Friday, February 5, 2016

Exodus 30:11-16 Census Atonement

"Then the LORD said to Moses,
'When you take a census of the Israelites to count them,
each one must pay the LORD a ransom for his life at the time he is counted.
Then no plague will come on them when you number them.

Each one who crosses over to those already counted is to give a half shekel,
according to the sanctuary shekel, which weighs twenty gerahs.
This half shekel is an offering to the LORD.
All who cross over, those twenty years old or more,
are to give an offering to the LORD.
The rich are not to give more than a half shekel and the poor are not to give less
when you make the offering to the LORD to atone for your lives.

Receive the atonement money from the Israelites
and use it for the service of the Tent of Meeting.
It will be a memorial for the Israelites before the LORD,
making atonement for your lives.' "

Exodus 30:11-16 (NIV)

When I read this passage, another passage immediately came to mind.  It was II Samuel 24:1-17, the time when King David calls for a census to be taken of the Israelites.  After warning David that the LORD would not be pleased with this action, Joab, the commander of David's army, reluctantly does conduct the census, although I Chronicles 21:6 notes that Joab omits counting the tribes of the Levites and the Benjamites, "for the king's command was abhorrent to Joab."

So what's the big deal about counting up the number of men you have in the army?

To understand what Joab was so upset about, we need to go back and see a bit of background to this passage.  Soon after the Israelites were delivered from slavery in Egypt by the LORD, these things were commanded by the LORD:

"Consecrate to me every firstborn male.
The first offspring of every womb among the Israelites belongs to me,
whether man or animal."

Exodus 13:1-2 (NIV)
"After the LORD brings you into the land of the Canaanites
and gives it to you, as he promised on oath to you and your forefathers,
you are to give over to the LORD the first offspring of every womb.

All the firstborn males of your livestock belong to the LORD.
Redeem with a lamb every firstborn donkey,
but if you do not redeem it, break its neck.

Redeem every firstborn among your sons.

In days to come, when your son asks you, 'What does this mean?' say to him,
'With a mighty hand the LORD brought us out of Egypt,
out of the land of slavery.  When Pharaoh stubbornly refused to let us go,
the LORD killed every firstborn in Egypt, both man and animal.
This is why I sacrifice to the LORD the first male offspring of every womb
and redeem each of my firstborn sons.'  And it will be like a sign on your hand and
a symbol on your forehead that
the LORD brought us out of Egypt with his mighty hand."

Exodus 13:11-16 (NIV)

The NIV Study Bible notes these things: "The verb 'redeem' means to "obtain release by means of payment".... "Humans were to be consecrated to the LORD by their life, not by their death.  (Genesis 22:12; Numbers 3:39-51; Romans 12:1)"

Taking all these things into account,  it seems that the principles behind this passage in Exodus 30:11-16 are as follows:

All of the Israelites had been delivered by God from slavery in Egypt.  Meanwhile, a plague had come upon the firstborn sons of Pharaoh and the rest of the Egyptians as punishment for Pharaoh's refusal to release the Israelites, even though the Egyptians had been given ten warnings in the form of plagues [which showed the inability of their idols to deliver them.]

As a result of this deliverance of the Israelites, the LORD considered the Israelites' firstborn males --  both man and animals -- as his own portion from this victory.  [In fact, other verses indicate that the LORD considered all of Israel to be his collective 'firstborn son'. (Exodus 4:22-23) ] The firstborn humans could be redeemed by payment.  The firstborn animals were sacrificed to the LORD as an offering.  

Years later, when David decided to have a census taken, there is no indication that he had offered the prescribed payment for the men who had been counted.  (These men were not all firstborn sons, but they had been counted in a census:  (See Exodus 30:11-16, above.)  Instead, ignoring God's directions about census-taking, it seems that David had been indulging in a prideful tally of the number of men which he had under his command.  This conclusion is further strengthened by the fact that right after he had the men counted, David knew that he had sinned. (I Chronicles 21:7-8).

