BIBLE STUDY SERIES #299, 300 and 301

17 August, 1997

VOWS AND TITHES

By Douglas C. Nesbit, B.A.

Our ongoing series of Bible Studies, which began several years ago with the Call of The Almighty God to Abram, in Genesis 12, has continued with occasional digressions, down the scriptural passages in succession to our present focus in Leviticus 27, the last chapter in that Book.

As usual, I shall read from the Biblical passage beginning at Leviticus 27:1, and introduce some explanatory comments on the reading.

1. And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,
2. Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, When a man shall make a singular vow, the persons shall be for the LORD by thy estimation.
3. And thy estimation shall be of the male from twenty years old even unto sixty years old, even thy estimation shall be fifty shekels of silver, after the shekel of the sanctuary.
4. And if it be a female, then thy estimation shall be thirty shekels.
5. And if it be from five years old even unto twenty years old, then thy estimation shall be of the male twenty shekels, and for the female ten shekels.
6. And if it be from a month old even unto five years old, then thy estimation shall be of the male five shekels of silver, and for the female thy estimation shall be three shekels of silver.
7. And if it be from sixty years old and above; if it be a male, then thy estimation shall be fifteen shekels, and for the female ten shekels.
8. But if he be poorer than thy estimation, then he shall present himself before the priest, and the priest shall value him; according to his ability that vowed shall the priest value him.

The New Bible Commentary, under the heading "XII. Vows and Tithes. xxvii. 1-34" says this: "The subject of vows and freewill offerings has been mentioned several times in this book in dealing with the subject of sacrifices (see vii. 16, xxii. 18-23, xxiii. 38). Here 'devoted' or 'sanctified' oblations (qorban), which could not be offered in sacrifice, are discussed separately. the votive offerings here referred to consist of persons, animals, houses, fields. It is to be observed that in most cases no actual change in ownership takes place. The emphatic word is estimation which occurs about twenty times. We have already met it in connection with the trespass offering, which required the addition of one-fifth to the estimated value of the property which must be restored (v. 15f.). Here it is used of the value to be assigned to a person or to property. In the case of persons (2-8), the estimation varies according to sex and age. It apparently contemplates the possibility of a man's vowing (to give) himself or some person of his household to the Lord. The valuation varies between fifty shekels and three shekels. That it is expected that the person will be redeemed in money is made clear by verse 8. Thus, if a man estimated at fifty shekels were not able to pay the full amount, the priest was to suit the estimate to the ability of the maker of the vow to make good his vow or pledge. Notes from that Commentary will be used throughout the remainder of the study in this chapter.

9. And if it be a beast, whereof men bring an offering unto the LORD, all that any man giveth of such unto the LORD shall be holy.
10. He shall not alter it, nor change it, a good for a bad, or a bad for a good: and if he shall at all change beast for beast, then it and the exchange thereof shall be holy.
11. And if it be any unclean beast, of which they do not offer a sacrifice unto the LORD, then he shall present the beast before the priest:
12. And the priest shall value it, whether it be good or bad: as thou valuest it, who art the priest, so shall it be.
13. But if he will at all redeem it, then he shall add a fifth part thereof unto thy estimation.

In the case of animals (9-13) a distinction is made between clean beasts which could be used in sacrifice and unclean beasts. The former became the property of the Lord and could not be redeemed by the owner. The law was interpreted to mean that the priests might sell such animals to those who wished to offer a sacrifice but not to the original owner. In the case of an unclean beast, the original owner might redeem it by paying a fifth more than the estimation.

14. And when a man shall sanctify his house to be holy unto the LORD, then the priest shall estimate it, whether it be good or bad: as the priest shall estimate it, so shall it stand.
15. And if he that sanctified it will redeem his house, then he shall add the fifth part of the money of thy estimation unto it, and it shall be his.

In the case of a house (14, 15) the same principle applied. If the owner wished to redeem it he must pay an additional one-fifth.

