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Bible Commentaries

Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible
Numbers 7

 

 

Introduction

SECTION 1. THE PREPARATIONS TO GO FORWARD FROM SINAI WITH YAHWEH’S PROVISIONS RELATED THERETO (1:1-10:10).

The Mobilisation of the Army of Israel, and the Preparation of the Levites For Their Work of Bearing the Ark and Dwellingplace of Yahweh (1:1-4:49).

The first stage towards entry into the land had to be the mobilisation of the army of Israel, both of its fighting men, and of its ‘servants of the dwellingplace of Yahweh’. That is what is in mind in the first four chapters.

The description of this follows a general chiastic pattern indicated by the letters a to d and can be divided up as follows:

a The taking of the sum of the tribes and their responsibility (to war) (Numbers 1:1-46).

b The Levites’ responsibility for the Dwellingplace (Numbers 1:47-54).

c Positioning and arrangements for travel of the people (Numbers 2:1-32).

d The consecration of the priests to Yahweh (Numbers 3:1-4).

d The dedication of the Levites to the priests and to Yahweh (Numbers 3:5-13)

c Positioning and arrangements for travel of the Levites (Numbers 3:14-51).

b The priests’ responsibility for the Dwellingplace (Numbers 4:5-15).

a The taking of the sum of the Levites and their responsibilities (Numbers 4:1-4; Numbers 4:21-49).

Provision For The Purity of the Camp And Yahweh’s Own Provision For That Purity (5:1-9:14).

Vital if Yahweh was to dwell among His people, and speak to them, and shine His light on them, was that they be holy. The provision for the holiness of the camp can be divided between the responsibility of the people to seek holiness and purity (Numbers 5:1 to Numbers 7:88) and the response of Yahweh in providing them (Numbers 7:89 to Numbers 9:14).

1). The Responsibility Of The Whole People (5:1-7:88).

a First was the responsibility to keep the camp ritually clean and whole by expulsion of all that was unclean that would defile the camp (Numbers 5:1-4), dealing with moral offences that caused dissension and would defile the camp (Numbers 5:5-10), and the maintenance of marital relationships with the consequent removal of the defilement of secret adultery (Numbers 5:11-31).

b Second was the responsibility for the lay people to consider the opportunity for individual dedication of themselves as Nazirites to Yahweh (Numbers 6:1-21), at least for a time, putting themselves almost on a par with the priests from a point of view of consecration to God, although not enabling them to perform priestly functions. By this they could increase the holiness of the camp and contribute to it becoming ‘a kingdom of priests’ (Exodus 19:6).

c Third was for the priests to dispense Yahweh’s blessing of His people with His Name (Numbers 6:22-27), establishing them as His holy people and ensuring the holiness of the camp.

d Fourth was for the princes to provide the gifts and offerings necessary for the dedication of the altar and for the maintaining of the holiness of the Sanctuary on behalf of the whole of Israel (Numbers 7:1-88).

2). The Response of the Sanctuary (7:89-9:14).

d In response the Voice of Yahweh would speak to Moses from the Mercy Seat (Numbers 7:89). The King would make His response to the offerings of the princes by acting as their Guide through the supreme leader.

c Second would come the lighting of the lamps in the Sanctuary, symbolising the light of Yahweh among His people, and as it shone on the show bread which represented His people, it indicated His blessing on them, and the light of His face shining on them. Through the lampstand, the light of His face was revealed as shining permanently on His people (Numbers 8:1-4 compare Numbers 6:25; 2 Corinthians 4:1-6).

b Third would come the compulsory dedication of the Levites to the service of Yahweh (Numbers 8:5-26). This on the Godward side parallels the dedication of the Nazirites among the people, contributing to the holiness of the camp.

a And fourthly would come the compulsory keeping of the Passover of deliverance by all who were clean (Numbers 9:1-14). Having cleansed the camp (Numbers 5:1-31) they were in a position to enjoy the Passover. This glad feast reminded them of how Yahweh watched over them and protected them, because they were atoned for by the shedding of blood in accordance with His commandment. And as their deliverance had begun with the Passover, so would their going forward now begin with the Passover, a reminder that the Yahweh Who had revealed His power in Egypt was still with them.

