Feb. 15 Reading: Numbers 8-10 Commentary

Below is our Numbers 8-10 commentary from our Beginning to End Bible reading program. You can find an email link at the end of this page to share your thoughts or comments with us.

Key Verse(s):

“Whether the cloud stayed over the tabernacle for two days or a month or a year, the Israelites would remain in camp and not set out; but when it lifted, they would set out. At the Lord’s command they encamped, and at the Lord’s command they set out. They obeyed the Lord’s order, in accordance with his command through Moses.” (Num. 9:22-23)

Numbers 8 – Dedication of the Levites

commentaryBefore the Levites could serve in the tabernacle, they had to go through a ritual cleansing ceremony and formal dedication. The cleansing involved three things: sprinkling water on them, shaving their body and washing their clothes (v. 7).

After this was complete, they were to complete two offerings – a grain offering and a sin offering. This was done at the tabernacle in front of the whole congregation of Israel (v. 9). The people laid their hands on the Levites and Aaron offered the sacrifices God requested.

It’s important to note that the Levites were chosen for this service, instead of God taking the firstborn of every family like originally planned (v. 17; Ex. 13), They had no choice in the matter. But there appears to be no grumbling about God commanding them to perform this service. It actually turned out to be the highest honor any person could possibly have been given – to be the people’s liaison to the almighty, holy God. They graciously and obediently “went in to do their work in the tabernacle of meeting before Aaron and his sons; as the Lord commanded…” (v. 22).

Numbers 9 – The Second Passover

The second Passover celebration occurred “in the first month of the second year after” after Israel left Egypt (v. 1). This particular one must have been very special now that the tabernacle was finished, the priesthood was in place and God’s presence was visible in the holy space. All seemed in order for a triumphant march into the Promised Land.

Grace vs. Truth

An interesting dilemma occurred in this narrative that required Moses to seek advice from God.  Some men “who were defiled by a human corpse, so that they could not keep the Passover on that day” (v. 6)(see Num. 5:2) came to Moses and Aaron and said, “Why are we kept from presenting the offering of the Lord at its appointed time among the children of Israel?” (v. 7). It was a legitimate question, one not done in anger, but with respect born out of their desire to worship the Lord in the commanded way.

We know this was a legitimate and heartfelt request because God does not accuse them of an improper attitude. Instead, he offers a path for them to still honor him. They would hold their own individual Passover a month later, “on the fourteenth day of the second month, at twilight” (v. 11).

This decision demonstrates God’s balance between legalism and leniency. A legalist God would have said, “Too bad, you can’t do it…that’s the rule.” It would have put truth above grace.

A lenient God would have said, “It’s OK…don’t worry about it. You can skip the Passover.” That would have put grace above truth. In essence, it would have diminished the importance of Passover.

Instead of landing too far on either side of the grace/truth continuum, God chose a balanced middle ground. His decision held the line on the importance of Passover but gave space for it to be observed on another date because of a legitimate reason. It’s consistent with what we see Jesus do in the New Testament, specifically with the woman caught in adultery (see John 8). And it’s the model for how we as believers and churches should function today, exercising a balance between grace and truth.

Always a Guide

On their journey to the Promised Land, the people of Israel were never without a guide. Numbers 9:15-23 tells us that God was the one who guided their journey, in the appearance of a cloud by day and fire by night.

When God’s essence hovered over the tabernacle, the people remained in their present location. When it moved, they were to move to the next encampment. It didn’t matter if it was a day, a month, or a year (v. 22), the people stayed and moved when God intended. 

While we don’t see a cloud or fire guiding us like the ancient Israelites, God still directs us today. We gain insight about decisions and have our future path enlightened through the reading of His word and His Spirit living with in us. That should give us great joy and relieve us of fear and anxiety about the future, knowing we have a God guiding our path. 

Since that’s true, the only question then becomes, “Will we listen and follow?”

Numbers 10 – Leaving Sinai for the Promised Land

All is finally set for Israel to enter the Promised Land. God instructed Moses to create two silver trumpets (v. 2) to be used by Aaron and the priests for directing the movement of the camp (v. 2-8). Additionally, they were to be used later in the land for signaling before battle engagements (v. 9) and for calling the people together for certain feasts (v. 10).

So presumably, the trumpets are blown here and the people “on the twentieth day of the second month, in the second year” depart the Wilderness of Sinai (v. 11-12).

The procession occurred in an orderly manner, consistent with how God said the entire population should move (see Num. 2). The tribes went in this order:

1. Judah, Issachar, and Zebulun (vv. 14-16)

2. The Levite tribal families of Gershon and Merari, carrying all the tabernacle structural items (v. 17)

3. Reuben, Simeon, and Gad (vv. 18-20)

4. The Levite tribal family Kohath, carrying all the tabernacle holy things (v. 21)

5. Ephraim, Manasseh, and Benjamin

6. Dan, Asher, and Naphtali (vv. 25-27), serving as the rear guard for all the camps (v. 25).

In this way, they set out and marched to the Promised Land. It was a glorious occasion, with the people filled with excitement for their future. Little did they know that a soon to be decision would wreck that excitement and put a halt to the fulfilling of the promise for 40 years.

Questions to Consider:

Do you find it difficult to strike a balance between grace and truth? How have you seen churches abuse both ends of that spectrum? 

God guides us each and every day through the work of the Holy Spirit. We are never without direction when we ask for it. What an encouragement it is knowing God cares enough to direct our steps. Are you letting God lead or are you just trying to do your own thing? How have you seen God direct your path? Do you find it easy or hard to decide what he wants for your life? 

What other points would you want to know about in our Numbers 8-10 commentary? Email us here with questions or comments.