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Bible Commentaries
Numbers 15

Grant's Commentary on the BibleGrant's Commentary

Verses 1-41



In this chapter the abrupt change from the subject of Chapter 14 may seem strange to us. However, God is infinitely wise and infinitely good. Chapter 14 has shown the severity of His judgment against disobedience, while Chapter 15 displays the reality of His great goodness. While it was necessary for Him to chasten Israel, yet He here makes it clear that Israel will definitely come into their own land (v.2), and He gives provision for their true well-being at that time. His counsels of grace stand because they are founded not on Israel's obedience, but upon that of which the offerings speak, the perfection of the person of Christ and the perfection of His work of sacrifice. Such things must be brought to our attention over and over again because we are so slow to appreciate the significance of them.

Verse 3 refers to a voluntary offering which one desired to offer, not for sin but a burnt offering for the Lord's pleasure, therefore "a sweet aroma." Whether the animal was from the herd or the flock, the Lord required that it should be accompanied by a grain offering and a drink offering (vs.4-5).

The meal offering (or grain offering) was never offered alone, but in connection with a blood offering. The burnt offering would signify the offerer's recognition that God is glorified by the work of the Lord Jesus in sacrificing Himself on Calvary. But we may be appreciative of His sacrifice while not valuing the perfection of His person. The grain offering therefore reminds us that in every detail of His life on earth the Lord Jesus expressed the perfection of human righteousness. Then the drink offering of wine symbolizes the joy of the offerer in the offering, that is, the believer's joy in the Lord Jesus personally and in the value of His work.

If a lamb was offered (v.5) the amount of fine flour was one-tenth of an ephah, mixed with one-fourth of a hin of oil and one-fourth of a hin of wine for the drink offering. In the case of a ram being offered, this was increased to two-tenths of an ephah of fine flour mixed with one-third of a hin of oil and one-third of a hin of wine for the drink offering. When a bull was offered there was a further increase (vs.8-10).

The different amounts of things accompanying the different offerings teaches us that the larger our apprehension of the sacrifice of Christ, the greater should be our thankful response. Just as those born as natives in Israel were to bring such offerings (v.13), 50 should every born again person respond to the value of the person and offering of the Lord Jesus.

A stranger coming to dwell in Israel was to be subject to the same order as were Israelites (vs.14-16). The rules of the offerings were applicable to him. It was understood that only those circumcised were to offer sacrifices, and though it is not mentioned here, yet Exodus 12:48 is clear that a stranger coming among Israelites must have all his males circumcised before eating the Passover. "For no uncircumcised person shall eat it." The following verse is another insistent reminder that "one law shall be for the native-born and for the stranger who dwells among you" (Exodus 12:49). This is just as true in the assembly of God today: there are to be no double standards. One who does not want to be subject to the order of the assembly is thereby disqualifying himself from fellowship with the assembly.

Again the Lord gives instructions to Moses that when Israel came into the land of promise, as soon as they ate of the produce of that land they were to offer up a heave offering to the Lord, a cake of the first of their ground meal. This is one case where a blood offering is not mentioned along with a meal offering, though it may be implied from verses 3-11. But the insistence here is upon the person of Christ in His perfect humanity (the meal), yet as being raised from the dead, as the heaving indicates. For while we are to deeply appreciate all the life of the Lord Jesus in lowly grace and suffering, yet we no longer know Him in this relationship (2 Corinthians 5:15), but as raised from among the dead. As we consider His path on earth we shall partake of His grace and humility, but in His resurrection, power and dignity are added to this.



Because of our sinful nature there are sins we commit without realizing at the time that such things are sin. Certainly the Lord does not allow the foolish present-day notion that so long as we think a thing is alright, then it is not sin. Sin is sin, no matter what we think about it. Yet if it is done through inadvertence, this is much different than when it is boldly committed in the face of knowing it to be wrong.