Note the parallels. The cleansing of the camp (Numbers 5:1-31) results in their being able to celebrate the Passover of deliverance as a ‘clean’ people (Numbers 9:1-14), The dedication of the people as Nazirites, increasing the holiness of the camp (Numbers 6:1-21), is paralleled by the permanent dedication of the Levites as holy on their behalf (Numbers 8:5-26). The blessing of the priests and their desire for the light of His countenance to shine on Israel (Numbers 6:22-27) is paralleled by the shining of the lamp in the Dwellingplace on the showbread which represented Israel, depicting a greater reality (Numbers 8:1-4). While the submission of the princes and their dedication of the altar (Numbers 7:1-88) is responded to by the Voice of Yahweh from between the Cherubim speaking to their supreme leader (Numbers 7:89).

Chapter 7 The Offerings of the Princes.

The Princes Offer Their Gifts and Offerings for the Maintaining of the Holiness of the Sanctuary and For The Dedication of the Altar (Numbers 7:1-88).

The offerings of the princes for the carriage and maintenance of the Sanctuary and for the dedication of the altar complete the activity of Yahweh’s people in making the camp pure and holy. The covered wagons would protect the holiness of the Sanctuary. The dedication of the altar would contribute to its holiness and ensure its continuation. So the people as a whole, individuals, priests and now princes will have all made their contribution to the holiness of the camp. All would now be set to receive Yahweh’s response.

What is described here took place even before the numbering of Israel. But Moses was determined to ensure that it was recognised that the princes partook in the purification of the camp. Princes, priests and people all had to be seen as involved together. All God’s people were at one in the work.

The presentation of this information about the wagons here also helps to explain Numbers 4. This was how the Levites would convey the great bulk of the Tabernacle. Thus although chronologically it is slightly ‘out of order’, it fits perfectly into the pattern, and leads on into the response of the King in Numbers 7:89. Chronology was usually not seen as important. What mattered was the presentation of the message in order to present its full significance.

The Response of the Sanctuary (Numbers 7:89 to Numbers 9:14).

To the dedication of the people in all the respects described from Numbers 5:1 onwards now came the response of Yahweh their King. Firstly in the speaking of His Voice, secondly in the shining of His light, thirdly in the service of the Levites on behalf of the people (having replaced their firstborn sons), and fourthly in the Passover celebration which reminded them of, and renewed to them, the wonder of their deliverance from Egypt and His watch over them ever since.

In the first case it was with respect to Moses, in the second to the priests, in the third to the dedicated ones (the Levites), and in the fourth to the people. This is the exact reversal of the order in the previous three chapters.

Thus we have:

d The Voice of Yahweh the King speaking to Moses from the Mercy Seat (Numbers 7:89). This was a response to the dedication of the altar and the tribute of the princes (Numbers 7:2-88), both on behalf of the people, and its original anointing and sanctification (Numbers 7:1).

c The lighting of the lamps in the Sanctuary by Aaron and his sons symbolising the light of Yahweh shining on His people (Numbers 8:1-4). This was a response to the priests’ blessing (Numbers 6:22-27).

b The compulsory dedication of the Levites to the service of Yahweh as Yahweh’s guarantee of the maintenance of the cult (Numbers 8:5-26). This paralleled the dedication of the Nazirites (Numbers 6:1-21). It was Yahweh’s response to the dedication of the people.

a The compulsory keeping of the Passover of deliverance by the people, by all who were clean (Numbers 9:1-14) ensuring their continual deliverance by Yahweh. As their deliverance had begun with the Passover, so would their going forward begin with it, a reminder that Yahweh was continually with them. This was Yahweh’s response to their cleansing of the camp (Numbers 5). Because they were clean they could partake in His Passover with all that it signified.


Verse 1-2

Chapter 7 The Offerings of the Princes.

The Princes Offer Their Gifts and Offerings for the Maintaining of the Holiness of the Sanctuary and For The Dedication of the Altar (Numbers 7:1-88).

The offerings of the princes for the carriage and maintenance of the Sanctuary and for the dedication of the altar complete the activity of Yahweh’s people in making the camp pure and holy. The covered wagons would protect the holiness of the Sanctuary. The dedication of the altar would contribute to its holiness and ensure its continuation. So the people as a whole, individuals, priests and now princes will have all made their contribution to the holiness of the camp. All would now be set to receive Yahweh’s response.

