1 Samuel, chapters 1-4

“Then Elkanah went to his house in Ramah, but the boy became a minister of Jehovah before Eli the priest.”
~1 Samuel 2:11

A few years prior, when Elkanah’s sterile wife Hannah came before Jehovah to pray for a son, the high priest Eli had mistakenly made offensive comments to her, misjudging her for a drunkard (1 Sam. 1:10-14).

Her reply to him reflected a quiet and mild spirit (1 Sam. 1:15-18; 1 Pet. 3:4).

When Hannah’s prayer was answered and her child was ready to be weaned, neither her nor her husband held resentment against the house of Jehovah nor toward his appointed servants.

They understood that the center for pure worship was the tabernacle at Shiloh and did not restrain from taking their son to serve there (1 Sam. 1:21-25).

They had faith in Jehovah that he would look after their son and that it was the best place for him despite the imperfections of those serving there.

Likewise, we should not let the imperfections of others in the congregation deter us from offering ourselves up for greater service.

We may witness personality defects that could work as stumbling blocks, but we should continue to recognize Jehovah’s congregation for what it really is: the center for pure worship (Isa. 2:2,3).

If we do our part and leave the rest in God’s hands, we will surely be blessed, like in the case of Hannah and Elkanah (1 Sam. 2:20, 21; Mal. 3:10).

 

Judges, chapters 11-14

“Look! You will conceive and give birth to a son, and no razor should touch his head, because the child will be a Nazirite of God from birth, and he will take the lead in saving Israel out of the hand of the Philistines.”
~Judges 13:5

When reading about Samson and how he scraped honey out of a lion carcass and how he killed 30 Philistines and then took their garments, I wondered if this was not in direct conflict with his being a Nazirite (Jud. 14:8,9,19; Nu. 6:1-7).

Nazirites were individuals who vowed special dedication to Jehovah during certain periods of their lives, and they had a set of restrictions governing their conduct .

One such restriction was that they were not to come in contact with a dead body (Nu. 6:6,7).

In Samson’s case, however, those restrictions did not apply.

Because he was divinely appointed a Nazirite since before his birth, his conduct was only governed by the restrictions the angelic harbinger had indicated to his parents (Jud. 13:3-5,13,14).

 

Deuteronomy, chapters 14-18

You may then convert [the offering] into money, and with your money in hand, travel to the place that Jehovah your God will choose.

~Deuteronomy 14:25

God’s commandments are not so burdensome that they are practically impossible to carry out (1 John 5:3).

His main purpose behind having the Israelites congregate was that he wanted them to rejoice and show hospitality toward others (De. 14:26,27).

Even though the semi-annual trips to the assembly place carried expenses, physical effort, travel time, and business losses, God personally promised “Jehovah your God will bless you,” (De. 14:24).

Today we have many ways of contributing to the fulfillment of God’s will.

Although regular monetary contributions are useful, many of God’s commandments imply personal sacrifices in both time and effort.

We cannot exchange these acts of obedience for something more convenient, but God’s blessing will rejoice each one of his servants on a personal level.

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).

Leviticus, chapters 14-16

[…] The goat designated by lot for A·za′zel should be brought alive to stand before Jehovah in order to perform the atonement upon it, so that it may be sent away for A·za′zel into the wilderness.
~Leviticus 16:10

The word “Azazel” seems to come from two Hebrew words.

Na·saʼ′ can mean pardon, take away, carry and in this instance, disappear;ʽez means goat (Insight, vol. ii, “Pardon”).

In effect, Azazel means disappearing goat, scapegoat, or as the Greek Septuagint translates it, “the one averting evil,” (Insight, vol. i, “Azazel”).

The High Priest of Israel was to enter the Most Holy, that is, the compartment of the Tabernacle where the Ark of the Covenant was placed, only once a year.

There, he was to make atonement first for himself and his family, then for all of Israel (Lev. 16:12-16).

This occurred on the holiday known as Atonement Day.

This was the only day in which all of Israel was obligated to fast and ‘afflict their souls.’ They were prohibited from working on this day (Lev. 16:31).

There were two goats: one goat was sacrificed to Jehovah as a sin offering on behalf of the nation, and the other stood before Jehovah while the life of the sacrificed goat was symbolically transferred to the live goat through the blood it shed (Lev. 17:11).

Then the live goat was led away and set free in the wilderness, carrying off the nation’s sins, so to speak (Lev. 16:20-22).

