Complaining and God’s Provision Led to Greed for Meat

Numbers 11 begins with the mixed multitude complaining in the wilderness.  This made the Lord so angry that His fire burned some of them in the outskirts of the camp until Moses interceded for them.  Moses then named the place “Taberah” which means burning.

About that time, the people were giving in to their intense longing (greed, lust) for the food in Egypt.  The desert did not supply them with the endless supply of fish, cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions, and garlic that they longed for.  There was not much variety in their diets and they ate manna each day.  They desired meat to eat despite the fact there was plenty of animals from their flocks and herds that were used for sacrifices.  Certainly, they could have occasionally eaten the meat of peace offerings.  Moses was definitely frustrated by their complaining and brought this burden to the Lord because he couldn’t do anything about their situation. 

Before the Lord addressed the people’s lust for meat, He commanded Moses to select 70 of the elders of Israel and bring them to the temple of meeting so He could take some of the Spirit from Moses and distribute it to the 70 elders.  Moses did as the Lord commanded but 2 of the 70 were not at the tent of meeting.  When the Spirit came to rest on them they all prophesied at that time—even on the 2 who were somewhere else in the camp.  Joshua did not think this was right but Moses desired that all of God’s people were prophets.

Many believe this is prophetic of the Holy Spirit being poured out on both Jews and Gentiles and I have to agree but there could also be another explanation for this being inserted into this particular historical account.

God also told Moses to tell the people to consecrate themselves because He was going to bring them enough meat to eat for a whole month.  They would eat so much meat that they would hate it.  The Lord said this would happen because they had rejected Him and distressed Him with their grumbling.

After Moses and the elders went back into the camp, the Lord sent out a wind that brought many quails from across the sea into the camp.  Considering the enormous size of this multitude (600,000 men including their families), this was an incredible miracle.  The people collected quails for two days and the night in between.  It must have been quite tiring to catch as many quails as possible during that time and keep them contained all over the camp.  Some people were so greedy the Lord struck them with a plague before they finished eating what was in their mouths.

Strange as it may seem, it reminds me of something that happened in the New Testament.  Acts 6:1-7 says, “Now in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplying, there arose a complaint against the Hebrews by the Hellenists, because their widows were neglected in the daily distribution. 2 Then the twelve summoned the multitude of the disciples and said, “It is not desirable that we should leave the word of God and serve tables. 3 Therefore, brethren, seek out from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business; 4 but we will give ourselves continually to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” 5 And the saying pleased the whole multitude. And they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit, and Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas, a proselyte from Antioch, 6 whom they set before the apostles; and when they had prayed, they laid hands on them. 7 Then the word of God spread, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests were obedient to the faith.”  NKJV

The first thing we notice in this passage is that the Grecian Jews were complaining against the Hebraic Jews because their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food.  Could it be that the original elders who had been filled with the Spirit in the wilderness were supposed to help with the distribution of the quails?  I think this is a strong possibility because this would have freed Moses from the complaining of the people so he could devote himself to the Lord and the task of leading the people in the wilderness.  Could it be that the Hebraic Jews mentioned in the book of Acts were being greedy and hoarding all the food for themselves?  There must have been enough food to go around since 7 men filled with the Holy Spirit, one of which was a proselyte were chosen to see that the food was distributed fairly.  Perhaps the people in the wilderness would not have died as a result of the plague if they had simply made their requests known to the Lord and trusted in Him to provide for their needs and desires.

I know it wasn’t always easy for the mixed multitude to live without the things they loved to eat and  took for granted in Egypt because I’ve lived in another country where I couldn’t get everything I liked and was accustomed to either.  There were days I longed for something special from home but I learned to improvise.  I even found things where I was living that were not available in America to enjoy.

I realized that if the mixed multitude had lived in the wilderness all their lives they wouldn’t have missed and longed for what existed in Egypt.  Even though that is not the case, they should have appreciated what they had in Egypt and looked forward to what was going to be in the Promised Land. 

As we consider their situation, we shouldn’t think the people didn’t have any food to eat.  They had their flock and herds as well as manna and other things that traders sold them along the way.  Don’t forget that God miraculously provided water for them too in addition to the manna.    

