Saturday, August 15, 2009

NUMBERS: Chapter 9

Chapter 9
Summary:God speaks to Moses in the wilderness of Sinai, in the first month* of the second year after leaving Egypt, and commands that the people of Israel prepare to celebrate "Passover".

God states that on the fourteenth day of the month* at evening, "Passover" is to be celebrated according to all of the rules and regulations God had previously stated. Moses conveyed this message to the people of Israel, and they celebrated "Passover" as they were commanded on the fourteenth day of the month.

However, there were certain men who were "defiled" by the dead body of another man, that they could not celebrate "Passover" on that day, so they came before Moses and Aaron. The men told Moses about their situation, and Moses replied to the men to "stand still" and he would consult with God about what to do.

God's response was that anyone who had "defiled" themselves from contact with a dead body, or if they were away on a journey, then they will be expected to celebrate "Passover" on the first day of the second month*, and are to eat the lamb meat with unleavened bread that evening. None of the lamb is to be left until the next morning, nor must any of the bones of the lamb be broken, and all of the usual laws of celebrating "Passover" must be observed.

However, anyone that isn't deemed "unclean" by God, or "off on a journey", and does not participate in the "Passover" celebration on the fourteenth day of the first month*, the person will be excommunicated from their people as a consequence of their "sin".

If a foreigner is living amongst the people of Israel and opts to observe "Passover", then they must do so according the same rules and regulations as those who are born in the land - as God claims that only a single law will apply.

On the day that the tabernacle was set up, it was covered by a cloud - more specifically, directly over the area where the ark of the covenant was contained. In the evening the cloud changed to the appearance of fire, and remained that way until the morning. This would continue throughout the people of Israel's journey - a cloud hovering over the tabernacle by day, and the appearance of fire at night.

When the cloud lifted, the people of Israel followed it to wherever it came to rest and camped there. In this way God, lead the people of Israel through their journey. If the cloud came to rest for many days, the people of Israel remained camped where they were until the cloud moved again. If the cloud stayed for a long time, so did the Israelis; if the cloud stayed only briefly, the people left when it did. Day or night, whenever the cloud moved, so did the people of Israel. Whether the cloud stayed for several days, a month, or a year, the people only moved ahead when the cloud did.
Notes:1.) Approximately mid-March by our current calendar.
2.) Approximately the first of April by our current calendar.
3.) Approximately the first of May by our current calendar.
Thoughts:This chapter begins once again with God chatting away with Moses in the wilderness of Sinai. It's the two year anniversary of God leading the people of Israel out of Egypt, and God tells Moses to prepare the people for the celebration of "Passover", and that all of the rules laid out in Exodus: Chapter 12 are to be followed on the 14th day of the first month.

However, there were a couple of men who realized that they had "defiled" themselves by being near a dead body and were therefore weren't sure what they should do. They plead their case to Moses and Aaron, and Moses told them to hang tight while he asks God what to do.

God's response is that anyone who has "defiled" themselves by being in contact with a dead body - or anyone who might be "in a journey of afar" - has to celebrate "Passover" a month later on the fourteenth day of the second month.

I guess the first thing that comes as a surprise is that God is even okay with a person going out on a journey anywhere near the time of "Passover" in the first place. God generally doesn't appear to concern himself with whether his laws are an inconveniece upon people's lives, so I suppose we could chalk this up to one of God's better laws. If you miss "Passover" due to having to go out and travel somewhere important, no worries, you can make it up next month.

However, this raises some questions that God didn't have the foresight to address. What if you miss "Passover" due to being off on a journey in the first month, and then "defile" yourself by having someone drop dead around you before you can celebrate "Passover" in the second month? Do you get another month, or is that it?

God does however, let us know what happens if you're not "off on a journey", haven't gotten off on a technicality by "defiling" yourself with a dead body, and forget to, or opt not to, celebrate "Passover" in the first month - the person is to be excommunicated for their "sin". I suppose one found guilty of this "sin" should be grateful God doesn't dole out his usual punishment of demanding your death by stoning or immolation.

God adds that foreigners living in the land are welcome to come celebrate "Passover" as well if they wish, but that they must follow the same rules (most likely refering to that they'll have to be circumcised).

The chapter closes out explaining that once the tabernacle was erected, God appeared as a cloud above it, which became a giant fireball at night. God basically leads the people by having them follow the cloud/fireball whenever he moves it, but also only when he moves it. If God parks the cloud/fireball for a few days, a month, or a year, the people of Israel are to stay where they are until the cloud starts moving again. If fireball starts moving in the middle of the night, then everyone has to be woken up to move after it once it starts on its way. Basically, a game of "follow that cloud!"

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