  David repented immediately, but he still ran into severe repercussions [70,000 dead!] by seeming to count the Israelites as his own, rather than the LORD's, men.

OK, but why am I going into so much detail about these passages in II Samuel 24:1-17 and the whole 21st chapter of I Chronicles?  Well, it started out as just an example of census-taking done without obedience to the directions found in our passage of Exodus 30:11-16.  However, the more I read, the more parallels with the deliverance from Egypt I saw, and the more important the concept of the 'firstborn' seemed to become.

Regarding the parallels with the deliverance from Egypt, note that in Exodus 30:11-16 there is the concept of 'crossing over'.  In that passage it merely says that as the Israelites were being counted in a census, "each one who crosses over" had to pay the half shekel as they moved over to the group of already-counted men.  Later in the same passage, "all who cross over" are to give the prescribed offering.  Maybe I am making too much of this, but this language reminds me that this is a picture of those who 'crossed over' the Red Sea as they fled Egypt, moving from a place of death to a place of life.  In addition "no plague will come upon them", just as the plagues upon the Egyptians did not come upon the Israelites who had followed God's directions regarding the Passover lamb.

Regarding the concept of the 'firstborn', I note that the firstborn of Egypt died in the final plague, for they had not put the Passover lamb's blood upon their doorposts as directed by Moses.  However, the firstborn of Israel were delivered from this plague when the Israelites [and apparently others who had also complied with the LORD's instructions about the blood of the Passover lamb (Exodus 12:37-38)] obeyed those instructions.

Moving into the New Testament, there is also the concept of  Jesus Christ being the one whose death [which occurred at Passover time] becomes the means of our sins being paid for and pardoned.  John the Baptist called Jesus "the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!"  (John 1:21).

Jesus is also called "the firstborn from the dead" (Colossians 1:18; Revelation 1:5).  [Although others were raised from the dead, they eventually died, while Jesus was the first to rise from the dead and remain alive forever.]
There is so much more to be gleaned from the Scriptures about these subjects, but that is all that I have at this time.  I think that the best way to end this post is the following  quotation from I Peter  1:17-21:

"Since you call on a Father who judges each man's work impartially,
live your lives as strangers here in reverent fear.  For you know that 
it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed
from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers,
but with the precious blood of Christ, 
a lamb without blemish or defect.

He was chosen before the creation of the world,
but was revealed in these last times for your sake.

Through him you believe in God,
who raised him from the dead and glorified him,
and so your faith and hope are in God."

Monday, December 28, 2015

Exodus 30:1-10 The Altar of Incense

"Make an altar of acacia wood for burning incense.
It is to be square, a cubit long and a cubit wide,
and two cubits high -- its horns of one piece with it.
Overlay the top and all the sides and the horns with pure gold,
and make a gold molding around it.
Make two gold rings for the altar below the molding --
two on opposite sides -- to hold the poles used to carry it.
Make the poles of acacia wood and overlay them with gold.
Put the altar in front of the curtain that is before the ark of the Testimony
-- before the atonement cover that is over the Testimony --
where I will meet with you.

Aaron must burn fragrant incense on the altar 
every morning when he tends the lamps.
He must burn incense again when he lights the lamps at twilight
so incense will burn regularly before the LORD for the generations to come.
Do not offer on this altar any other incense or any burnt offering or grain offering,
and do not pour a drink offering on it.
Once a year Aaron shall make atonement on its horns.
This annual atonement must be made with the blood
 of the atoning sin offering for the generations to come.
It is most holy to the LORD."