As we imagine what it was like to live in the wilderness, we should wonder whether or not we may be faced with famine at some point in the future and whether or not we will trust in the Lord to provide for our needs.  Actually, according to prophecy, this is a real possibility for those living in the last days.  Can we trust in the Lord without fear or complaining?  It won’t be easy.  It’s definitely easier said than done.  Just remember, there’s nothing wrong with desiring something or making our petitions known to the Lord because He already knows what we need and He’s the source of all blessings.  Just don’t complain because that gets on everybody’s nerves and it’s just as contagious as a plague.  When you see God’s provision, don’t become greedy.  Be willing to share and trust He will always provide for your needs.

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The Nazirite Vow

Today, we will look at Numbers 6 which describes the Nazirite vow, a vow of separation to the Lord.  Hopefully, the Lord will reveal its significance to us.

Numbers 6:1-4 begins by saying,  “Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 2 “Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: ‘When either a man or woman consecrates an offering to take the vow of a Nazirite, to separate himself to the Lord, 3 he shall separate himself from wine and similar drink; he shall drink neither vinegar made from wine nor vinegar made from similar drink; neither shall he drink any grape juice, nor eat fresh grapes or raisins. 4 All the days of his separation he shall eat nothing that is produced by the grapevine, from seed to skin.”  NKJV

The Nazirite vow seems like a very unusual vow with odd prohibitions.  The purpose of the Nazirite vow was for either a man or a woman to separate or devote himself to the Lord.  The primary requirement of this vow was not to eat or drink anything made from the grapevine including vinegar, juice, grapes, or raisins.

I searched the Scriptures to find a clue for the significance of this requirement and began to consider John 15:5-7 which says, “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.  6 If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned.” NKJV

The first thing we learn from this verse is that Jesus is the main trunk of the grapevine and the branches are people who are supposed to bear spiritual fruit (Gal. 5:22-23).  When people choose not to abide in Christ, they become withered and dead.  Their fruit is comparable to the appearance of raisins which when squeezed yield no juice.  In other words, they have no blood or true life in them (Lev. 16:11).  They are spiritually dead.  This is a picture of the condition of the unrighteous.  We, as God’s people are to remain separate from those who practice lawlessness so we will not be influenced by them.  Any fruit they appear to have is counterfeit. 

Revelation 14:18-20 and Genesis 49:11 show us that on the day of the Lord, the wicked will be thrown into the winepress of the wrath of God and that their blood will be splashed up to the horses’ bridles and Jesus’ clothes will be stained with their blood.  Since these verses emphasize that the grapes represent the wicked, the vow of the Nazirite seems to teach us to separate from them and devote ourselves to the Lord.

Numbers 6:5-8 says, “All the days of the vow of his separation no razor shall come upon his head; until the days are fulfilled for which he separated himself to the Lord, he shall be holy. Then he shall let the locks of the hair of his head grow. 6 All the days that he separates himself to the Lord he shall not go near a dead body. 7 He shall not make himself unclean even for his father or his mother, for his brother or his sister, when they die, because his separation to God is on his head. 8 All the days of his separation he shall be holy to the Lord.”  NKJV

Notice that another requirement for the Nazirite vow is to let the hair grow long.  To understand the reason for this we must first recall that each believer is the temple of the Holy Spirit.  Since the Nazirite’s hair is to be grown long, it should remind us of a woman’s long hair.  First Corinthians 11:15 says it is given to her as a covering and it is a glory to her.  Since hair is the covering of our bodily temples, that should remind us that the sheets which covered the tabernacle were made of spun female goat’s hair (Ex. 26:7, 35:26).  Again, what we are seeing is that hair is a covering.   In an earlier post, we compared this covering to the incarnate Christ who was born of a virgin.  This gives new meaning to Psalm 3:3 where David said, “But You, O Lord, are a shield [covering] for me, My glory and the One who lifts up my head.”  You see, ultimately, any glory we have comes from the Lord.  

Remember, the purpose of the Nazirite vow is to be consecrated to the Lord.  When Aaron was consecrated to the position of High Priest, anointing oil was poured on his head.  After that, he was clothed in the clothes of the High Priest including the turban with the plate of the golden crown which had “Consecrated to the Lord” or “Holiness to the Lord” engraved on it.  Based on this pattern, the Nazirite also represents the anointed High Priest and the fact he’s consecrated to the Lord.  In other words, he has separated himself from those around him in order to draw close to the Lord for a certain period of time. 

