Numbers
Introduction 1-3 The Offering of the Leaders 4-9 Distribution of the Carts and the Oxen 10-11 The Dedication Offering for the Altar 12-83 The Offering of Each Leader 84-88 Totals of the Dedication Offering 89 The LORD Speaks to Moses
Introduction

Numbers 6, at the dedication of the Nazirites, is about voluntariness, but also about rules on how such voluntariness should happen. In Numbers 7 we have no rules. Here everything happens voluntarily, out of the desire to give God something for the sanctuary and the dedication of the altar. Everything is out of love; it is the reaction of the heart of the people.


The Offering of the Leaders

1Now on the day that Moses had finished setting up the tabernacle, he anointed it and consecrated it with all its furnishings and the altar and all its utensils; he anointed them and consecrated them also. 2Then the leaders of Israel, the heads of their fathers’ households, made an offering (they were the leaders of the tribes; they were the ones who were over the numbered men). 3When they brought their offering before the LORD, six covered carts and twelve oxen, a cart for [every] two of the leaders and an ox for each one, then they presented them before the tabernacle.

Why do we go back in the first verse to the setting up of the tabernacle that already happened in Exodus 40, a month earlier? Because this fits with the arrangement by the Holy Spirit of these books. What is mentioned here, fits precisely in the book of Numbers.

The overview below shows the sequence of events until the start of the wilderness journey:

First month, Day 1:
Setting up the tabernacle finished (Exo 40:22“On the first day of the first month you shall set up the tabernacle of the tent of meeting.)
Laws for the offerings (Num 7:11Now on the day that Moses had finished setting up the tabernacle, he anointed it and consecrated it with all its furnishings and the altar and all its utensils; he anointed them and consecrated them also.)
Offerings for the altar (Num 7:33When they brought their offering before the LORD, six covered carts and twelve oxen, a cart for [every] two of the leaders and an ox for each one, then they presented them before the tabernacle.)
Ordination of the priesthood (Lev 8:11Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying,)

First month, Day 8
Dedication of the priests finished (Lev 9:11Now it came about on the eighth day that Moses called Aaron and his sons and the elders of Israel;)

First month, Day 12:
Offerings for the altar finished (Num 7:7878On the twelfth day [it was] Ahira the son of Enan, leader of the sons of Naphtali;)
Dedication of the Levites (Num 8:55Again the LORD spoke to Moses, saying,)

First month, Day 14:
Second Passover (Num 9:22“Now, let the sons of Israel observe the Passover at its appointed time.)

Second month, Day 1:
Start census (Num 1:11Then the LORD spoke to Moses in the wilderness of Sinai, in the tent of meeting, on the first of the second month, in the second year after they had come out of the land of Egypt, saying,)

Second month, Day 14:
Passover for the unclean (Num 9:1111In the second month on the fourteenth day at twilight, they shall observe it; they shall eat it with unleavened bread and bitter herbs.)

Second month, Day 20:
The cloud is lifted, the journey starts (Num 10:1111Now in the second year, in the second month, on the twentieth of the month, the cloud was lifted from over the tabernacle of the testimony;)

The leaders see the setting up of the tabernacle. This works a reaction with them. They realize that God is coming to dwell in their midst – God’s dwelling has the emphasis in Exodus – and that then service to Him can begin, now that the people have arrived in the wilderness. They come with their offering on the right day to encourage the service to Him in the wilderness. God accepts these gifts and determines what gifts are given to whom. The service that is done for Him is controlled by Him.

These offerings have to do with the service in the tabernacle, the testimony to the outside world. The leaders have understood that the Levites can use help when carrying the tabernacle through the wilderness. In the tabernacle, not only priestly service is performed, it is also carried through the wilderness. So it is with the church. We come together to serve God as priests, but it is also God’s intention that we express in our testimony in the world all that we have received in blessings.

Leaders give covered carts. What we have to transport are not things we show off. The two of them bring one cart. This points to the search for fellowship in the service with the aim of encouraging God’s work in the church. The leaders speak of the leaders among the believers, those who are in charge.