Exodus 30:1-10  (NIV)

Some observations from the NIV Study Bible notes:

  • The fragrant incense's smoke symbolizes the prayers of God's people. (Psalm 141:2; Luke 1:10, Revelation 5:8; Revelation 8:3-4)
  • The Study Bible also noted that the furnishings of the Tabernacle which were nearest to God's dwelling were made of, or overlaid with, gold.  Those which were further away were made of, or overlaid with, bronze.  The bases which supported the frames of the tabernacle and the four posts holding the dividing curtain were made of silver.
  • The gold rings below the molding were for holding the poles used to carry the altar of incense.
  • God would meet with them before the atonement cover which was over the Testimony.  Only the priest could go into the Holy of Holies, once a year to make the annual atonement for the sins of the nation.  (Leviticus 16:34)

Monday, June 29, 2015

Exodus 29:35-46

"Do for Aaron and his sons everything I have commanded you,
taking seven days to ordain them.
Sacrifice a bull each day as a sin offering to make atonement.
Purify the altar by making atonement for it,
and anoint it to consecrate it.
For seven days make atonement for the altar and consecrate it.
Then the altar will be most holy,
and whatever touches it will be holy.

This is what you are to offer on the altar regularly each day:
two lambs a year old.
Offer one in the morning and the other at twilight.
With the first lamb offer a tenth of an ephah of fine flour
mixed with a quarter of a hin of oil from pressed olives,
and a quarter of a hin of wine as a drink offering.
Sacrifice the other lamb at twilight with the same grain offering
and its drink offering as in the morning --
a pleasing aroma, an offering made to the LORD by fire.

For the generations to come this burnt offering is to be made regularly 
at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting before the LORD.
There I will meet you and speak to you;
there also I will meet with the Israelites,
and the place will be consecrated by my glory.

So I will consecrate the Tent of Meeting and the altar
and will consecrate Aaron and his sons to serve me as priests.
Then I will dwell among the Israelites and be their God.
They will know that I am the LORD their God,
who brought them out of Egypt so that I might dwell among them.
I am the LORD their God."
Exodus 29:35-46 (NIV)

Some observations:
  •      This is the start of the daily offerings.  The NIV Study Bible notes that these daily offerings were sometimes observed even during times of apostasy. (2 Kings 16:15)  King Ahaz ordered these offerings to be made upon a different altar, a new one styled after a pagan altar he had seen in Damascus.  (2 Kings 16:10)  It seems he had continued with this ritual of the daily offerings, yet added in other offerings and pagan practices. Of course this was just one example of his apostasy.
  •      In the beginning verses, it seems to be a recap of the consecration process for the altar.  The priests were to consecrate the altar for a 7-day period, sacrificing a bull each day for purposes of making atonement and consecrating the altar by anointing it.  This process was repeated for seven days!  Yes, I know that I have already written that, but I repeated it for emphasis. [Which may have been why God chose to have the Israelites repeat the process for 7 days:  It could not be emphasized enough that God is holy and that they shouldn't approach Him carelessly.]
  •      For the generations to come, the burnt offerings were to continue to be made regularly.  Two lambs were to be offered -- one in the morning and the other at twilight. 
  •      God's ultimate purpose for this consecration of the altar and of Aaron and his sons were so that God would dwell among them and be their God.  Note the many ways this is expressed:
  "I will meet you and speak to you,"
" I will meet with the Israelites," 
"I will dwell among the Israelites and be their God," 
"...that I might dwell among them."

Monday, April 20, 2015

Exodus 29:29-34 Sacred Garments and Sacred Offerings

"Aaron's sacred garments will belong to his descendants
so that they can be anointed and ordained in them.
The son who succeeds him as priest and comes to the Tent of Meeting
to minister in the Holy Place is to wear them seven days.

Take the ram for the ordination and cook the meat in a sacred place.
At the entrance to the Tent of Meeting,
Aaron and his sons are to eat the meat of the ram and the bread
that is in the basket.  They are to eat these offerings by which atonement
was made for their ordination and consecration.
But no one else may eat them, because they are sacred.
And if any of the meat of the ordination ram
 or any bread is left over till morning, burn it up.
It must not be eaten, because it is sacred."

Exodus 29:29-34 (NIV)

As I typed the above verses, I thought that it was interesting that Aaron's sacred garments were to be preserved for the next priest to use.  Somehow this underlined for me the fact that the priesthood would continue on even after Aaron's death, and that the focus was on the worship of the LORD, and not on his servant.

