurred by his wife might affect the family as a whole.

Let’s say for example that the wife vowed to donate 20% of the harvest instead of just the 10% the tithe required.

Now let’s imagine that in that year it did not really rain so there was not much grain to harvest and now they have more than five starving kids to feed.

It would make sense that the husband had the authority to annul his wife’s vow, ‘bearing the consequences of her guilt,’ (Nu. 30:15).

By requiring the vow to be communicated to her husband, the wife was also pressed to think twice before saying compromising things out of sentimentalism that were not thoroughly calculated.

Christian women are not obligated to have their husband’s approval before they enter spiritual compromises.

Many women in the first century converted to Christianity even when their husbands were unbelievers (1 Pet. 3:1).

However, the husband is still considered head of the household, so it is still wise on the part of a wife to communicate her decisions to him either before or soon after taking them, yielding to his advice whenever reasonable (Prov. 13:10; Acts 5:29; 1 Cor. 11:3).

She would thereby demonstrate respect for both Jehovah and her spouse and contribute to the whole family’s success.

Numbers, chapters 26-29

These were the ones registered by Moses and Eleazar the priest when they registered the Israelites in the desert plains of Moab by the Jordan at Jericho. But among them there was no one who had been registered by Moses and Aaron the priest in the census of the Israelites taken in the wilderness of Sinai.
~Numbers 26:63,64

After 40 years of roaming the desert, the amount of male Israelites had actually decreased instead of increased.

The previous generation of males had been kept out of the Promised Land because of their lack of faith, and they had all died out except for Joshua and Caleb (Nu. 14:30; 26:65).

Upon once again reaching the verge of entering the Promised Land, Jehovah commanded Moses and the new High Priest, Eleazar to take a second census.

So we are able to clearly see the effect the trials in the desert had on Israelite families.

Tribe 1st Census 2nd Census
Reuben 46,500 43,730
Simeon 59,300 22,200
Gad 45,650 40,500
Judah 74,600 76,500
Isachar 54,400 64,300
Zebulun 57,400 60,500
Manasseh 32,200 52,700
Ephraim 40,500 32,500
Benjamin 35,400 45,600
Dan 62,700 64,400
Asher 41,500 53,400
Naphtali 53,400 45,400
Total 603,550 601,730

Those trials included:

  • Israel being defeated by the Amalekites when they tried to conquer the Promised Land against God’s orders (Nu. 14:39-45)
  • Some Israelites rebelling alongside Korah against Moses’s leadership and then being miraculously executed by God (Nu. 16:20-50)
  • Many Israelites growing weary and complaining about being liberated, and then being punished with venomous snakes (Nu. 21:4-9)
  • Fornicating and tainting true worship through the young men’s association with Moabite women (Nu. 25:9)

One can only wonder what habits led some families such as the ones composing the tribe of Simeon to drastically drop to less than half of its original members while other families, such as the ones belonging to the tribe of Manasseh, increased its members by 64%.

Was it their predominant attitude? Were their household heads more inclined to support and collaborate with Moses? Did they value the privilege of forming a people to represent God more than the other tribes? Did the males organize worship in a constant, regular way? Did the knowledge that the older generation had that it was not going to enter the Promised Land not deter it from doing all it could to support its children’s future?

Today, we are living in the last days (Matt. 24:3-14; 2 Tim. 3:1-5).

Still, many grandmothers and grandfathers who have spent their lives working in favor of Jehovah’s interests may not make it alive into the promised New World (2 Pet. 3:13).

It is inspiring to see their self-sacrificing, restless effort which greatly benefits the spiritual well-being of their families and congregations.

Numbers, chapters 22-25

But God said to Baʹlaam: “You must not go with them. You must not curse the people, for they are blessed,”
~Numbers 22:12

Balaam, to an extent, had knowledge of the true God, at one point calling Jehovah  ‘his God,’ (Nu. 22:18).

Still, he persisted in collaborating with the Midianites and the Moabites in their endeavor to curse Israel.

These people had a pagan form of worship involving sexual promiscuity in the sacrifices they offered to Ba’al of Pe’or (Nu. 25:1-3).

The chieftains had promised Balaam riches in exchange for a curse, for they acknowledged that ‘the one whom he blessed was blessed and the one whom he cursed was cursed,’ (Nu. 22:6).

What they did not take into account is that Jehovah cannot be bought out nor does he follow the orders of man.

In their practices of divination, these people implored favor of their gods without making personal sacrifices in the way of kindness, repentance or moral conduct.

Because of this and God’s promises to the patriarchs, he would never favor them over Israel.

Today, it would be wrong of us to pray for or persist in pursuing something that goes against God’s expressed will.

This is especially true if we are motivated by purely selfish reasons as in the case of Balaam, whose greed led him to lose all of God’s favor and be executed (Nu. 31:8).