Distribution of the Carts and the Oxen

4Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 5“Accept [these things] from them, that they may be used in the service of the tent of meeting, and you shall give them to the Levites, [to] each man according to his service.” 6So Moses took the carts and the oxen and gave them to the Levites. 7Two carts and four oxen he gave to the sons of Gershon, according to their service, 8and four carts and eight oxen he gave to the sons of Merari, according to their service, under the direction of Ithamar the son of Aaron the priest. 9But he did not give [any] to the sons of Kohath because theirs [was] the service of the holy [objects, which] they carried on the shoulder.

It seems that Moses does not know very well what to do with these gifts. It is not part of everything God has shown him about the tabernacle. But God indicates that Moses can accept them. They are the fruit of God-fearing souls, of men who have fellowship with God. What they bring is the result of spiritual considerations. God can accept that, because it was ultimately worked in them by Himself through His Spirit.

In the same way God wants to use in His service today means which He has not indicated as such in His Word, but which are the result of spiritual consultation with regard to the service in His house. The church is not a solidified business, but a dynamic one, always in motion. God accepts initiatives that respond to the concerns of the moment when they come from a spirit of dependence on the Spirit and are in accordance with the Word.

God decides to whom the carts are made available. God does not proceed in the way of people who would divide everything fairly. God regulates everything in such a way that faith and love are tested in order to accept that He acts according to His will and wisdom. When we agree with His different actions, we take the place of blessing. The heart so attuned to God’s actions will rejoice in what he sees in another of Christ, while he himself does not possess it. We can rejoice in what He has given us, but also in what He has withheld from us and entrusted to others.

God entrusts each person with what is necessary for the service. He knows what each one has to bear and provides the necessary strength. We can apply this to means that facilitate the work of the Lord’s servants (Tit 3:1313Diligently help Zenas the lawyer and Apollos on their way so that nothing is lacking for them.; 3Jn 1:6b6and they have testified to your love before the church. You will do well to send them on their way in a manner worthy of God.). In this way, if they come from another place, we can offer them accommodation, for example, to do their work in the church from our home. We can also support them financially.

The Gershonites get two carts and four oxen. They have the care for all the coverings. This speaks of the external testimony, the gospel.

The Merarites get four carts and eight oxen. They have the care for boards and pillars. That speaks of the care of the believers, the service of the shepherd. We can all help with the progress of the gospel and the care for the faithful.

The Kohathites care for what speaks of the Lord Jesus and His work. God takes care of the help in its progress. Human resources, such as theological training, have no place here. The heavenly things should be carried on the shoulders. Without anything that might impress people, they carry their precious treasures through the wilderness.

Here David makes a fatal mistake. He forgets the precept of the LORD and places the ark on a cart. It appears not to be a safer means, but a more vulnerable means: the oxen are nearly upset. Uzzah has to pay for that with death (2Sam 6:6-76But when they came to the threshing floor of Nacon, Uzzah reached out toward the ark of God and took hold of it, for the oxen nearly upset [it].7And the anger of the LORD burned against Uzzah, and God struck him down there for his irreverence; and he died there by the ark of God.). The Philistines also put the ark on a cart, but they act out of ignorance (1Sam 6:10-1110Then the men did so, and took two milch cows and hitched them to the cart, and shut up their calves at home.11They put the ark of the LORD on the cart, and the box with the golden mice and the likenesses of their tumors.).


The Dedication Offering for the Altar

10The leaders offered the dedication [offering] for the altar when it was anointed, so the leaders offered their offering before the altar. 11Then the LORD said to Moses, “Let them present their offering, one leader each day, for the dedication of the altar.”

Moses dedicated the altar in Exodus 40. There are no human resources involved in this service. We have the altar in a spiritual sense (Heb 13:1010We have an altar from which those who serve the tabernacle have no right to eat.), which is the table of the Lord. Here we see that the altar is also dedicated by the leaders of the people. They show their appreciation for the altar. God rejoices that there are also people on earth who show their appreciation for the Lord Jesus and His work.