What is described here took place even before the numbering of Israel. But Moses was determined to ensure that it was recognised that the princes partook in the purification of the camp. Princes, priests and people all had to be seen as involved together. All God’s people were at one in the work.

The presentation of this information about the wagons here also helps to explain Numbers 4. This was how the Levites would convey the great bulk of the Tabernacle. Thus although chronologically it is slightly ‘out of order’, it fits perfectly into the pattern, and leads on into the response of the King in Numbers 7:89. Chronology was usually not seen as important. What mattered was the presentation of the message in order to present its full significance.

The Princes Make Their Offerings Once Moses Has Anointed And Sanctified The Dwellingplace.

Numbers 7:1

‘And it came about on the day that Moses had made an end of setting up the dwellingplace (tabernacle), and had anointed it and sanctified it, and all its furniture, and the altar and all its vessels, and had anointed them and sanctified them.’

This happened on the day that Moses had made an end of setting up the Dwellingplace, and had anointed and sanctified it with all its furniture (see Exodus 40:2). He had also set up the altar and all connected with it, and had anointed and sanctified them. They had all been set apart exclusively for Yahweh. That this setting apart was accepted would come out in Numbers 7:89.

The atmosphere in the camp would have been electric as they gazed at the new newly-consecrated Dwellingplace of Yahweh. Later on in that day they would see the cloud of Yahweh descend on it and the glory of Yahweh fill it. It was one month before the numbering was commanded. Before that numbering the altar had to be dedicated and the second Passover observed.

Numbers 7:2

‘That the princes of Israel, the heads of their fathers’ houses, made their offerings. These were the princes of the tribes, these are they who were over those who were numbered.’

And that day when the Dwellingplace was consecrated was the day when the princes of the tribes, (the ones who would mobilise the troops), being concerned for the holiness of the camp, and for the holiness of the Dwellingplace, made their offerings of wagons and oxen. That would then be followed over a period of twelve days by their offerings day by day for the dedication of the altar. Thus when the instructions for the Levites about the carrying of the Dwellingplace with all its contents was given (Numbers 4), these wagons were already in place. The twelvefold dedication of the altar would demonstrate that all in Israel were involved. This was a dedication of the whole of Israel (compare Numbers 28-30).


Verses 3-9

The Offering of the Wagons and Oxen (Numbers 7:3-9).

Numbers 7:3

‘And they brought their oblation before Yahweh, six covered wagons, and twelve oxen; a wagon for every two of the princes, and for each one an ox. And they presented them before the tabernacle.’

Their first concern was shown by their action in regard to the Dwellingplace. They brought before Yahweh six covered wagons, each with two oxen to draw it. The singular ‘ox’ denotes that each prince contributed an ox. These would enable the Dwellingplace to be carried safely and securely, and free from any danger of defilement.

“They presented them before the Tabernacle.” They could not bring them into the courtyard to ‘present them before Yahweh’, so they did the next best thing. By these gifts they expressed their gratitude for His dwelling among them, and their desire for the maintenance of His holy status.

In the same way God looks to us all to provide for the work of God what is necessary for its continuance so that His work will prosper.

Numbers 7:4

‘And Yahweh spoke to Moses, saying,’

Yahweh responded to their gift. He came with a special word to Moses. God always takes note of what we give. Remember the widow in the Temple (Mark 12:41-44). No gift, however small, goes unnoticed, as long as the heart and motive is right. Indeed its size is irrelevant. What counts most is the proportionate cost.

Numbers 7:5

Take it of them, that they may be used in doing the service of the tent of meeting; and you shall give them to the Levites, to every man according to his service.”

Moses was to accept the offerings, and was instructed that they were to be used in the service of the Dwellingplace, the Tent of meeting. To this end they were to be given to the Levites, to those with overall responsibility for the conveyance of the different parts of the Dwellingplace, according to requirements for the carrying out of their ‘service’.

Numbers 7:6

‘And Moses took the wagons and the oxen, and gave them to the Levites.’

And Moses did what Yahweh had commanded. He took the wagons and oxen and gave them to the Levites.