During the time of the Nazirite vow, the Nazirite was not to go near a dead body or become unclean because his separation to God was on his head.  The word for separation in verse 7 is nezer.  It means consecration, hair, separation, or crown.  In this instance, I think it should be translated as crown instead of separation because it links the idea that the hair on a Nazirite’s head is his glory until Jesus gives him a real crown of glory.  First Peter 5:4 explains, “and when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that does not fade away.”  Second Timothy 4:8 refers to this crown as the crown of righteousness.

During Jesus’ ministry on earth, He often drank wine and became unclean (by healing the woman with issue of blood, healing lepers, and raising the dead) but while He’s in heaven, this is not the case.  If you recall, in Matthew 26:29, Jesus told His disciples, “But I say to you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father’s kingdom.”  By saying this, He was signaling the fact that He was starting a Nazirite vow.  For Jesus, this is a time in which He is physically separated from the Bride of Christ. 

Numbers 6:9-12 continues, “And if anyone dies very suddenly beside him, and he defiles his consecrated head, then he shall shave his head on the day of his cleansing; on the seventh day he shall shave it. 10 Then on the eighth day he shall bring two turtledoves or two young pigeons to the priest, to the door of the tabernacle of meeting; 11 and the priest shall offer one as a sin offering and the other as a burnt offering, and make atonement for him, because he sinned in regard to the corpse; and he shall sanctify his head that same day. 12 He shall consecrate to the Lord the days of his separation, and bring a male lamb in its first year as a trespass offering; but the former days shall be lost, because his separation was defiled.”  NKJV

This passage shows us that as we live our lives, we can un-expectantly come into contact with those who are spiritually dead.  Sometimes as a result of this, we give in to temptation and become defiled.  At that point, our relationship with God and possibly others is broken.  When that happens, we must repair the damage through repentance, by making any necessary restitution, and by re-consecrating ourselves to the Lord.  This is what is represented in the pattern of the Nazirite vow when the defiled hair was shaved off, sacrifices were offered, and the Nazirite vow began again.  

Numbers 6:13-21 tells us, “Now this is the law of the Nazirite: When the days of his separation are fulfilled, he shall be brought to the door of the tabernacle of meeting. 14 And he shall present his offering to the Lord: one male lamb in its first year without blemish as a burnt offering, one ewe lamb in its first year without blemish as a sin offering, one ram without blemish as a peace offering, 15 a basket of unleavened bread, cakes of fine flour mixed with oil, unleavened wafers anointed with oil, and their grain offering with their drink offerings.  16 ‘Then the priest shall bring them before the Lord and offer his sin offering and his burnt offering; 17 and he shall offer the ram as a sacrifice of a peace offering to the Lord, with the basket of unleavened bread; the priest shall also offer its grain offering and its drink offering. 18 Then the Nazirite shall shave his consecrated head at the door of the tabernacle of meeting, and shall take the hair from his consecrated head and put it on the fire which is under the sacrifice of the peace offering. 9 ‘And the priest shall take the boiled shoulder of the ram, one unleavened cake from the basket, and one unleavened wafer, and put them upon the hands of the Nazirite after he has shaved his consecrated hair, 20 and the priest shall wave them as a wave offering before the Lord; they are holy for the priest, together with the breast of the wave offering and the thigh of the heave offering. After that the Nazirite may drink wine.’  21 “This is the law of the Nazirite who vows to the Lord the offering for his separation, and besides that, whatever else his hand is able to provide; according to the vow which he takes, so he must do according to the law of his separation.”  NKJV

Somehow, I really like the imagery of this last passage.  I think the pattern reveals that when our time of physical separation from the Lord is over and He comes back to earth, we will draw near and worship Him with offerings.  Note there is a sin offering mentioned here.  That is probably for sins committed in ignorance.  Perhaps there is no trespass offering because there should be no reason for it.  The other offerings are to present ourselves to the Lord with our whole heart.  As the undefiled hair was shaved off and offered with the peace offering, I thought this was one of the best parts because it’s as if we will cast our crowns before Jesus because He is worthy to be praised and exalted forever and ever!  Not only that, the freedom to drink wine will signal the beginning of the Marriage Supper of the Lamb!  

The Law of Jealousy

Shortly after Numbers 5 begins, it describes the law for a jealous husband.  This law was to be carried out when a jealous man suspected that his wife had committed adultery.   The literal purpose of the law was to determine the truth of his wife’s behavior and for her to bear the consequence of her sin if she was found guilty.  Let’s see what this law says and see what else we can learn from it.