For the unintentional sin therefore the Lord provided a sacrifice. The whole congregation of Israel might be guilty of such sin, and when afterward it was brought to their attention as being sin, they were to offer one young bull as a burnt offering, together with its grain offering and drink offering, and one kid of the goats as a sin offering (v.24). The burnt offering speaks of God's glory being the first consideration in this matter, and with it the reminder that the perfect Man, Christ Jesus (the grain offering) is the one standard of sinlessness, who is therefore the only acceptable burnt offering. The drink offering was to symbolize Israel's joy in being so blessed by the offering. The sin offering was essential too as that which fully atones for sin, so that Israel could be forgiven (vs.25-26).

The case of a individual's unintentional sin required only the sacrifice of a young female goat (v.27), a type of Christ as the substitute to take our place in suffering for sin. The female indicates the subjective character of this, showing that the individual is to take deeply to heart the truth that the innocent victim, the Lord Jesus, has taken his place in suffering for sin. Again it is emphasized that one law embraces both natives of Israel and strangers who dwell among them (v.29).



In contrast to sins of inadvertence, there was no sacrifice for presumptuous sins. If one deliberately sinned, knowing full well he was defying the law of God, he was bringing reproach on the Lord, and must be punished by death (v.31). This compares to the willful sin of Hebrews 10:26, for which "there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins," but rather "a certain fearful expectation of judgment." This willful sin is that of rejecting the Lord Jesus and thereby defying the Word of God.



Over and over again Israel had been warned against doing any work on the sabbath. Therefore if one were to violate this, it would be presumptuous sin. such a case arose at this time, that of a man gathering sticks on the Sabbath. We can understand that the children of Israel would hesitate to think of carrying out a sentence against him so severe as death. But they put him under guard until Moses should be told by the Lord what to do. The answer was definite and solemn. The man must be put to death by means of all the congregation stoning him (v.35). This was the stern requirement of law.

Verse 36 speaks of the death penalty carried out against the man who gathered sticks on the Sabbath. He had not directly harmed other people by his working, but he had defied the Word of God, which is certainly more serious. Why did God make the Sabbath so serious a matter? Because he was declaring to mankind the basic truth that no relationship with God could be gained or maintained on the basis of human works. One who violated the Sabbath was therefore choosing his own works rather than faith in the clear Word of God. Today, under grace, God does not require the death sentence for working on the Sabbath, and also the Sabbath was never imposed on Gentiles, but only on Israel under law (Exodus 31:12-17). However, the spiritual significance of this is more serious than the literal law of the Sabbath. For if one refuses to trust God's Word concerning the sacrifice of His Son, but trusts his own works instead, he will suffer, not only death, but the judgment of eternal fire.

The judgment God pronounced was carried out by the whole congregation (v.36). This tells us that believers are expected to fully concur with God's judgment against that which dishonors Him.



At this time God tells Moses to instruct the children of Israel to make tassels on the borders of their garments attached by a lace of blue (v.38). It is said that the word for "tassels" literally means "flowers," and comes from a root meaning "to shine" (Numerical Bible). The same word is used for the place on the high priest's forehead (Exodus 28:36) which was also connected by a lace of blue. The borders of the garments were of course next to the ground, so that when one looked downward, he was reminded of heaven (the blue) and would be encouraged to look up. If the man who was gathering sticks on the Sabbath had had this decoration on the border of his garment, he might have been encouraged to look up rather than to look at the sticks on the ground.

Though Israel required such reminders as this to warn them against the evil toward which their hearts were inclined (v.39), such things are not necessary for believers today. Rather, we have the Spirit of God within us to constantly remind us of our proper heavenly inheritance and should be kept by His power in living communion with the Lord. He is the real power for godliness and we have therefore no excuse for falling into sin.

This section closes with another strong declaration, "I am the Lord your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt to be your God: I am the Lord your God." Having been told this so often, how could Israel dare to turn so soon afterwards to other gods?

Bibliographical Information
Grant, L. M. "Commentary on Numbers 15". Grant's Commentary on the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/lmg/numbers-15.html. 1897-1910.
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