Numbers 7:7

‘Two wagons and four oxen he gave to the sons of Gershon, according to their service,’

Two of them with their ox teams he gave to the sons of Gershon. They would be sufficient for the main body of the Tent of meeting.

Numbers 7:8

‘And four wagons and eight oxen he gave to the sons of Merari, according to their service, under the hand of Ithamar the son of Aaron the priest.’

And he gave four of them to the sons of Merari, who needed more wagons because of all the bits and pieces that they had to carry. These were all under the control of Ithamar, the son of Aaron the High Priest.

Numbers 7:9

‘But to the sons of Kohath he gave none, because the service of the sanctuary belonged to them They bore it on their shoulders.’

But the sons of Kohath did not receive a wagon. They bore the sacred furniture, and that had to be carried bodily by them. The furniture was provided with staves or poles for the purpose. It must not be thrown about in a wagon as a result of the roughness of the way. It was to be given personal attention.

So God made ready for his servants all that was necessary for their service, even before He appointed them to it. We may always be sure that when God calls men into His service, His provision for them has already been made.


Verses 10-88

The Offerings for the Dedication of the Altar (Numbers 7:10-88).

Numbers 7:10

‘And the princes offered for the dedication of the altar in the day that it was anointed, even the princes offered their oblation before the altar.’

Then the princes offered gifts towards the dedication of the altar. These consisted both of things that would be usable in the activities related to the Dwellingplace, and offerings and sacrifices on behalf of themselves and the people. The holiness of the altar must be ensured.

“In the day.” This may have in mind the initial ‘offering’ of what is to be offered as set aside on the first day but probably means ‘at the time’ (yom regularly means a period of time other than a day), thus covering the twelve days

We are now given, in order, the details of twelve days on which each prince brought his gift. Although exactly the same each is given in full detail. This was necessary so that nothing might be rushed and that each might be dealt with fully and satisfactorily. None must be made to feel that his gift had not been appreciated or properly received. He would be concerned that full weight be given to it because he was the representative of his tribe, and responsible for the honour of the tribe, and tribal equality would be seen as important at such a time.

The same detail is given for each day so that as far as we are concerned once we have covered the first one we have covered all. But while we might abbreviate our dealings with the chapter Moses was too wise to do so. He knew that each must be given his due. This is a further evidence that we have here what actually was written in those days. No tribe had to be slighted. And that is brought out by the detail of the narrative. A later writer could easily have abbreviated what happened so as to avoid repetition, but that could not be done at the time for it was necessary to bolster the prestige of each tribal leader and their tribe. Nobody would want to be a ‘ditto’ in the record made about these events. Each tribe would pick out the part that they had played, or wait for it to come when the record was read out. Contrast how there was such abbreviation with regard to the offerings and sacrifices in Leviticus 1-7, but not here. Every tribe must feel that it was fully playing its part.

Numbers 7:11

‘And Yahweh said to Moses, “They shall offer their oblation, each prince on his day, for the dedication of the altar.”

Yahweh informed Moses that the princes must be allowed to make their offerings for the dedication of the altar day by day, each on his day. Each tribe would have its part in the dedication of the altar. Each tribe would be rendered holy by the offering of their whole burnt offerings, their purification for sin offerings, and their peace offerings. Each would equally have its day. And from each would be received their gifts with due ceremony. This was done in the order of the tribes in chapter 2, depending on their placings around the Sanctuary, commencing with the east side.

Each day the whole congregation would be gathered as one to honour the tribe in whose honour the particular day was set aside. And that day would be their day, a day never to be forgotten.

Numbers 7:12-17

‘And he who offered his oblation the first day was Nahshon the son of Amminadab, of the tribe of Judah, and his oblation was one silver platter (or ‘dish’), the weight of which was a hundred and thirty shekels, one silver bowl of seventy shekels, after the shekel of the sanctuary; both of them full of fine flour mingled with oil for a grain offering; one golden spoon (or ‘cup’) of ten shekels, full of incense; one young bullock, one ram, one he-lamb a year old, for a whole burnt-offering; one male of the goats for a purification for sin offering, and for the sacrifice of peace-offerings, two oxen, five rams, five he-goats, five he-lambs a year old. This was the oblation of Nahshon the son of Amminadab.’