Numbers 5:11-31 says, “ Then the Lord said to Moses, 12 “Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘If a man’s wife goes astray and is unfaithful to him 13 by sleeping with another man, and this is hidden from her husband and her impurity is undetected (since there is no witness against her and she has not been caught in the act), 14 and if feelings of jealousy come over her husband and he suspects his wife and she is impure — or if he is jealous and suspects her even though she is not impure —  15 then he is to take his wife to the priest. He must also take an offering of a tenth of an ephah of barley flour on her behalf. He must not pour oil on it or put incense on it, because it is a grain offering for jealousy, a reminder offering to draw attention to guilt.”  NIV

When a woman commits adultery, she usually attempts to hide it from her husband.  Her husband may experience jealousy but doesn’t have any proof that his wife has been intimate with someone else.  The only way he could find out for sure was to bring his wife to the priest with a reminder offering to draw attention to her guilt.  Today, we can’t do this because the temple is no longer in operation and most of us don’t live in Israel even if it did.   Even so, there is something else more important here for us to understand.

We have a reminder offering called the Lord’s Supper that was initiated around the time of the barley harvest (at Passover).  When we eat of this table, we are to remember the Lord’s death until He returns.  This reminder offering does not contain oil or frankincense but only bread and wine.  This meal is a reminder of our marriage covenant with Christ.  We are individually and corporately the bride of Christ.  Jesus is not only the groom but also our High Priest.  When we come to this table, we need to examine ourselves for sin, especially the sin of spiritual adultery.  At this time, the Holy Spirit often draws attention to our guilt.  This is important because our God is a jealous God.  He wants our full attention and devotion to be directed at Him.   If our heart is not right before Him, we need to repent of our sins.

Numbers 5:16-31 continues, “‘The priest shall bring her and have her stand before the Lord. 17 Then he shall take some holy water in a clay jar and put some dust from the tabernacle floor into the water. 18 After the priest has had the woman stand before the Lord, he shall loosen her hair and place in her hands the reminder offering, the grain offering for jealousy, while he himself holds the bitter water that brings a curse.  Then the priest shall put the woman under oath and say to her, “If no other man has slept with you and you have not gone astray and become impure while married to your husband, may this bitter water that brings a curse not harm you. 20 But if you have gone astray while married to your husband and you have defiled yourself by sleeping with a man other than your husband” —  21 here the priest is to put the woman under this curse of the oath — “may the Lord cause your people to curse and denounce you when he causes your thigh to waste away and your abdomen to swell.  22 May this water that brings a curse enter your body so that your abdomen swells and your thigh wastes away.” “‘Then the woman is to say, “Amen. So be it.” 23 “‘The priest is to write these curses on a scroll and then wash them off into the bitter water. 24 He shall have the woman drink the bitter water that brings a curse, and this water will enter her and cause bitter suffering. 25 The priest is to take from her hands the grain offering for jealousy, wave it before the Lord and bring it to the altar. 26 The priest is then to take a handful of the grain offering as a memorial offering and burn it on the altar; after that, he is to have the woman drink the water. 27 If she has defiled herself and been unfaithful to her husband, then when she is made to drink the water that brings a curse, it will go into her and cause bitter suffering; her abdomen will swell and her thigh waste away, and she will become accursed among her people. 28 If, however, the woman has not defiled herself and is free from impurity, she will be cleared of guilt and will be able to have children. 29 “‘This, then, is the law of jealousy when a woman goes astray and defiles herself while married to her husband, 30 or when feelings of jealousy come over a man because he suspects his wife. The priest is to have her stand before the Lord and is to apply this entire law to her. 31 The husband will be innocent of any wrongdoing, but the woman will bear the consequences of her sin.'” NIV

The woman stood before the Lord with her hair loosened and with the reminder offering in her hand.  According to 1 Corinthians 11:15, a woman’s long hair represents her glory, honor, or dignity.  As we come to partake of the Lord’s Supper, we should stand before our High Priest, reflect His glory, and give Him honor. 

The priest had a cup containing the holy water and dust from the tabernacle floor.  The cup of cursing the woman drank in this passage determined whether or not she obeyed God’s commandment to not commit adultery.  The woman had to drink the contents of the cup given to her and accept whatever happened as a result of doing so.  This shows that we all must accept the consequences of our sins. 

