Chapter 10: The Beginning of the Wilderness Journey
Numbers Chapter 10 is divided into four parts:
- The instructions for making and using the silver trumpets (Num 10:1-9).
- The beginning of the march away from Mt. Sinai, with the first stop in the wilderness of Paran (Num 10:11-28).
- The appeal to Hobab to guide the Israelites (Num 10:29-32).
- The details of the departure (already summarized in 10:12) and Moses' morning and afternoon/evening prayers (Num 10:33-36).
The Israelites prepared to leave Sinai in the second month of the second year after leaving Egypt. The alternate Passover was celebrated on the 14th day of the second month. Unleavened Bread should have continued for the next seven days from the 15th to the 21st (Lev 23:6-8), but on the day before the final Sacred Assembly, on the 20th, the Israelites were commanded to break camp. Like the first Passover in the Exodus out of Egypt, the Israelites began their journey after the Passover but before the end of Unleavened Bread.
Numbers 10:1-10 The Trumpets
The blowing of the silver trumpets is Israel's response to the divine command given by the lifting of the Glory Cloud.
Prior to this event, the sound of a trumpet together with the sound of a voice and the pillar of cloud were the signs that accompanied a manifestation of God, but now the human voice, the sound of the trumpet and the manifestation of the Glory Cloud became the sign that announced God's plan for the orderly movement of the camp.
Before the giving of the Law at Sinai, the Israelite camp was in chaos in the disorderly exodus out of Egypt and in way the people were shouting and disorderly in the sin of the Golden Calf. At Mt. Sinai, the Law of God brought order and justice to the Israelites. The arrangement for the encampment, the duties of the priests and Levites, and the orderly movement from the encampment to the march illustrate the order God's Divine Law brought to the newly formed nation of the children of Israel.
In the Septuagint translation this line is followed by "At the third blast of the trumpet accompanied by a battle cry, the camps on the west side will set out. At the fourth blast of the trumpet accompanied by a battle cry, the camps on the north side will set out."
Question: Who had the responsibility for giving the trumpet signals? How were the silver trumpets used to maintain order?
Answer: The chief priests blew the silver trumpets:
- Two trumpets blown called for the assembly of the community at the entrance to the Sanctuary.
- One trumpet signaled the gathering of the tribal leaders.
- A first trumpet blast which was accompanied by a battle cry signaled that those tribes encamped on the east under the leadership of the tribe of Judah were to begin the march.
- Each succeeding trumpet blast and war cry was the signal for the next quadrant of tribes to the south to begin the march, and so on.
- The trumpets will be blown at liturgical festivals to assemble the people.
- When the Israelites take possession of the Promised Land, the trumpets blown with an accompanying battle cry will summon the tribes to war.
The silver trumpets could only be blown by the priests (Num 10:8; 31:6) and are not the same as the trumpets blown on the Feast of Trumpets/Acclamations in Leviticus 23:23-25 and Numbers 29:1-6 or the Feast of Jubilee trumpets in Leviticus 25:9. Those trumpets were the ram's horn (shofar) trumpets.
Numbers 10:11-28: The Order of the March
MARCHING ORDER OF THE TRIBES OF ISRAEL: Numbers 10:11-33
(the rear guard)
|THE TRIBE OF NAPHTALI|
53,400 fighting men
|THE TRIBE OF ASHER|
41,500 fighting men
|THE TRIBE OF DAN|
62,700 fighting men
|THE TRIBE OF BENJAMIN|
35,400 fighting men
|THE TRIBE OF MANASSEH|
32,200 fighting men
|THE TRIBE OF EPHRAIM|
40,500 fighting men
THE PRIESTS WITH THEIR TRUMPETS
THE KOHATHITES CARRYING
THE SACRED FURNISHINGS, ALTARS, & VESSELS
|THE TRIBE OF GAD|
45,650 fighting men
|THE TRIBE OF SIMEON|
59,300 fighting men
|THE TRIBE OF RUBEN|
46,500 fighting men
THE GERSHONITES AND MERARITES
CARRYING THE SANCTUARY & TABERNACLE ENCLOSURES
|THE TRIBE OF ZEBULUN|
57,400 fighting men
|THE TRIBE OF ISSACHAR|
54,400 fighting men
|THE TRIBE OF JUDAH|
74,600 fighting men
The Ark of the Covenant led the way
three days ahead of the Israelites (Num 10:33; Dt 1:33).
Sometimes the Levites carried the Ark (Num 3:31; 4:15; Dt 10:8; 31:9, 25),
while at other times the chief priests carried the Ark (Josh 3:6, 11-17)
Question: Why would the Tabernacle be set up by the time the Kohathites arrived at the stopping point in each part of the journey?