There were two aspects to their offerings. First brought were the gifts of instruments for the service of the priests in the Dwellingplace. These included a sliver platter or dish (the Hebrew refers to a cupped hand) and a silver bowl which were filled with milled wheat grain mingled with oil; and a golden spoon (or ‘cup’) full of incense. These were not just a theoretical idea. The weight of each is described. It was important that they be of the right weight. The silver bowl was sixty shekels less than the silver platter. The golden spoon or cup was sixty shekels less than the silver bowl. Ten and seventy were numbers of completeness and perfection, chosen for that reason. The one hundred and thirty simply arose from adding sixty (the difference between ten and seventy) to the seventy in order to maintain the perfect parallel. All was to be seen as balanced and perfect and complete. The threefoldness confirmed the completeness of the offerings.

Note that silver was used for the offerings for the courtyard, gold for the inner sanctuary, a measure of the holiness of each place. One was ‘holy’, the other ‘most holy’. The platter and the bowl would be brought into service immediately in the offering of the grain offerings, and incense would be added from the spoon. These were an indication of the dedication of themselves and their daily work to Yahweh, and a thanksgiving for harvests past, as well as making atonement (Leviticus 2:1-2). The remainder of the incense would be offered at some time during the day on the altar of incense. This would indicate worship and praise, and intercession for forgiveness and mercy.

Then the sacrifices would be brought. These were as follows:

· For a whole burnt offering, one young ox bull, one ram, one he-lamb a year old. The ox bull would probably be for the whole congregation (compare Leviticus 4:14 although that is for a purification for sin offering), and the ram for the tribe. The he-lamb of the first year for a whole burnt offering is probably for solemn consecration, as with the Nazirite (6:14).

· For a purification for sin offering, one male of the goats. This was the offering for a ruler (Leviticus 4:23). It here probably represents the ruler and his tribe.

· For peace offerings, two oxen, five rams, five he-goats, five he-lambs a year old.

These would be partaken of by the tribe in question which accounts for their numbers. The two oxen stand as witnesses to the dedication. The fives represent them specifically as important covenant offerings. Three times five is complete covenant representation bringing peace, perfect peace.

The making of these offerings ensured a rapport between each tribe and the altar. They would remember that at its dedication they as a tribe had themselves been dedicated to Yahweh through their whole burnt offerings, purified from sin by their purification for sin offerings, and brought at peace to eat before Yahweh with their peace offerings while at the same time the altar had been dedicated and purified by their offerings. These three aspect are important also in the Christian life. We must participate in Him Who is our altar (Hebrews 13:10) by the dedication of ourselves (Romans 12:1-2), by constantly seeking purification from sin (1 John 1:7-10) and by fellowship with Him in worship and prayer, partaking at His table (1 Corinthians 10:16).

The same procedure was carried out on each of the other days. They are given in full in order to maintain the honour of each tribe. The repetition also brings out the fullness of the offerings. It brings out that the whole congregation in all its parts contributed fully in a massive dedication. All had a full part in the dedication of the altar. The reader must read it through in full in order to take in the solemnity and completeness of the dedication. (Our repetition of ‘full’ is deliberate. It was fullness that this was all about). The altar was central to the approach of the people to God. It was the place of atonement and reconciliation, the only main piece of Sanctuary furniture that they ever saw openly revealed, and the only one that they could to some extent approach. It was fitting that all had their appropriate part in its dedication. It was their gateway to Yahweh.

Compare how in the book of Ezekiel the heavenly Temple that came down on a high mountain some distance from Jerusalem (Ezekiel 40) was never actually required to be built. It was seen as already existing in its heavenly significance. No earthly priest could directly service that Temple. But the altar itself was required to be built (Ezekiel 43:18). That was the means, in its position in the earthly Temple, through which the heavenly Temple, with its significance of Yahweh’s renewed presence, could be accessed. The altar was the earthly access point to God.

For us too there is an altar (Hebrews 13:10), the ‘altar’ on which our Lord Jesus Christ offered up Himself. And it is through that altar and the One Who died there that we too can make our approach to God.