Interestingly enough is the fact that people are not much more than dust and water.  If the woman was innocent, she could bear children as a result of drinking this mixture.  If she was guilty, the truth was made known by the swelling of her belly just as if she were pregnant.  This is similar to how the sin of sexual immorality is often discovered when a non-married person literally becomes pregnant.  Another thing that can happen as a result of sexual immorality is the spread of sexually transmitted diseases.  This can lead to infertility which was almost unbearable for many women.  Infertility represents the absence of life and also represents death itself.

Note that during the ceremony of the law of jealousy, the curses were written on a scroll and washed off into the bitter water.  Together the contents caused bitter suffering if the woman was guilty.  This is a terrible cup for many to drink.

Do you see the spiritual dimension of this law?  We came from dust and will return to dust.  Before we do so, we all have a choice to make.  We can drink from one of two cups—the cup of blessing (wine) or the cup of cursing (water). 

We can choose the cup of blessing by deciding to obey or disobey God’s commandments.  When a person enters into a marriage covenant with the Lord, the words of that agreement (the law) should enter into his/her heart and mind.  The Holy Spirit helps the believer to live a life of obedience including producing the fruits of the Spirit, blessing, and eternal life.  This person will be found guiltless before the Father.

We choose the cup of cursing through disobedience to God’s commands.  Consider Ezekiel 23 which describes the cups of cursing given to Oholah (Samaria) and Oholibah (Jerusalem) because they followed after the gods of other nations.  Oholah committed harlotry with the Assyrians and never gave up her harlotry from Egypt.  As a result, the Assyrians executed judgment on her.  Oholibah did not learn her sister’s lesson.  She desired the Assyrians and Babylonians so God promised to give her the same cup her sister drank.  They both had to pay the ultimate price for their sin of spiritual adultery.

In the future, the nations will surely pay for their lawlessness but God’s people will pay the same price if they commit apostasy by rejecting God’s commandments and deciding to live a lifestyle of lawlessness too.  Those who come out of Babylon the Great will be obedient and the keep the faith of Christ.  They will cling to their Bridegroom and rejoice when it is time for the Marriage Supper of the Lamb.

Note that the husband is innocent of any wrongdoing.  There is also no law for the man who commits adultery.  This is because the Lord was innocent of sin and will never be guilty of committing adultery against the Bride of Christ.  The penalty for both men and women who committed adultery was death.  Although this penalty was not always carried out, a pattern remains.  Those who repent by returning to God’s commandments will receive mercy and be declared not guilty. Those who don’t repent will be found guilty and experience eternity in the lake of fire.

Which cup do you want to drink?

Numbering the People

When people begin to read the book of Numbers, they tend to skip all of the information regarding the numbering of the people. Like genealogies, most tend to think numbering people is boring. We need to put that mentality on hold for a bit and pay attention. In addition, we should understand there were different reasons for each census mentioned in the beginning of Numbers and not forget that the Lord gave Moses a very important rule regarding a census.

Exodus 30:11-15 explains, “Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying: 12 “When you take the census of the children of Israel for their number, then every man shall give a ransom for himself to the Lord, when you number them, that there may be no plague among them when you number them. 13 This is what everyone among those who are numbered shall give: half a shekel according to the shekel of the sanctuary (a shekel is twenty gerahs). The half-shekel shall be an offering to the Lord. 14 Everyone included among those who are numbered, from twenty years old and above, shall give an offering to the Lord.”

If you recall, King David commanded a census to be taken in 2 Samuel 24. Note in this situation that 2 Samuel indicates it was the Lord who moved David to count Israel because He was angry with Israel. At the same time, 1 Chronicles 21 says the Adversary (Satan) stood up against Israel and moved David to take this census. I believe both are accurate because the Lord can accomplish whatever He desires through any instrument including Satan.

When Joab completed taking this particular census, he reported to David that there were 800,000 people in Israel and 500,000 in Judah. That was a total of 1,300,000 swordsmen. Most would wonder why it was wrong for David to take this census. It was most likely that David sinned not only by following Satan’s lead to take a census but mainly by not collecting any ransom money along with the census. This is assumed since there is no mention of its collection taking place.

David was given a choice between 3 punishments and chose the one that would show the Lord’s mercy — a 3 day plague. Shortly after the judgment of the Lord began, David asked the Lord to let his sin be against him and his father’s house and to spare the remaining people because at that point, 70,000 people had died as a result of the terrible plague. David went to Araunah and paid him 50 shekels of silver for his threshing floor and oxen and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings to the Lord so the plague would be withdrawn from the people.