16. And if a man shall sanctify unto the LORD some part of a field of his possession, then thy estimation shall be according to the seed thereof: an homer of barley seed shall be valued at fifty shekels of silver.
17. If he sanctify his field from the year of jubile, according to thy estimation it shall stand.
18. But if he sanctify his field after the jubile, then the priest shall reckon unto him the money according to the years that remain, even unto the year of the jubile, and it shall be abated from thy estimation.
19. And if he that sanctified the field will in any wise redeem it, then he shall add the fifth part of the money of thy estimation unto it, and it shall be assured to him.
20. And if he will not redeem the field, or if he have sold the field to another man, it shall not be redeemed any more.
21. But the field, when it goeth out in the jubile, shall be holy unto the LORD, as a field devoted; the possession thereof shall be the priest's.
22. And if a man sanctify unto the LORD a field which he hath bought, which is not of the fields of his possession;
23. Then the priest shall reckon unto him the worth of thy estimation, even unto the year of the jubile: and he shall give thine estimation in that day, as a holy thing unto the LORD.
24. In the year of the jubile the field shall return unto him of whom it was bought, even to him to whom the possession of the land did belong.
25. And all thy estimations shall be according to the shekel of the sanctuary: twenty gerahs shall be the shekel.

The case of the field (16-25) was much more complicated, since it involved the question of the jubile. but the owner could redeem it by adding one-fifth. The estimate was to be in terms of the sowing of the field, which was a relatively simple way of determining its value in an agricultural community. If he failed to redeem the field, which was his inheritance, or if he sold it (surreptitiously) after having devoted it, then he lost all claim to it when the year of jubile came round. The field became the property of the priests. The value of a field which a man had purchased was to be reckoned in terms of the nearness of the jubile, since it then returned to its original owner. Here (verse 25) and three times elsewhere in the Pentateuch (Ex. xxx. 13; Nu. iii. 47, xviii. 16) it is stated that the shekel of the sanctuary contains twenty gerahs.

26. Only the firstling of the beasts, which should be the LORD'S firstling, no man shall sanctify it; whether it be ox, or sheep: it is the LORD'S.
27. And if it be of an unclean beast, then he shall redeem it according to thine estimation, and shall add a fifth part of it thereto: or if it be not redeemed, then it shall be sold according to thy estimation.

Firstlings (26, 27) belonged to the Lord (cf. Ex. xiii. 2, 12; Dt. xv. 19-23), so could not be dedicated. but the firstlings of unclean animals could be redeemed by paying the extra one-fifth. If not redeemed they could be sold (see Ex. xiii. 13).

28. Notwithstanding no devoted thing, that a man shall devote unto the LORD of all that he hath, both of man and beast, and of the field of his possession, shall be sold or redeemed: every devoted thing is most holy unto the LORD.
29. None devoted, which shall be devoted of men, shall be redeemed; but shall surely be put to death.

Devoted or 'banned' persons or things (28, 29) are an exception to the law regarding redemption. They cannot be redeemed and a banned person must be put to death. This must refer to the solemn and terrible ban (herem) which was placed, for example, on Amalek, on Jericho, and on Achan, and not to the vows and acts of 'sanctifying' mentioned earlier in the chapter. See Dt. ii. 34n. The placing of such a ban upon nation or individual was certainly not within the right of any private person, but must have been of the nature of an official sentence pronounced by God through Moses, or through the duly constituted leaders. Cf. Jos. vi. 17-19.

30. And all the tithe of the land, whether of the seed of the land, or of the fruit of the tree, is the LORD'S: it is holy unto the LORD.
31. And if a man will at all redeem ought of his tithes, he shall add thereto the fifth part thereof.
32. And concerning the tithe of the herd, or of the flock, even of whatsoever passeth under the rod, the tenth shall be holy unto the LORD.
33. He shall not search whether it be good or bad, neither shall he change it: and if he change it at all, then both it and the change thereof shall be holy; it shall not be redeemed.

Verses 30-33 deal with the question of tithes. One tenth of the increase of the fields, of the trees, of the herd, or flock is holy unto the Lord. A man may redeem part of it by paying the usual one-fifth additional. But this exception does not apply to animals. On the tithes cf. Dt. xii and xiv. The apparent discrepancy between Leviticus and Deuteronomy was harmonized by the Rabbis by distinguishing three different tithes: the first, the second, and the third or 'poor' tithe.