Numbers 7:18-23

‘On the second day Nethanel the son of Zuar, prince of Issachar, did offer. He offered for his oblation one silver platter, the weight of which was a hundred and thirty shekels, one silver bowl of seventy shekels, after the shekel of the sanctuary; both of them full of fine flour mingled with oil for a grain offering; one golden spoon of ten shekels, full of incense; one young bullock, one ram, one he-lamb a year old, for a whole burnt offering; one male of the goats for a purification for sin offering; and for the sacrifice of peace-offerings, two oxen, five rams, five he-goats, five he-lambs a year old. This was the oblation of Nethanel the son of Zuar.’

What has been said in the first case applies again in all these descriptions. All that changes is the date so that each might be exclusive.

Numbers 7:24-29

‘On the third day Eliab the son of Helon, prince of the children of Zebulun. His oblation was one silver platter, the weight of which was a hundred and thirty shekels, one silver bowl of seventy shekels, after the shekel of the sanctuary; both of them full of fine flour mingled with oil for a grain offering; one golden spoon of ten shekels, full of incense; one young bullock, one ram, one he-lamb a year old, for a whole burnt offering; one male of the goats for a purification for sin offering; and for the sacrifice of peace-offerings, two oxen, five rams, five he-goats, five he-lambs a year old. This was the oblation of Eliab the son of Helon.’

Numbers 7:30-35

‘On the fourth day Elizur the son of Shedeur, prince of the children of Reuben. His oblation was one silver platter, the weight of which was a hundred and thirty shekels, one silver bowl of seventy shekels, after the shekel of the sanctuary; both of them full of fine flour mingled with oil for a grain offering; one golden spoon of ten shekels, full of incense; one young bullock, one ram, one he-lamb a year old, for a whole burnt offering; one male of the goats for a purification for sin offering; and for the sacrifice of peace-offerings, two oxen, five rams, five he-goats, five he-lambs a year old. This was the oblation of Elizur the son of Shedeur.’

Numbers 7:36-41

‘On the fifth day Shelumiel the son of Zurishaddai, prince of the children of Simeon. His oblation was one silver platter, the weight of which was a hundred and thirty shekels, one silver bowl of seventy shekels, after the shekel of the sanctuary; both of them full of fine flour mingled with oil for a grain offering; one golden spoon of ten shekels, full of incense; one young bullock, one ram, one he-lamb a year old, for a whole burnt offering; one male of the goats for a purification for sin offering; and for the sacrifice of peace-offerings, two oxen, five rams, five he-goats, five he-lambs a year old. This was the oblation of Shelumiel the son of Zurishaddai.’

Numbers 7:42-47

‘On the sixth day Eliasaph the son of Deuel, prince of the children of Gad. His oblation was one silver platter, the weight of which was a hundred and thirty shekels, one silver bowl of seventy shekels, after the shekel of the sanctuary; both of them full of fine flour mingled with oil for a grain offering; one golden spoon of ten shekels, full of incense; one young bullock, one ram, one he-lamb a year old, for a whole burnt offering; one male of the goats for a purification for sin offering; and for the sacrifice of peace-offerings, two oxen, five rams, five he-goats, five he-lambs a year old. This was the oblation of Eliasaph the son of Deuel.’

Numbers 7:48-53

‘On the seventh day Elishama the son of Ammihud, prince of the children of Ephraim. His oblation was one silver platter, the weight of which was a hundred and thirty shekels, one silver bowl of seventy shekels, after the shekel of the sanctuary; both of them full of fine flour mingled with oil for a grain offering; one golden spoon of ten shekels, full of incense; one young bullock, one ram, one he-lamb a year old, for a whole burnt offering; one male of the goats for a purification for sin offering, and for the sacrifice of peace-offerings, two oxen, five rams, five he-goats, five he-lambs a year old. This was the oblation of Elishama the son of Ammihud.’

Numbers 7:54-59

‘On the eighth day Gamaliel the son of Pedahzur, prince of the children of Manasseh. His oblation was one silver platter, the weight of which was a hundred and thirty shekels, one silver bowl of seventy shekels, after the shekel of the sanctuary; both of them full of fine flour mingled with oil for a grain offering; one golden spoon of ten shekels, full of incense; one young bullock, one ram, one he-lamb a year old, for a whole burnt offering; one male of the goats for a purification for sin offering; and for the sacrifice of peace-offerings, two oxen, five rams, five he-goats, five he-lambs a year old. This was the oblation of Gamaliel the son of Pedahzur.’