Now let’s get back to the first census in the book of Numbers. It was taken of the entire assembly for military service and included those who were 20 years old. It did not include the Levites who were over the tabernacle of testimony, its equipment and everything else connected with it. The total for this census was 603,550. What happened to the money collected for this census?

Exodus 38:25-28 says, “And the silver from those who were numbered of the congregation was one hundred talents and one thousand seven hundred and seventy-five shekels, according to the shekel of the sanctuary: 26 a bekah for each man (that is, half a shekel, according to the shekel of the sanctuary), for everyone included in the numbering from twenty years old and above, for six hundred and three thousand, five hundred and fifty men. 27 And from the hundred talents of silver were cast the sockets of the sanctuary and the bases of the veil: one hundred sockets from the hundred talents, one talent for each socket. 28 Then from the one thousand seven hundred and seventy-five shekels he made hooks for the pillars, overlaid their capitals, and made bands for them.” It is clear from these verses that the money was used to make parts of the tabernacle.

The next census involved the firstborn males. The Levites were taken in place of the firstborn males from the other tribes. Originally, the Lord claimed these firstborn males for Himself when He killed the firstborn male Egyptian men and animals. The Lord later chose the Levites to replace them since they rallied around Moses and killed those who were involved in the sin of the golden calf (Exodus 32:26-29).

First, a census was taken of all males in the tribe of Levi by clans and families. There were 7,500 from the family of Gershom, 8,600 from the family of Kohath (a footnote from the NKJV says some manuscripts of the Septuagint read 8,300), and 6,200 from the family of Merari– a total of 22,000 who were one month old and over (Num. 3:39). Actually, there had to be 8,300 from Kohath since adding the family totals would equal 22,300 if the number 8,600 was used.

Second, a census was taken of all the firstborn males in the remainder of the multitude (non-Levites) who were a month old and over. These totaled 22,273. Since there was a shortage of 273 Levites for every firstborn male who was one month old and over in the rest of the tribes, redemption money had to be collected from the firstborn of the people of Israel. Five shekels were collected from 273 firstborn males –a total of 1,365 shekels to redeem those firstborn who had not been redeemed by the number of Levites. In addition, all of the firstborn of the Levites’ livestock were taken in place of those of the rest of the tribes.

Third, a census was taken of all males between the ages of 30-50 years old in the tribes of Levi by clans and families (the sons of Kohath, Gershon, and Merari). These people would be involved in the service or ministry of the tabernacle. Each of these 3 groups had certain duties they were responsible for. There were 2,750 from the sons of Kohath, 2,630 from the sons of Gershon, and 3,200 from the sons of Merari—a total of 8,580.

After the plague at Baal of Peor (Acacia Grove), a census was taken of everyone 20 years old and older (Num.20).  This was before the people entered the Promised Land.  There were 43,730 from the tribe of Reuben.  There were 22,200 Simeonites.  There were 40,500 from the tribe of Gad. There were 76,500 from the tribe of Judah.  There were 64,300 from the tribe of Issachar. There were 60,500 Zebulunites.  There were 52,700 from the families of Manasseh and 32,500 from the sons of Ephraim.  There were 45,600 from the tribe of Benjamin.  The Danites totaled 64,400 and there were 53,400 from the tribe of Asher.  The sons of Naphtali totaled 45,400.  All of the children of Israel were 601,730.  Once these people entered the Promised Land, the land was divided by lot among the tribes of Israel.  Following this, each tribe divided their inheritance of land in proportion to the number of people in each tribe.

All of these numbers might not seem very important to us but they are to the Lord. You see, every shepherd knows how many sheep he has. If one ends up missing, he searches for it until he finds it (Matt. 18:12). Numbers were important to the tribes as well. Whenever a battle took place, the leaders of Israel could check their numbers and names afterward to see if anyone was unaccounted for.

During the final 7 years before Christ returns, the Lord will know how many people on earth are His. The Lord will use Israel’s enemies (locusts, grasshoppers, shearer-worms, and cutter-worms) to destroy the land, to cause His people to repent, and return to Him before the Day of the Lord.

God’s intention is the eventual restoration of the land of Israel (Joel 2:25, Rev. 9:3).  The land will be eventually be divided according to the borders defined in Ezekiel 48.  Before that takes place, it will be Satan’s desire to possess the Antichrist and receive the worship that only God deserves while destroying God’s people at the same time. Notice that even though it doesn’t seem like it, the Lord allows Satan to think he is in control when it is really the Lord who is omnipotent and accomplishing His purposes.