34. These are the commandments, which the LORD commanded Moses for the children of Israel in mount Sinai.

The closing statement of 34 is briefer and less definite than that of xxvi. 46. It may be regarded, therefore, as referring primarily to chapter xxvii and not to the entire book. But however understood, this concluding statement is in accord with the total impression given by Leviticus, i.e. that it consists of laws given to Moses for Israel at Sinai.

All these laws are essentially given to our Israelite ancestors in order to form the national basis for an understanding of the true work of Jesus Christ, which emerges as one considers what He accomplished through His life, death, resurrection and ascension. At His Second Advent, we will expect to have these connections revealed most clearly.

24 August, 1997

PEOPLE IN TRANSIT

By Douglas C. Nesbit, B.A.

Our ongoing series of Bible Studies, which began several years ago with the Call of The Almighty God to Abram, in Genesis 12, has continued with occasional digressions, down the scriptural passages in succession, to our recent focus in Leviticus 27, the last chapter in that Book. Today, we approach the Book of Numbers, and, before we launch into specific chapters and passages, it will, I think, be appropriate to consider what is the over-all thrust of this, the fourth Book in the Bible.

What I am about to say now may seem a digression, but I think the occasional digression serves its own purpose, and can be useful, and, in any event, I think the reason for this approach will shortly become apparent. I have, in the last month, been meeting invitations to deliver some lectures in the United Kingdom, and in Vancouver, B.C.; two localities almost half a world away from each other, yet very similar locations in regard to their climates, and the general ethnic roots of the majority of those I might term their "multi-generation", or "historically established" citizens.

My travels were undertaken by air, along with and amidst those great numbers of travellers who, by day and night, continually throng the concourses of the airport terminals in cities, large and not-so-large, throughout the world and who then extend the range of their transport by other conveyances to far distances which, for each, stretch the hours and the miles until they finally arrive "home." For some, "home" is where mother is. For others, "home" is a lonely little silent fortress where entertainment is meagre and self-created. For still others, "home" is a family affair, with relatives and neighbours and the familiar neighbourhood. Wherever it is, it is the haven, the secure and familiar environment where one can relax and follow one's calling, one's interest or one's routine tasks.

The milling throng, pressing through the gates or lining up for processing is composed, in general, of strangers who pass like "ships in the night", and I am, of course, not alone in respecting the desire of others to preserve their anonymity. A reserved silence becomes a shell protecting one's "space" from intrusion en route and it is even more desirable as the margins of physical "space" diminish in the press. Consequently, preservation of that shell becomes essential to each individual's equanimity of mind. I confess that I, myself, tend to have a rather reserved nature.

However, if I sense that I share some cultural or ethnic aspect or some mutual concern with a fellow traveller, I have found it a surprisingly rewarding practice on suitable occasions, to break the silence of a long wait in some waiting room or on a train by volunteering, in a congenial spirit, some light observation of the surroundings, or perhaps a comment about the extent of the period of waiting, or my destination or some similar topic of conversation with a fellow passenger. I had several such agreeable conversations in Britain a few weeks ago, and in each case an immediate rapport was established, leading to the unlocking of a fund of interesting information on the local scene or agreement about some topic in the news or some circumstance of life. We shared, for a brief span of moments at least, some aspects of our heritage, our culture, or our personal experiences.

On my last trip home, I happened to be an early arrival in a mostly empty airport lounge to awaiting the opening of the "gate" to board the aircraft. As the lounge began to fill in earnest, several young ladies approached the empty chairs alongside myself. These were some whom I might characterise as "Israelites" in the ethnic sense of the term which places that label upon the generally Anglo-Celto-Saxon and kindred peoples whom we of the British-Israel-World Federation assert to be the vast majority of the present-day descendants of the ancient tribes of Sinai and of the Old Testament in general. I might add that a Biblical description of the ladies might include terms like "very fair", and "well favoured", a factor which I generally consider to make such conversations as I have just been describing appear somewhat unseemly!

