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Passage: Numbers 7

On Saturday, February 23, 2013 (Last Updated on 1/16/2020), Yujin wrote,

Four offerings are brought by each of the twelve tribes in the dedication of the altar. But we are not told here what each offering represents. Based on the other passages, I offer this suggestion as to the meaning of each offering:

The grain offering (cf. Leviticus 2) - This offering of flour and oil may represent a thanksgiving offering for God's sovereign providence, by which Adam and Eve was endowed with "every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it" for food (Genesis 1:29) and by which Israel would be brought into a land they did not work for, a "land flowing with milk and honey" (Deuteronomy 6:3,10-11).

The burnt offering (cf. Leviticus 1) - As I commented on Matt's sharing below, this offering of blood probably represented atonement (i.e. covering or forgiveness of sin) for innate, constitutional uncleanness, which looks back to the first sin committed by Adam and Eve, by which every human being was thereafter born with a sinful nature (cf. Romans 5:12). Even before the Law was given, both Noah (Genesis 8:20) and Abraham (Genesis 22:2), in their day, offered up burnt offerings to the LORD. 

The sin offering (cf. Leviticus 4) - This offering of blood represented atonement for unintentional sins committed in ignorance, of which David writes "But who can discern their own errors? Forgive my hidden faults" (Psalm 19:12). This offering does not cover willful sins, for which the punishment is either restitution or death. 

The peace (or fellowship) offering (cf. Leviticus 3;7:11-18, 29-32) - This offering of flesh was not for atonement but consumption, whether by God as pleasing aroma (i.e. He savored the smoke from the burning up of the fat and 2 kidneys), or the priests and their families as food (i.e. they received breast and right shoulder), or the people bringing the offering (i.e. they received the remaining meat). The key idea is that every party was pleased, satisfied, contented, gratified with their portion. There was no hoarding for the third day. Everything had to be consumed in the first or second day (Leviticus 7:17-18). This offering takes its name from the Hebrew shalom, which means peace, and so represents the peace that comes when every party involved is satisified.

Thus, in these offerings we have represented (1) thanksgiving for God's sovereign providence, (2) atonement for their sinful condition, (3) atonement for their sins committed in ignorance, and (4) fellowship of peace between satisifed parties. 

Passage: Numbers 7

On Thursday, February 23, 2012 (Last Updated on 2/23/2016), Yujin wrote,

Whenever Moses went into the Tabernacle to speak with the LORD, he heard the voice speaking to him from between the two cherubim above the Ark’s cover—the place of atonement—that rests on the Ark of the Covenant. The LORD spoke to him from there (Numbers 7:89).

One of my favorite commentators online, Bob Deffinbaugh, wrote that even Moses could not enter the Holy of Holies in his article on the tabernacle (article, note footnote 144). But he offers no clear support for this assumption. Dr. Deffinbaugh made this observation based on Exodus 40:34-35, which reads,

Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle. Moses could not enter the tent of meeting because the cloud had settled on it, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle.

This text does not say that Moses was never able to enter the Holy of Holies, only that he could not do so on this occasion because of God's glory filling the tabernacle. It is likely that no one was able to enter the tabernacle on this occasion. We have something similar to this in Revelation 15:8, where we read,

And the temple was filled with smoke from the glory of God and from his power, and no one could enter the temple until the seven plagues of the seven angels were completed.

However, when this phenomenon was not occurring, as in our present text, it appears that Moses did go into the Holy of Holies to speak to the LORD. This is also suggested in Exodus 30:6. Furthermore, while the high priest could only go before the LORD once a year and always with a blood sacrifice for himself, Moses had no such requirement (cf. Exodus 25:21-22; 34:36; Numbers 7:89). He could meet with the LORD, it appears, as often as he wanted. But Aaron could not. If Aaron tried to go in before the LORD at any other time then what was prescribed by the LORD, he would die (Leviticus 16:2). Furthermore, while Moses was a Levite, he was not in the line of Aaron, which was the designated high priestly line. Therefore, he did not go in before the LORD as a high priest but as a prophet of God.

What is the profound implications of this? First, the obvious. Moses had a very special relationship with God. This is in keeping with what is described of the LORD's communication with Moses in Exodus 33:11 (cf. Deuteronomy 34:10),

The LORD would speak to Moses face to face, as one speaks to a friend.