During the final tribulation, there will be 144,000 servants of God who will be sealed—that’s 12,000 each from the tribes of Judah, Reuben, Gad, Asher, Naphtali, Manasseh, Simeon, Levi, Issachar, Zebulon, Joseph, and Benjamin. Some believe the tribe of Dan won’t be among them because it will side with the Antichrist and Ephraim may be part of Joseph’s or among the numerous Gentiles that will stand before the throne shouting “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” (Revelation 7:4-10)

I’m sure the Lord will be pleased with each member of this multitude who He knows by name because He redeemed every single one of them. In fact, all of their sins were placed against Jesus and He covered them with His precious blood.

God’s people must come out of Babylon the Great so the final 7 plagues will not fall on them but only on those who practice lawlessness! (Rev. 18:4) Remember, if you want to avoid the plagues, you need to be redeemed! This is the pattern that was laid out in Exodus 30.

Finally, don’t forget that just as the redemption money collected with the census was used in the building of the tabernacle, those who are redeemed by the Bride price are living stones because 1 Peter 2:4-5 tells us: “Coming to Him as to a living stone, rejected indeed by men, but chosen by God and precious, 5 you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.”

May the Name of the Lord be praised!!

Camping Around the Tabernacle

According to the Targum Pseudo-Jonathan, the tribes of Israel camped around the tabernacle in the wilderness under silk banners whose colors corresponded to the colors of the tribal stones of the High Priest’s breastplate.[i]

The tribes did not camp according to the birth order of Israel’s sons: 

  • Leah: Reuben (1), Simeon (2), Levi (3), Judah (4), Issachar (9), Zebulon (10)
  • Bilhah (Rachel’s handmaid):  Dan (5), Naphtali (6)
  • Zilpah (Leah’s handmaid): Gad (7), Asher (8)
  • Rachel: Joseph (11), Benjamin (12)

Instead, the four camps of 3 clans each dwelled around the tabernacle with their silk colored banners which portrayed the symbol of their camp. 

The camp of Judah whose symbol was the Lion was located east of the tabernacle.  It consisted of the clans of Judah (sardius), Issachar (topaz), and Zebulon (carbuncle).  “Arise, 0 Lord, and let Thine enemies be scattered, and Thine adversaries be driven away before Thee” was written on their banners.   

The camp of Reuben whose symbol was a stag instead of a young ox was located to the south.  It consisted of the clans of Reuben (azmorad), Simeon (sapphire), and Gad (adamant).  “Hear, Israel, the Lord our God is One” was written on their banners.  The Targum indicates that it was Moses decision for their banners to have a stag instead of a young ox so the incident with the golden calf would not be remembered against them. 

The camp of the Levites surrounded the Tabernacle with all the other camps set up beyond them.  Moses, Aaron & his sons camped to the east, Kohath camped to the south, Gershom camped to the west, and Merari camped to the north.  In one way, the location of the Levites around the tabernacle is comparable to the living creatures which surrounded the throne of God while the other camps around the Tabernacle were like the 24 thrones in heaven (Rev. 4:2-8).   Incidentally, the 24 thrones in heaven probably correspond to the 24 divisions of the Levitical priests (1 Chron. 24:1-18) so it appears the camp of the whole nation of Israel foreshadowed a time in which all believers would be part of a royal priesthood.

The camp of Ephraim whose symbol was a young man was located to the west.  It consisted of the clans of Ephraim (ligure), Manasseh (agate), and Benjamin (amethyst).  On their banners was written:  “And the Cloud of the Lord was over them, in the going forward of the host.”

The camp of Dan whose symbol was a basilisk serpent was located to the north.  It consisted of the clans of Dan (chrysolite), Asher (beryl), and Naphtali (jasper).  On their banners was written: “And in his encampment shall he say, Return, 0 Lord, and dwell in Thy glory in the midst of the myriads of Israel.”  Most agree that the eagle is the counterpart of the serpent.