Numbers 7:60-65

‘On the ninth day Abidan the son of Gideoni, prince of the children of Benjamin. His oblation was one silver platter, the weight of which was a hundred and thirty shekels, one silver bowl of seventy shekels, after the shekel of the sanctuary; both of them full of fine flour mingled with oil for a grain offering; one golden spoon of ten shekels, full of incense; one young bullock, one ram, one he-lamb a year old, for a whole burnt offering; one male of the goats for a purification for sin offering; and for the sacrifice of peace-offerings, two oxen, five rams, five he-goats, five he-lambs a year old. This was the oblation of Abidan the son of Gideoni.’

Numbers 7:66-71

‘On the tenth day Ahiezer the son of Ammishaddai, prince of the children of Dan. His oblation was one silver platter, the weight of which was a hundred and thirty shekels, one silver bowl of seventy shekels, after the shekel of the sanctuary; both of them full of fine flour mingled with oil for a grain offering; one golden spoon of ten shekels, full of incense; one young bullock, one ram, one he-lamb a year old, for a whole burnt offering; one male of the goats for a purification for sin offering; and for the sacrifice of peace-offerings, two oxen, five rams, five he-goats, five he-lambs a year old. This was the oblation of Ahiezer the son of Ammishaddai.’

Numbers 7:72-77

‘On the eleventh day Pagiel the son of Ochran, prince of the children of Asher. His oblation was one silver platter, the weight of which was a hundred and thirty shekels, one silver bowl of seventy shekels, after the shekel of the sanctuary; both of them full of fine flour mingled with oil for a grain offering; one golden spoon of ten shekels, full of incense; one young bullock, one ram, one he-lamb a year old, for a whole burnt offering; one male of the goats for a purification for sin offering; and for the sacrifice of peace-offerings, two oxen, five rams, five he-goats, five he-lambs a year old. This was the oblation of Pagiel the son of Ochran.’

Numbers 7:78-83

‘On the twelfth day Ahira the son of Enan, prince of the children of Naphtali. His oblation was one silver platter, the weight of which was a hundred a thirty shekels, one silver bowl of seventy shekels, after the shekel of the sanctuary; both of them full of fine flour mingled with oil for a meal-offering; one golden spoon of ten shekels, full of incense; one young bullock, one ram, one he-lamb a year old, for a whole burnt offering; one male of the goats for a purification for sin offering; and for the sacrifice of peace-offerings, two oxen, five rams, five he-goats, five he-lambs a year old. This was the oblation of Ahira the son of Enan.’

So did all the tribes one by one bring their gifts and their offerings and make their dedication, until after twelve days all had taken part, represented by their tribal chieftain, their tribal ‘father’. The offerings having been outlined in detail, the full overall offering is now described in order to bring out its munificence.

Numbers 7:84-88

‘This was the dedication of the altar, in the day when it was anointed, by the princes of Israel: twelve silver platters, twelve silver bowls, twelve golden spoons; each silver platter weighing a hundred and thirty shekels, and each bowl seventy; all the silver of the vessels two thousand and four hundred shekels, after the shekel of the sanctuary. The twelve golden spoons, full of incense, weighing ten shekels apiece, after the shekel of the sanctuary; all the gold of the spoons a hundred and twenty shekels. All the oxen for the whole burnt offering twelve bullocks, the rams twelve, the he-lambs a year old twelve, and their grain offering; and the males of the goats for a purification for sin offering twelve. And all the oxen for the sacrifice of peace-offerings twenty and four bullocks, the rams sixty, the he-goats sixty, the he-lambs a year old sixty. This was the dedication of the altar, after that it was anointed.’

Here is described the multiplicity of the gifts to Yahweh with all the tribes represented. As the twelve loaves of showbread in the Holy Place represented the twelve tribes, so were they also represented by the golden spoons, the silver platters and the silver bowls in their use in the offering of worship and sacrifice.

The multiplicity of the offerings and sacrifices confirms that not only the altar but also the people themselves were involved. They were being dedicated along with the altar. The purity of Israel was being ensured. And to this Yahweh responded.


Verse 89

The Response of the Sanctuary (Numbers 7:89 to Numbers 9:14).