However, after an extended silence, seated amidst the crowding throngs of fellow passengers awaiting the call to board the aircraft, I and my neighbours on both sides finding ourselves upon common ground, were moved to make comments in brief conversation as we regarded a particularly attractive sight spread before us. This consisted of a gathering of perhaps six or seven well-mannered, small blond moppets of kindergarten age, seated in a circle, cross-legged, on the floor, facing each other a few yards away from us. These engaged in animated but well-behaved conversation and activity, organized and sustained by two obviously well prepared ladies whom I assumed to be mothers! As a retired teacher with 34 years of experience in the classroom, I was especially appreciative of the talented capabilities displayed by the supervising adults who carefully maintained the interested attentions of each youngster through the succeeding minutes while we waited. All were suitably engaged and no one strayed or annoyed the strangers standing about them. As the call for boarding was announced, our own brief attempt at conversation terminated and I did not have opportunity to amplify upon the scene with mention of a Biblical parallel. Perhaps I can pass the unspoken comments to you now, however, because I think that the short incident was perfectly designed for inclusion in this programme!

One might ask why I choose to introduce some thoughts about the nature of the Biblical Book of Numbers with such a digression, but if you will consider the matter, I think you will know why I have done so. God, The Almighty, had recently brought the Children of Israel out of Egypt by the miraculous events of the Exodus. Those had been exciting, and somewhat stress-filled days, on the national scale perhaps somewhat like the obvious prior preparation of the small children in that circle, preparing for their flight in an aircraft. As the people of Israel entered the Wilderness of Sinai, they moved under the protecting and guiding supervision of The Almighty, in the accompanying towering cloud by day and fire by night. These small children, in microcosm, displayed the same circumstance. Although they did not know exactly where they were going, nor understand the means, they also had the supervision of someone who had knowledge of their destination, and the means of attaining it. Like Israel, temporarily pausing before Mount Sinai, these children had been temporarily stayed in a waiting room, and about them were many strangers. It would have been no time to go astray, wandering from the organized unit, and the supervised path, and possibly getting lost amidst the crowd of grown-up folk, or being drawn to participate in the somewhat wild antics of less inhibited children who ran about the aisles with careless abandon, almost colliding with the elderly, and causing distraction by their shrill shrieks of laughter. The little circle remained, much like the encampment of Israel which The Almighty organized into a square formation which we will be describing later. Israel stayed together in the face of the threat from strangers who also dwelt in the Wilderness of Sinai, and it came to my mind that the small well-mannered camp of about half a dozen in the waiting room of a busy air terminal might be a useful means of introducing the Biblical setting of God's people on route to their destination, The Promised Land.

The Book of Numbers consists of some genealogies which list the Tribes much as a census would, our people today, but most of the Book is taken up with the manner of march, the various encampments, and the guidance on the route through the unknown wilderness to the Promised Land. Let us read the first part of Numbers 1 to conclude today's lesson.

1. And the LORD spake unto Moses in the wilderness of Sinai, in the tabernacle of the congregation, on the first day of the second month, in the second year after they were come out of the land of Egypt, saying,
2. Take ye the sum of all the congregation of the children of Israel, after their families, by the house of their fathers, with the number of their names, every male by their polls;
3. From twenty years old and upward, all that are able to go forth to war in Israel: thou and Aaron shall number them by their armies.
4. And with you there shall be a man of every tribe; every one head of the house of his fathers.
5. And these are the names of the men that shall stand with you: of the tribe of Reuben; Elizur the son of Shedeur.
6. Of Simeon; Shelumiel the son of Zurishaddai.
7. Of Judah; Nahshon the son of Amminadab.

The Companion Bible notes that this Nahshon is in the line of the promised seed, the father of Salmon (husband of Rahab of Jericho), progenitor of Boaz of Bethlehem (husband of Ruth).