God was enthroned in the center of the camp similar to:

  • The chariot seen in Ezekiel’s vision:  “Then I looked, and behold, a whirlwind was coming out of the north, a great cloud with raging fire engulfing itself; and brightness was all around it and radiating out of its midst like the color of amber, out of the midst of the fire. 5 Also from within it came the likeness of four living creatures. And this was their appearance: they had the likeness of a man. 6 Each one had four faces, and each one had four wings… As for the likeness of their faces, each had the face of a man; each of the four had the face of a lion on the right side, each of the four had the face of an ox on the left side, and each of the four had the face of an eagle.”  (Ezek 1:4-6, 10-11) 
    • The faces of the living creatures correspond to the four camps of Israel.  The face of the man corresponds to Ephraim, the lion to Judah, the ox to Reuben, and the eagle to Dan.
  • John’s vision in Revelation 4:2-8:  “Immediately I was in the Spirit; and behold, a throne set in heaven, and One sat on the throne. 3 And He who sat there was like a jasper and a sardius stone in appearance; and there was a rainbow around the throne, in appearance like an emerald. 4 Around the throne were twenty-four thrones, and on the thrones I saw twenty-four elders sitting, clothed in white robes; and they had crowns of gold on their heads. 5 And from the throne proceeded lightnings, thunderings, and voices. Seven lamps of fire were burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God.  6 Before the throne there was a sea of glass, like crystal. And in the midst of the throne, and around the throne, were four living creatures full of eyes in front and in back. 7 The first living creature was like a lion, the second living creature like a calf, the third living creature had a face like a man, and the fourth living creature was like a flying eagle. 8 The four living creatures, each having six wings, were full of eyes around and within. And they do not rest day or night, saying:  “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, Who was and is and is to come!”   
    • Here again, the living creatures seem to represent the clans of Israel as they had camped around the tabernacle in the wilderness.  The one like a man corresponds to Ephraim, the lion to Judah, the calf to Reuben, and the flying eagle to Dan.  I believe God desired Dan to be similar to a swift eagle but instead he became a serpent as Israel prophesied in Genesis 49:17.  When the end comes, the descendants of Dan may be where the eagles are gathered since they are not listed among the 144,000 (Luke 17:37, Rev. 19:17, 21).  In other words, they will be eaten by birds of prey.
  • The Holy Spirit dwelling within the heart of believers.  If this is the case, how can our flesh be like the creatures which surround the throne and/or the camps which surrounded the tabernacle? 
    • Mankind was made in the image of God but we are still being conformed into the unique person He desires us to be so in this sense we are like the living creature that was “like a man.”  We are also like Ephraim who was lost and scattered to the 4 parts of the earth.  Similarly, we needed to be drawn back into relationship with the Lord like Ephraim will be.
    • When I think of a lion, I think of the powerful king of the jungle.  Maybe that’s why Jesus is called the Lion of Judah.  The Bible tells us that God’s servants will reign as kings forever but first the fleshly lion within us needs to be tamed (Rev. 22:5).  We need to remember that lions are powerful creatures when they hunt but even they know when to eat, play with the cubs, and rest.
    • The ox was a clean animal suitable for sacrifice.  We might venture to say it was of higher worth or quality than a sheep.  We are sheep who follow a loving Shepherd.  We are expected to be living sacrifices holy and pleasing to the Lord (Romans 12:1-2). We need to walk in the Spirit instead of fulfilling the desires of the flesh which is similar to worshipping the golden calf called “self.”  One day, I suspect we will be transformed into powerful oxen who lead instead of remaining as sheep which only follow.   
    • Eagles are swift birds.  When Jesus brought the mixed multitude out of Egypt, He destroyed Pharaoh’s army and carried His people on wings of eagles and brought them to Himself (Exodus 19:4).  When we trust in the Lord, He renews our strength.  Isaiah 40:31 also tells us we will rise up with wings like eagles’ and run or walk without being weary or faint.

What else can we say about the mixed multitude that camped around the tabernacle?  Numbers 10:35-36 says, “So it was, whenever the ark set out, that Moses said:  “Rise up, O Lord!  Let Your enemies be scattered, And let those who hate You flee before You.”  36 And when it rested, he said:  “Return, O Lord, To the many thousands of Israel.”  Oddly enough, this is what was written on the banners of the camps of Judah and Dan.  Fortunately today, the Holy Spirit dwells within us (believers) all the time wherever we go.  We should be careful not to commit apostasy so He will remain within us and so we never experience the fate of God’s enemies.  


[i] Palestinian Targum on the Book of Numbers, Section of the Torah XXXIV. Bemidbar  http://targum.info/pj/pjnum1-4.htm