To the dedication of the people in all the respects described from Numbers 5:1 onwards now came the response of Yahweh their King. Firstly in the speaking of His Voice, secondly in the shining of His light, thirdly in the service of the Levites on behalf of the people (having replaced their firstborn sons), and fourthly in the Passover celebration which reminded them of, and renewed to them, the wonder of their deliverance from Egypt and His watch over them ever since.

In the first case it was with respect to Moses, in the second to the priests, in the third to the dedicated ones (the Levites), and in the fourth to the people. This is the exact reversal of the order in the previous three chapters.

Thus we have:

d The Voice of Yahweh the King speaking to Moses from the Mercy Seat (Numbers 7:89). This was a response to the dedication of the altar and the tribute of the princes (Numbers 7:2-88), both on behalf of the people, and its original anointing and sanctification (Numbers 7:1).

c The lighting of the lamps in the Sanctuary by Aaron and his sons symbolising the light of Yahweh shining on His people (Numbers 8:1-4). This was a response to the priests’ blessing (Numbers 6:22-27).

b The compulsory dedication of the Levites to the service of Yahweh as Yahweh’s guarantee of the maintenance of the cult (Numbers 8:5-26). This paralleled the dedication of the Nazirites (Numbers 6:1-21). It was Yahweh’s response to the dedication of the people.

a The compulsory keeping of the Passover of deliverance by the people, by all who were clean (Numbers 9:1-14) ensuring their continual deliverance by Yahweh. As their deliverance had begun with the Passover, so would their going forward begin with it, a reminder that Yahweh was continually with them. This was Yahweh’s response to their cleansing of the camp (Numbers 5). Because they were clean they could partake in His Passover with all that it signified.

The Voice of Yahweh Their King From Above The Mercy Seat (Numbers 7:89).

Numbers 7:89

‘And when Moses went into the tent of meeting to speak with him, then he heard the Voice speaking to him from above the mercy-seat that was on the ark of the testimony, from between the two cherubim: and he spoke to him (literally ‘he said to him’).’

In response to all their efforts came the Voice of Yahweh from the ‘Holy of Holies’ (the Most Holy Place). The shout of a king was among them (23:21). He was responding to their dedication and the dedication of their princes. Through Moses He would speak to them personally as His people, and Moses would pass on His words through the princes. Thus the Voice was closely linked with the dedicated princes. Their dedication on behalf of the people resulted in Yahweh’s positive revelatory action towards His people.

But it was through Moses that He would speak continually through the days to come as He had in the past, speaking to him as a man speaks with His friend. This was how ‘Yahweh said to Moses’. Through Moses came all of Yahweh’s revelation to His people (Exodus 33:11). For this was that voice which had declared His covenant from Mount Sinai (Exodus 20:1; Exodus 20:22), that terrible voice from which the people had pleaded to be spared (Exodus 20:19). They had not wanted to hear the Voice, they had only wanted Moses to hear it, and their wish was to be granted. Here was the Voice Who would one day manifest Himself more fully as the Word (John 1:1-18).

It is salutary to realise that while the fire and the cloud only symbolised what Yahweh was, His voice was essentially expressive of Himself. It was personal and real. The cloud and the fire brought home God’s glory, the voice brought home the essential nature of what He was. Through that voice came His full revelation of Himself as revealed in His word.

The Voice came from the mercy seat, the propitiatory, which was between the cherubim and above the Ark in which were the covenant tablets. Here was His covenant throne. From here He dispensed mercy. When the people were fully dedicated they could be sure that they would hear His voice through His representatives the prophets, who would stand where Moses stood (Deuteronomy 18:18-19). From now on they would always have His voice if they would hear it.

All knew that there was there no representation of Yahweh. He was the invisible One, the One Who could not be portrayed by any earthly image. But from there He spoke, and it was to there that all their offerings and sacrifices were finally directed, as was brought out on the great Day of Atonement. For there finally was the point at which atonement could be made, forgiveness received, and reconciliation and peace be established.

“He said to him.” We are left to recognise that this refers to whatever Yahweh said to Moses. We have again and again the phrase ‘Yahweh spoke to Moses , saying’. This is here depicted as being spoken by the Voice from the mercy seat.

 


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Bibliography Information
Pett, Peter. "Commentary on Numbers 7:4". "Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/pet/numbers-7.html. 2013.

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