8. Of Issachar; Nethaneel the son of Zuar.
9. Of Zebulun; Eliab the son of Helon.
10. Of the children of Joseph: of Ephraim; Elishama the son of Ammihud: of Manasseh; Gamaliel the son of Pedahzur.
11. Of Benjamin; Abidan the son of Gideoni.
12. Of Dan; Ahiezer the son of Ammishaddai.
13. Of Asher; Pagiel the son of Ocran.
14. Of Gad; Eliasaph the son of Deuel.
15. Of Naphtali; Ahira the son of Enan.
16. These were the renowned of the congregation, princes of the tribes of their fathers, heads of thousands in Israel.
17. And Moses and Aaron took these men which are expressed by their names:
18. And they assembled all the congregation together on the first day of the second month, and they declared their pedigrees after their families, by the house of their fathers, according to the number of the names, from twenty years old and upward, by their polls.
19. As the LORD commanded Moses, so he numbered them in the wilderness of Sinai.

These are to become, as we shall later discuss, the roots of many peoples of the modern world, and God continues to oversee their progress and their development under His hand. We shall continue with this study on the next programme.

31 August, 1997

A RECORD OF PEOPLE IN TRANSIT

By Douglas C. Nesbit, B.A.

Our ongoing series of Bible Studies, which began several years ago with the Call of The Almighty God to Abram, in Genesis 12, has continued with occasional digressions, down the scriptural passages in succession, to our recent focus in Numbers 1:1-19. Today, we approach the Scripture passage starting with Numbers 1:20. Before we read that passage, however, we might briefly review what we covered last week. and the over-all message of this, the fourth Book in the Bible.

We learned that the general thrust of the Book of Numbers is the record of Israel's movement through the Wilderness of Sinai towards their home in The Promised Land. The people are to be numbered by their tribes before and at the conclusion of this process, as we might expect in any national undertaking of this magnitude, and what follows is the account of the actual numbers involved as Israel moves from Mount Sinai on their journey under the protecting guidance of Yahweh (Jehovah), The Almighty God, their national "husband." The Companion Bible, making reference to the word "And", which is the first word in the Book, states "Numbers begins with 'And', as all the books of the Pentateuch do. It is therefore one whole in five sections, rather than separate books." Continuing the note, we find that "The LORD spake fifty-six "sundry times" (7 x 8) in Numbers, and in thirteen "divers manners" (twelve to Moses, once to Aaron), and four times indefinite. These instances are listed in The Companion Bible along with the point that "The LORD said" is used sixteen times, making a total of seventy-two in all. The numbers which God uses in His Holy Word have their own significance, so it is as well to take notice of such quantities. They can yield their own beneficial instruction to the wise Bible student. The Companion Bible notes also show that the names of the tribal leaders listed in the earlier verses of the chapter, who are to be called when the enumeration proceeds are taken under consideration in a generally connected sequence. These leaders are grouped thus: five sons of Leah, three of Rachel, one of Bilhah, two of Zilpah, and one of Bilhah. Now, however, with the actual census, a slight variation in order is apparent which inserts the tribe of Gad, in place of Levi, as that tribe is also inserted in the encampment order, which we will see later.

Introducing notes on the Book of Numbers, The New Bible Commentary makes some observations which might be useful to review. It says: "The English name of this book is taken from the Greek translation, and may represent the hasty selection of someone only superficially familiar with the book. The names which the Greek translation gave to the other four books of the Pentateuch are good descriptions of their contents, while those appended to them in the Hebrew consist merely of the first word or the first two words of each book, and sometimes give no idea at all of what the book contains. Here the reverse is true. The Hebrew name, bemidhbar, 'in the wilderness' (which is the fifth word of the book) describes it excellently; but the Greek title fits only chapters i and xxvi. While it might loosely apply to one or two other chapters, it has no application to nine-tenths of the book. It is to be feared that the misleading title which the Latin and the English versions have taken over from the Greek translation has led many to neglect the book, and to miss the rich treasures which it contains. As the Hebrew title suggests, the book contains a description of the wilderness journey of the Israelites. Exodus tells how they left Egypt, and traces their progress as far as Sinai. Joshua tells how they entered the Promised Land. Their long journey from Sinai to the borders of Canaan is described in Numbers." With this as a brief introduction, let us now read starting with a repetition of the lead verse at Numbers 1:19.

19. As the LORD commanded Moses, so he numbered them in the wilderness of Sinai.

Here, The Companion Bible notes, this census was taken "in the wilderness of Sinai" to distinguish it from the second census, which was in the plains of Moab.