The prophet Isaiah correctly applied this ceremony to what Christ was to do for mankind:

“Truly he himself carried our sicknesses,
And he bore our pains.
But we considered him as plagued, stricken by God and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgression;
He was crushed for our errors.
He bore the punishment for our peace,
And because of his wounds we were healed,”
(Isa. 53:4,5).

Therefor both goats represent one symbol: that of Christ shedding his blood for us, presenting it in Heaven before his Father, and through his atonement, carrying away the sins of repentant humanity (Heb. 9:11, 12).

 

 

Leviticus, chapters 10-13

If a woman becomes pregnant and gives birth to a male, she will be unclean for seven days […] If she should give birth to a female, she will then be unclean for 14 days […]
~Leviticus 12:2,5

Why this discrepancy in the length of time an Israelite woman would be considered unclean?

At first read it seems rather sexist.

What did being unclean imply?

During the time she was physically unclean, the woman was not to have sexual relations with her husband. This promoted self-discipline and hygiene in the Israelite culture. During the next 33 days, in the case of a baby boy, or 66 days, in the case of a baby girl, the mother was ceremonially unclean, which meant she was not to come into contact with holy objects (Lev. 12:4,5; Insight on the Scriptures, vol. ii, “Mother,” par. 3).

Why was the new mother “unclean” to begin with?

The research explains that because of the imperfect state of humanity, the reproductive organs which were once meant to pass perfect life, now actually pass the “inherited effects of sin,” that is, illness and death (Watchtower, 5/15/2004, p. 23; Ps. 51:5; Rom. 5:12).

This ‘passing on of sin’ required some atonement, which is why God asked for a burnt offering and a sin offering, (Lev. 12:6).

These sacrifices foreshadowed Christ’s sacrifice which would atone for all of repentant humanity’s sins (Gal. 3:24; Heb. 9:13,14; 10:3,4).

To put this into a more familiar context, let us remember that even Mary recognized her own sinful state when she and Joseph presented baby Jesus at the temple and offered a humble sacrifice (Luke 2:22-24).

Israelite birth customs drew attention to our lamentable condition of being born in sin as opposed to perfection, and therefor highlighted the need for a savior from this state, the need for the expected Messiah.

So why the discrepancy in the length of “unclean” time between the sexes?

In the Bible, ‘the woman was created for the sake of the man,’ and not the other way around, (1 Cor. 11:9).

In family life, a woman is to subject to her husband’s role as head of the household (Eph. 5:22,23).

“Thus, from birth, the Law distinguished between male and female, assigning to the latter a subordinate position,” (Insight on the Scriptures, vol. i, “Clean,” par. 11).

From this we can conclude that the time needed for a mother to become physically and ceremonially clean after giving birth to a girl served to remind society that not only were they all sinners, but females should subject to their husbands/fathers within family life.

Leviticus, chapters 6-9

Last week’s reading covered many details on several types of offerings.

These are:

  • Burnt offerings
  • Communion offerings
  • Sin offerings
  • Guilt offerings
  • Grain offerings
  • Wave offerings
  • Sacred portions
  • Installation sacrifice

I will focus on communion offerings, otherwise known as peace offerings.

Communion offerings could be voluntarily offered at any time as “an expression of thanksgiving,” to praise God or to concert a vow (Lev. 7:12, 16).

The consumption of the offering was shared between the person presenting it, the priests and Jehovah.

The person presenting the offering would offer unleavened bread along with the ceremonial sacrifice of a healthy animal.

Neither the animal’s blood nor fat were for human consumption; the blood was sprinkled around the altar and the fat was burnt, Jehovah symbolically consuming the aroma (Lev. 3:2-5; 7:25-27).

The person presenting the offering could bring leavened bread, but this was not to be presented on the altar, as leaven represents sin and corruption (Lev. 2:11; 7:13).

The leavened bread was for the people’s enjoyment, not God’s.

Tradition states that the person presenting the offering ate the meal in the courtyard of the tabernacle (Insight, vol. II, “Offerings,” par. 9).

The flesh of the animal sacrificed had to be eaten on the same day it was slaughtered (Lev. 7:15).

Otherwise the flesh would begin to corrupt and the people who partook in the communion meal would then be ceremonially unclean, a sin punishable by death (Lev. 7:20).

Today we do not have these types of ceremonies in which we can ‘share a meal’ with Jehovah.

It must have been a very spiritual experience.

We can, however, thank and praise God any day, any time, through words and actions that reflect our faith in the ultimate sacrifice of Christ Jesus, which can be likened to an aroma that is pleasing to God.