In another text, Aaron and Miriam are rebuked by God for speaking badly of Moses. Once again Moses' special relationship with God is highlighted. We read in Numbers 12:8,

With him I speak face to face
   clearly and not in riddles; 
   he sees the form of the LORD
Why then were you not afraid 
   to speak against my servant Moses?

Notice that in this text God was addressing Aaron and Miriam, who were not just any Israelites. Aaron was the first high priest. But the very fact that Moses could freely go in and out from the LORD's presence meant that Moses ranked above the high priest. 

Through Christ the veil of separation is removed so that believers can go before God, but not as the high priest, who could only go once a year and with a sacrifice, but as Moses. That special relationship Moses had with God is now available to every believer through Jesus Christ. 

Also, what Moses could not accomplish for his people in his day, Christ would accomplish for us. While Moses was declared to be faithful, and people were "baptized into Moses," (1 Corinthians 10:2) they could only enjoy the benefits if they also had the faith of Moses, which most of them did not, for "God was not pleased with most of them, and their bodies were scattered in the wilderness" (1 Corinthians 10:5). This crisis of unbelief is explained in detail in Hebrews 3:1-19. The same could be said for Abraham. Not every offspring of Abraham were saved, only those who were chosen and shared the faith of Abraham (Romans 4:13,16; 9:6-18).

So, those of us that embrace the faith of Abraham and Moses can enjoy the kind of fellowship they had with God through Jesus Christ:

Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess... Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need (Hebrews 4:14,16).

Passage: Numbers 7

On Thursday, February 23, 2012 (Last Updated on 2/23/2013), Matt wrote,

While listening to the mind numbing recollection of the standard offerings made by each tribe for the dedication of the altar I couldn't help but think about the real possibility that there are countless, ritualistic, mindless, offerings being made today.  Categorically one might consider tithes as an offering susceptible to this kind of giving.  A process that can unfortunately start and stop with the simple calculation of taking a tenth of some income number and putting it in the offering basket on Sunday without consideration of why and what it means.  As it has been discussed in other's posts tithing is not only an OT law no longer applicable to Christian but I would suspect many who still tithe do so without the conviction or understanding as to why they tithe. 

Here's a crazy thought....Could it be that the church structure today has strayed away from the biblical model due to man's selfish desires and that man at some point realized for it to continue to exist would require stretching the interpretation of scripture in a way that benefits the model itself?  Specifically, the bible supports pastors making their living preaching although Paul limself stays away from it so as not to take away from the gospel (1 Cor. 9:17-18, 2 Cor. 11:7).  Or is it that the church structure itself has evolved into something greater than that of biblical times and Paul's pastoral example is simply not a timeless one?  In other words has the church structure evolved as man has desired it or God?  Honestly, I don't know.  Anyone have any thoughts?

Secondly, why do you think the sin offering made by each tribe was the least of all that was offered - a single male goat?  Was it simply a symbolical reference to Jesus?  Was each tribe's sin quantitatively and proportionally less significant in a dedication offering?  Were their other sin offerings taken into account and therefore less of an offering was required for this one? 

Yujin responds... I have commented on your first question often with respect to how our current ecclesiastical institiutions have departed, whether intentionally or otherwise, from biblical principles and traditions. Yet, there are various minority groups seeking to recover these things for the church. 

On the second question with respect to the simplicity of the sin offering, your last point may suggest the answer, namely, that there were other offerings for sin beyond just the sin offering. In fact, there were three different offerings whereby atonement (i.e. forgiveness for sin) was obtained: the burnt offering, the sin offering, and the trespass offering. There is some debate as to how these differ from one another, but at least one commenter has suggested what seems likely to me:

The diversity of offerings is a little perplexing at first; and it is some time before we discover the difference between them. They all seem indiscriminately sacrifices--animals to be slain and consumed in the fire of the altar. By and by, we naturally ask, what are burnt offerings as distinguished from sin offerings and trespass offerings? and why should there be a trespass offering in addition to a sin offering, seeing that trespass is sin? The light gradually dawns. We find they represent gradations of the same subject. All were for atonement, but atonement for different degrees of sin, as we might express it. There was a form of sin for which there was no atonement. "The soul that doeth aught presumptuously . . . reproacheth the Lord: that soul shall be cut off from among his people. Because he hath despised the word of the Lord, and hath broken his commandment, that soul shall utterly be cut off: his iniquity shall be upon him" (that is, shall not be purged by sacrifice) (Num. 15:30-31). But this was not a common case. The common case was sin not of presumption: sin of natural state, sin of ignorance, and sin of weakness: the first, the constitutional uncleanness that has come into the world by sin, which is "no more I, but sin that dwelleth in me" (Rom. 7:20): the second, where men do wrong without knowing it, as in" sin of ignorance": and third, acts of known disobedience, but not deliberate or intentional but the result of infirmity deplored. For these three phases of sin, the burnt offering, the sin offering, and the trespass offering appear to have been provided, differing in methods and accessories according to the respective cases (From online article: "Chapter 25. BURNT OFFERINGS, SIN OFFERINGS, AND TRESPASS OFFERINGS" in The Law of Moses by Robert Roberts).

Thus, in Numbers 7 both the burnt offering and the sin offering were for atonement for (1) innate uncleanness in view of their sin nature and for (2) sins committed in ignorance. Since more is required for the burnt offering, one might surmise that their innate uncleanness was the deeper and more serious issue than simply the sins they may have committed in ignorance. And there is no trespass offering here because these were to be offered for known (though still unintentional) sins, which at this time of general offering would not have applied equally to every tribe.

Passage: Numbers 7

On Thursday, February 24, 2011, Yujin wrote,

Someone brought up the perceptive question regarding why Moses repeated the offerings that each tribe was to give when they were all the same? Couldn't he have written something like "ditto" for the other tribes after the first. Here was my response to her:

I'm not sure about this; however, it does highlight each tribal leader's obedience to the command. It shows that while Israel is seen as a collective people of God, God also takes note of each tribe, even each individual. Interestingly, they all bring the exact same offering, even though there's nothing to suggest that this is what was prescribed. In other words, the tribal leader of Judah, who was the first to come with his offering, set the standard, and everyone else just followed his lead, no more and no less. As I was reading, I remember hoping that someone would bring two silver plates instead of one or six male goats instead of five. As an application, do we just do what is required? Do we just offer what is expected? What does this suggest about our worship of God?

Passage: Numbers 7

On Wednesday, February 23, 2011 (Last Updated on 2/23/2013), Unmi wrote,
In Numbers 7, we see the heads of each tribe bringing dedication offerings for the Tabernacle. 
The order that the offerings are presented are the same as the camping/marching orders in Numbers 2. 
Of interest, Nashson is the 1st person.
12 The one who brought his offering on the first day was Nahshon son of Amminadab of the tribe of Judah.
This person's name is listed in the geneology of Jesus in Matthew 1.
 1 This is the genealogyof Jesus the Messiahthe son of David, the son of Abraham:

 2 Abraham was the father of Isaac,
   Isaac the father of Jacob,
   Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers,
 3 Judah the father of Perez and Zerah, whose mother was Tamar,
   Perez the father of Hezron,
   Hezron the father of Ram,
 4 Ram the father of Amminadab,
   Amminadab the father of Nahshon,
the father of Salmon,
 5 Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab,
   Boaz the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth,
   Obed the father of Jesse,
 6 and Jesse the father of King David.

The only other significant person in the list is Elishama son of Ammihud, the leader of the people of Ephraim. He is Joshua's grandfather. 1 Chronicles 7 lists the decendents of Ephraim....Elishama his son, 27 Nun his son and Joshua his son. 

I do have a question regarding the offerings...I assume the gold and silver came from the plunder of the Egyptians, I guess they still had left over even after their donations for the Tabernacle, but where did they get the grains and olive oil for the offering? Is this grain that they brought out of Egypt 1 year ago that they hadn't consumed yet? I thought they were complaining to the Lord that they didn't have anything to eat and that's why the Lord gave them manna and quail.

Yujin responds... the ancient Scythians (c. 1000 BC) were a nomadic people that inhabited the arid steppes of what is now Russia. They provided the Greeks with grain and other perishable commodities in exchange for metals, art objects, oil and wine. While the Bible does not specify how Israel obtained grain for the grain offering in the desert. Perhaps, like the Scythians, they traded for it with the items that they took from the Egyptians.