20. And the children of Reuben, Israel's eldest son, by their generations, after their families, by the house of their fathers, according to the number of the names, by their polls, every male from twenty years old and upward, all that were able to go forth to war;
21. Those that were numbered of them, even of the tribe of Reuben, were forty and six thousand and five hundred.
22. Of the children of Simeon, by their generations, after their families, by the house of their fathers, those that were numbered of them, according to the number of the names, by their polls, every male from twenty years old and upward, all that were able to go forth to war;
23. Those that were numbered of them, even of the tribe of Simeon, were fifty and nine thousand and three hundred.
24. Of the children of Gad, by their generations, after their families, by the house of their fathers, according to the number of the names, from twenty years old and upward, all that were able to go forth to war;
25. Those that were numbered of them, even of the tribe of Gad, were forty and five thousand six hundred and fifty.
26. Of the children of Judah, by their generations, after their families, by the house of their fathers, according to the number of the names, from twenty years old and upward, all that were able to go forth to war;
27. Those that were numbered of them, even of the tribe of Judah, were threescore and fourteen thousand and six hundred.
28. Of the children of Issachar, by their generations, after their families, by the house of their fathers, according to the number of the names, from twenty years old and upward, all that were able to go forth to war;
29. Those that were numbered of them, even of the tribe of Issachar, were fifty and four thousand and four hundred.
30. Of the children of Zebulun, by their generations, after their families, by the house of their fathers, according to the number of the names, from twenty years old and upward, all that were able to go forth to war;
31. Those that were numbered of them, even of the tribe of Zebulun, were fifty and seven thousand and four hundred.
32. Of the children of Joseph, namely, of the children of Ephraim, by their generations, after their families, by the house of their fathers, according to the number of the names, from twenty years old and upward, all that were able to go forth to war;
33. Those that were numbered of them, even of the tribe of Ephraim, were forty thousand and five hundred.
34. Of the children of Manasseh, by their generations, after their families, by the house of their fathers, according to the number of the names, from twenty years old and upward, all that were able to go forth to war;
35. Those that were numbered of them, even of the tribe of Manasseh, were thirty and two thousand and two hundred.
36. Of the children of Benjamin, by their generations, after their families, by the house of their fathers, according to the number of the names, from twenty years old and upward, all that were able to go forth to war;
37. Those that were numbered of them, even of the tribe of Benjamin, were thirty and five thousand and four hundred.
38. Of the children of Dan, by their generations, after their families, by the house of their fathers, according to the number of the names, from twenty years old and upward, all that were able to go forth to war;
39. Those that were numbered of them, even of the tribe of Dan, were threescore and two thousand and seven hundred.
40. Of the children of Asher, by their generations, after their families, by the house of their fathers, according to the number of the names, from twenty years old and upward, all that were able to go forth to war;
41. Those that were numbered of them, even of the tribe of Asher, were forty and one thousand and five hundred.
42. Of the children of Naphtali, throughout their generations, after their families, by the house of their fathers, according to the number of the names, from twenty years old and upward, all that were able to go forth to war;
43. Those that were numbered of them, even of the tribe of Naphtali, were fifty and three thousand and four hundred.
44. These are those that were numbered, which Moses and Aaron numbered, and the princes of Israel, being twelve men: each one was for the house of his fathers.
45. So were all those that were numbered of the children of Israel, by the house of their fathers, from twenty years old and upward, all that were able to go forth to war in Israel;
46. Even all they that were numbered were six hundred thousand and three thousand and five hundred and fifty.
47. But the Levites after the tribe of their fathers were not numbered among them.

As we proceed, we will find out why Levi was left out of the listings given above, and we will discover something more of these tribes, and some of the significant reasons why this record is preserved by God's word in the Holy Scriptures. May I leave with you the thought that many of the generally Anglo-Celto-Saxon and kindred peoples of today are unaware of their roots which can be traced through and beyond the Caucasus Mountains, and further back to ancient Israel, so that God's promises to ancient Israel's Patriarchs still do find their fulfilments even now, among many who do not recognize what is in progress. Christ said that He was sent to these people in Matthew 15:24. That is something for our consideration as we delve further into the Biblical account, in the days ahead.

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