Numbers, chapters 17-21

Then Jehovah said to Moses and Aaron: […]“Aaron will be gathered to his people. He will not enter the land that I will give to the Israelites […]”
Numbers 20:23,24

The obedience with which Aaron approached his own death is worth noting.
The passage continues to read:
Moses did just as Jehovah had commanded, and they climbed Mount Hor before the eyes of all the assembly. Then Moses removed Aaron’s garments and clothed El·e·a′zar his son with them. After that Aaron died there on the top of the mountain. And Moses and El·e·a′zar came down from the mountain (Nu. 20:27,28).
Aaron had already rebelled once when he and Moses took undue credit for providing the people with water at Meribah (Nu. 20:12).
Evidently he learned his lesson and when his time came to pass away, he was faithful til the end, humbly yielding his position to his son in alignment with God’s arrangements.
Although most people are unaware of when their lives will end, it is wise to live each day with an obedient, humble attitude such as the one displayed by Aaron.

Numbers, chapters 14-16

And the priest will make atonement for the person who made a mistake by an unintentional sin before Jehovah, so as to make atonement for it, and it will be forgiven him.
~Numbers 15:28

Here we see Jehovah God’s merciful side, for he differentiates between one who sins out of ignorance or incompetence from one who sins as a consequence of pre-meditated evil.

Upon the realization of having committed a sin, Christians do not need to present an animal sacrifice as Israelites did, but Christ did give us instructions as to how to make amends with God.

“When you pray, go into your private room and, after shutting your door, pray to your Father who is in secret . . . ‘Our Father in the heavens, let your name be sanctified . . . and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors,’” (Matt. 6:6-12).

When sinning against someone, Christ instructed his followers to ‘first make your peace with your brother, and then, when you have come back, offer up your gift [to God]’ (Matt. 5:23,24).

If the sin is a serious wrongdoing, the congregation received these instructions:

“Is there anyone [spiritually] sick among you? Let him call the older men of the congregation to him, and let them pray over him, greasing him with oil in the name of Jehovah. And the prayer of faith will make the indisposed one well, and Jehovah will raise him up. Also, if he has committed sins, it will be forgiven him [by God]. Therefore openly confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may get healed,” (Jas. 5:14-16).

The ‘greasing with oil’ figuratively refers to the refreshing Bible-based counsel mature elders give to the spiritually ‘indisposed.’

We should not, then,  fear admitting our sins, for Jehovah promises that he who is “leaving them will be shown mercy,” (Prov. 28:13).

Numbers, chapters 10-13

So all that day and all night and all the next day, the people stayed up and gathered the quail.
No one gathered less than ten ho′mers [2200 L, or 581 gall.], and they kept spreading them all around the camp for themselves.
But while the meat was still between their teeth, before it could be chewed, Jehovah’s anger blazed against the people, and Jehovah began striking the people with a very great slaughter.
~Nu. 11:32,33

Israel had traveled roughly 425 km (264 mi) when they started complaining about eating manna.

The “mixed-crowd,” or non-Israelites,who were in their midst then expressed selfish longing, and the Israelites too began to weep again and say: ‘Who will give us meat to eat?'” (Nu. 11:4).

Moses, brought to the brink of desperation, complained to Jehovah.

“From where will I get meat to give to all this people?
For they keep weeping before me, saying, ‘Give us meat to eat!’ […]
If this is how you are going to treat me, please kill me right now.
If I have found favor in your eyes, do not make me see any more calamity,” (Nu. 11:13,15).

Yes, even Moses, who had confronted Pharaoh, crossed the Red Sea on dry land, spoken with God on several occasions, laid down the foundations of law and religion for millions of people, even he had limitations and came to feel suicidal.

Jehovah heard Moses out and promised to bring meat to the people (Nu. 11:18).

Moses doubted this but Jehovah reassured him that he was perfectly capable of accomplishing the task, also noting that the people of Israel had hurt God’s own feelings with their ungrateful complaining (Nu. 11:20-23).

“Then a wind from Jehovah sprang up and began driving quail from the sea and causing them to fall around the camp, about a day’s journey on this side and a day’s journey on the other side, all around the camp, and they were about two cubits [89 cm, or 2.9 ft.] deep on the ground,” (Nu. 11:31).

The Awake! magazine from December of 2007 draws the following lesson:

When the Israelites desired meat to eat in the wilderness, Jehovah provided an abundance of quail.
Greed caused them selfishly to abuse that gift, greatly angering Jehovah God.
God has not changed since then.
Accordingly, responsible Christians avoid needless waste, which could be a sign of greed.
Some may view the unlimited consumption of energy or other resources as their right.
But natural resources should not be squandered simply because we can afford them or there is an abundance.
After Jesus miraculously fed a large crowd, he directed that the remaining fish and bread be gathered (John 6:12).
He was careful not to waste what his Father had provided.

And just as God exterminated those who made immoderate use of resources then, God warns us of our own future through a prophecy in the book of Revelation:

“[…] Your own wrath came, and the appointed time came […] to bring to ruin those ruining the earth,” (Re. 11:18).

Food for thought. 🙂