Answer: The men of the Gershonites and Merarites clans who carried the textiles and framework for the Sanctuary and its Tabernacle were ahead of the Kohathites in the line of the march. The three tribes commanded by Nahshon would be the first to receive the signal from the Glory Cloud that a place to camp had been selected. When the Gershonites and Merarites caught up with them, they immediately began to assemble the Sanctuary and the Tabernacle. Next came the three tribes lead by Elizur of Reuben and after those tribes the Kohathites. Therefore, when they came up to the stopping point, the Sanctuary was already erected and ready to receive the sacred furniture.
Numbers 10:29-32 The Invitation Extended to Hobab
Moses made two appeals to Hobab:
Question: Why did Moses ask Hobab to guide them when Yahweh's Glory Cloud was their guide?
Answer: Perhaps Moses asked Hobab to accompany them not so much because he knew the best watering holes, but because the Israelites would have assurance that the Midianites would not be inclined to attack then as they traveled through Midianite territory so long as a Midianite priest/chieftain was traveling with them. The Midianites were fierce warriors and later battled with the Israelites in the wilderness journey and during the period of the Judges (Num 25:16-18; 31:3-12; Josh 13:21; Judg 6:1-6).
Numbers 10:33-36 The Departure and Moses' Morning and Evening/Afternoon Prayers
Question: Do you see any significance to the Ark progressing three days in advance of the march of the Israelites?
Answer: It recalls the three day journey Abraham made to Mt. Moriah when he was commanded to sacrifice Isaac in Genesis 22:1 and the request to Pharaoh to make a three day journey into the wilderness to worship Yahweh in Exodus 5:3.
Three is the number of importance and completeness in Scripture. It is one of the four "perfect numbers" which also include seven, ten, and twelve. Three of anything points to something important in the progress of God's plan for man's salvation.
Question: If Hobab did accompany the Israelites, by what three sources were the Israelites guided on their march?
Answer: By the Glory Cloud, by Hobab and by the Ark.
The Ark would have been first (three days ahead), either accompanied by or followed by Hobab, and finally the Glory Cloud within sight of the tribes in the head of the line of march.
Question: When did Moses offer up these prayers?
Answer: In the morning when the set out on the march and in the late afternoon/evening before sunset when they camped.
Question: What two petitions does Moses make to Yahweh in his morning and afternoon/evening prayers?
Answer: Moses asks for:
- Divine protection by day
- Divine presence by night
Chapter 9: Teaching the New Generation Using Illustrations from Israel's Past
In this part of his second homily, Moses will use examples of past historical events to support the main theme of his address that the Israelites must be vigilant in their obedience to Yahweh and their allegiance to His covenant to avoid the kinds of rebellion they were guilty of in the past:
- The rebellion of the Golden Calf at Sinai (Ex 32:1-29)
- The rebellion at Taberah (Num 11:1-3)
- The rebellion at Massah (Ex 17:1-7; Num 20:2-11)
- The rebellion at Kibroth-ha-Tavvah (Num 11:4-35)
- The rebellion at Kadesh-Barnea (Num 13:25-14:4)
The reference to Massah (Ex 17:107) probably also includes the later rebellion at Meribah (Num 20:2-11). The references to rebellions are in chronological order except the rebellion at Massah/Meribah.
In contrast to the five negative historical events, Moses will conclude this section of his second homily by reflecting on five positive historical events, beginning and ending with Moses' second forty day period on Mt. Sinai after the sin of the Golden Calf and the breaking of the first set of stone tablets of the Decalogue (these events not in consecutive order):
- The second forty days on Mt. Sinai and the two new tablets of the renewed covenant (Ex 34:1-2, 28-29)
- The succession of the office of high priest from Aaron to Eleazar (Num 20:24-26)
- The dedication of the Levites as the lesser ministerial priesthood (Num 8:5-22)
- The second forty days on the mountain and the command to depart from Sinai (Ex 34:1-2, 28-29)
Deuteronomy 9:1-6 Yahweh is the Source of Israel's Victories
In verses 1-2 Moses' refers to the same fears of the Exodus generations after the reconnaissance of Canaan in Numbers 13:33. The Anakim were the descendants of their legendary ancestor Anak. They were very tall people like the Rephidim who had once inhabited the Transjordan.
Question: What is Moses' warning to the Israelites in this passage? It is a warning that has been repeated previously.
Answer: Israel's possession of he Promised Land was not a reward because of Israel's righteousness.