Also, the NIV Study Bible noted that the "sacred place" in v. 31 above, where the meat was to be cooked, was most likely the tabernacle courtyard.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Exodus 29:22-28 Offerings to the LORD and portions for the priests

"Take from this ram the fat,
 the fat tail, the fat around the inner parts,
the covering of the liver, both kidneys with the fat around them,
and the right thigh.  (This is the ram for the ordination.)
From the basket of bread made without yeast, which is before the LORD,
take a loaf, and a cake made with oil, and a wafer.

Put all these in the hands of Aaron and his sons
and wave them before the LORD as a wave offering.
Then take them from their hands and burn them on the altar
along with the burnt offering for a pleasing aroma to the LORD,
an offering made to the LORD by fire.

After you take the breast of the ram for Aaron's ordination,
wave it before the LORD as a wave offering, and it will be your share.

Consecrate those parts of the ordination ram that belong to Aaron and his sons:
the breast that was waved and the thigh that was presented.
This is always to be the regular share from the Israelites for Aaron and his sons.
It is the contribution the Israelites are to make to the LORD
from their fellowship offerings." 

Exodus 29:22-28  (NIV)

Chapter 29 of Exodus details the process of consecrating Aaron and his descendants as priests.

In this section (vs. 22-28), parts of the ram for the ordination are offered to the LORD as wave offerings and burnt offerings.  Certain portions of the offerings were designated as the share belonging to the priests for food.  Leviticus chapter 7 gives more details about this process.

Burnt offerings, wave offerings and fellowship offerings are mentioned in this passage.  I think it would be best to wait until we get into the book of Leviticus to discuss those offerings in more detail.  It is about ten chapters away from where we are now, which seems like a lot of material, but the Exodus account will soon shift back into a more narrative style, which will move along more swiftly.  I plan to be more disciplined about writing regularly.  Also, this will give me some time to study ahead into the book of Leviticus so that I have a better idea of how to explain these matters when we get there.  I will definitely be asking the LORD for understanding in these matters!  

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Exodus 29:19-21 The Ram of Ordination: Lives set apart for God's service

"Take the other ram,
and Aaron and his sons shall lay their hands on its head.
Slaughter it, take some of its blood
 and put it on the lobes of the right ears of Aaron and his sons,
on the thumbs of their right hands,
 and on the big toes of their right feet.
Then sprinkle blood against the altar on all sides.
And take some of the blood on the altar and some of the anointing oil
and sprinkle it on Aaron and his garments and on his sons and their garments.
Then he and his sons and their garments will be consecrated."

Exodus 29:19-21 (NIV)

The anointing with the blood of the ram of ordination consecrated Aaron and his sons to a life set apart for God's service.
The NIV Study Bible notes that the anointing of the men's ears symbolized sensitivity to God and his word, while the anointing of the men's right hands and feet symbolized a life of service to others on God's behalf.  

The ESV Study Bible notes that the sprinkling of both the altar and the men and their garments links all three, and that the blood can be seen as purifying them from sin.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Exodus 29:15-18 Burnt offering ram

"Take one of the rams,
and Aaron and his sons shall lay their hands on its head.
Slaughter it and take the blood and sprinkle it against the altar on all sides.
Cut the ram into pieces and wash the inner parts and the legs,
putting them with the head and the other pieces.
Then burn the entire ram on the altar.
It is a burnt offering to the LORD, a pleasing aroma,
an offering made to the LORD by fire."

Exodus 29:15-18 (NIV)

These verses describe part of the process of consecrating the priests of the LORD (which is described in Exodus chapter 29).  Already in this process, Aaron and his sons have been washed and dressed in their priestly garments, and a bull has been offered as a sin offering.

Now one of the two prescribed rams has been selected as a burnt offering to the LORD.  This offering, according to the ESV Study Bible, is later described in Leviticus as one which is offered as atonement for the sins of the one offering it. (Leviticus 1:3-4)

The entire ram is burned on the altar, after all the pieces have been washed and arranged.  This seems to symbolize total dedication to the LORD.

The other ram's purpose, which involves consecration for ordination, will be discussed in the next post.