Question: For what two reasons does Moses say that God is driving out the residents of Canaan? According the verse 6, what is God's gift of the Promised Land based? To whom is this message directed?
Answer: The residents of the land of Canaan will be dispossessed of the land because of their wickedness and because of God's promise to the Patriarchs. In verse 6 Moses gives the people (and the reader) the clear understanding that the gift of the Promised Land is based on God's grace and not on the righteousness of the Israelites.
It is God's plan to drive out the other nations from Canaan, but His ultimate plan is to fulfill His promise to the Patriarchs to provide a world-wide blessing, a blessing that will extend to all the nations of the earth (Gen 12:3b). Therefore, dispossessing the inhabitants of Canaan is part of that plan so that their descendants will become the beneficiaries of the future world-wide blessing in the Advent of the Messiah (see Gal 3:8-9).
A Reminder of Israel's Failure in the sin of the Golden Calf
In his first example of Israel's past rebellions, Moses lists for the new generation a summary of the events of Israel's sin in making the idol of the Golden Calf. It is an event that took place in Exodus chapter 32.
Question: What is Moses purpose in retelling the story of the Golden Calf?
Answer: The purpose in retelling the story is to emphasize the necessity of constant vigilance, using the example of Israel's covenant failure at Sinai in the event of the Golden Calf as an illustration of how quickly the people can be seduced into the sin of idol worship.
If they could sin so quickly at Mt. Sinai, after witnessing the great visual and acoustical display of Yahweh's divine glory, what will happen when they enter the land of Canaan if they fail to remain vigilant and adopt the practices of their pagan neighbors?
Moses Reminds the Israelites of His Intersession at Sinai
Moses recounts the events that took place in Exodus 32:15-20.
Deuteronomy 9:22-29 A Review of Some of Israel's Other Failures
Moses mentions three past rebellions without going into the details of Israel's failures in those events except for the failure to advance the conquest at Kadesh-Barnea. Then he returns to his intercession for Israel after the sin of the Golden Calf. His prayer of intercession is very much like his intercessory prayer recorded in Exodus 32:11-14.
Question: What arguments did Moses make in pleading for Yahweh's mercy? What was the focus of his petition?
Answer: Moses did not stress Israel's righteousness (9:6b); instead he focused his petition upon God's righteousness, pointing out:
- God's promises to the Patriarchs.
- The importance of God's witness to the Gentile nations who heard about His mighty acts to liberate the Israelites.
- He emphasized that Israelites are God's "heritage"; through them God will redeem mankind.
A Daily Defense
Day 60 "Why Have You Forsaken Me?"
CHALLENGE: “How could Jesus be the Son of God if he prayed, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me’? An all-good God couldn’t forsake Jesus, so either Jesus made a mistake by thinking his Father had forsaken him or his Father made a mistake by actually doing so.”
DEFENSE: Abandonment can be understood in different senses. Jesus knew he would be vindicated, and his words prove it. First, abandonment can be understood in a relative sense—as allowing a person to experience a particular bad thing. The Father certainly allowed his Son to experience suffering on the cross, so he could be said to have abandoned him to that suffering, but not abandoned him in any more fundamental sense.
God did no wrong in this, for it was suffering with a purpose (namely, the redemption of mankind). Jesus’ prayer was not a literal request for information. He already knew why he was going to the cross (John 3:16, 6:51, 10:18). Instead, it was merely an expression of the anguish he was feeling as the suffering was transpiring. Jesus also knew that this suffering would be temporary, for he had already predicted his crucifixion, death, and resurrection (Matt. 16:21, 17:22–23, 20:18).
His awareness of the vindication that the Resurrection would bring shows that he knew he was not abandoned in any fundamental sense but was experiencing only temporary suffering. This is proved by the words he spoke from the cross: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matt. 27:46; Mark 15:34).
This is the opening line of Psalm 22, which Jesus is applying to his current situation. In this psalm, the psalmist is suffering, and aspects of the psalm closely reflect Jesus’ situation on the cross, including being mocked by those around him (Ps. 22:7; Matt. 27:39; Mark 15:29), having his hands and feet pierced (Ps. 22:16), and having lots cast for his garments (Ps. 22:18; Matt. 27:35; Mark 15:24). The psalmist goes on to express confidence that God will deliver him from his present situation (Ps. 22:22–26) and that this will lead to all the nations worshipping God (Ps. 22:27). By quoting the first line of the psalm, Jesus invoked the whole, including God’s deliverance of the suffering one, who is only seemingly abandoned and will actually be delivered.
Jimmy Akin, A Daily Defense: 365 Days (Plus One) to Becoming a Better Apologist