The Offering of Each Leader

12Now the one who presented his offering on the first day was Nahshon the son of Amminadab, of the tribe of Judah; 13and his offering [was] one silver dish whose weight [was] one hundred and thirty [shekels], one silver bowl of seventy shekels, according to the shekel of the sanctuary, both of them full of fine flour mixed with oil for a grain offering; 14one gold pan of ten [shekels], full of incense; 15one bull, one ram, one male lamb one year old, for a burnt offering; 16one male goat for a sin offering; 17and for the sacrifice of peace offerings, two oxen, five rams, five male goats, five male lambs one year old. This [was] the offering of Nahshon the son of Amminadab. 18On the second day Nethanel the son of Zuar, leader of Issachar, presented [an offering]; 19he presented as his offering one silver dish whose weight [was] one hundred and thirty [shekels], one silver bowl of seventy shekels, according to the shekel of the sanctuary, both of them full of fine flour mixed with oil for a grain offering; 20one gold pan of ten [shekels], full of incense; 21one bull, one ram, one male lamb one year old, for a burnt offering; 22one male goat for a sin offering; 23and for the sacrifice of peace offerings, two oxen, five rams, five male goats, five male lambs one year old. This [was] the offering of Nethanel the son of Zuar. 24On the third day [it was] Eliab the son of Helon, leader of the sons of Zebulun; 25his offering [was] one silver dish whose weight [was] one hundred and thirty [shekels], one silver bowl of seventy shekels, according to the shekel of the sanctuary, both of them full of fine flour mixed with oil for a grain offering; 26one gold pan of ten [shekels], full of incense; 27one young bull, one ram, one male lamb one year old, for a burnt offering; 28one male goat for a sin offering; 29and for the sacrifice of peace offerings, two oxen, five rams, five male goats, five male lambs one year old. This [was] the offering of Eliab the son of Helon. 30On the fourth day [it was] Elizur the son of Shedeur, leader of the sons of Reuben; 31his offering [was] one silver dish whose weight [was] one hundred and thirty [shekels], one silver bowl of seventy shekels, according to the shekel of the sanctuary, both of them full of fine flour mixed with oil for a grain offering; 32one gold pan of ten [shekels], full of incense; 33one bull, one ram, one male lamb one year old, for a burnt offering; 34one male goat for a sin offering; 35and for the sacrifice of peace offerings, two oxen, five rams, five male goats, five male lambs one year old. This [was] the offering of Elizur the son of Shedeur. 36On the fifth day [it was] Shelumiel the son of Zurishaddai, leader of the children of Simeon; 37his offering [was] one silver dish whose weight [was] one hundred and thirty [shekels], one silver bowl of seventy shekels, according to the shekel of the sanctuary, both of them full of fine flour mixed with oil for a grain offering; 38one gold pan of ten [shekels], full of incense; 39one bull, one ram, one male lamb one year old, for a burnt offering; 40one male goat for a sin offering; 41and for the sacrifice of peace offerings, two oxen, five rams, five male goats, five male lambs one year old. This [was] the offering of Shelumiel the son of Zurishaddai. 42On the sixth day [it was] Eliasaph the son of Deuel, leader of the sons of Gad; 43his offering [was] one silver dish whose weight [was] one hundred and thirty [shekels], one silver bowl of seventy shekels, according to the shekel of the sanctuary, both of them full of fine flour mixed with oil for a grain offering; 44one gold pan of ten [shekels], full of incense; 45one bull, one ram, one male lamb one year old, for a burnt offering; 46one male goat for a sin offering; 47and for the sacrifice of peace offerings, two oxen, five rams, five male goats, five male lambs one year old. This [was] the offering of Eliasaph the son of Deuel. 48On the seventh day [it was] Elishama the son of Ammihud, leader of the sons of Ephraim; 49his offering [was] one silver dish whose weight [was] one hundred and thirty [shekels], one silver bowl of seventy shekels, according to the shekel of the sanctuary, both of them full of fine flour mixed with oil for a grain offering; 50one gold pan of ten [shekels], full of incense; 51one bull, one ram, one male lamb one year old, for a burnt offering; 52one male goat for a sin offering; 53and for the sacrifice of peace offerings, two oxen, five rams, five male goats, five male lambs one year old. This [was] the offering of Elishama the son of Ammihud. 54On the eighth day [it was] Gamaliel the son of Pedahzur, leader of the sons of Manasseh; 55his offering [was] one silver dish whose weight [was] one hundred and thirty [shekels], one silver bowl of seventy shekels, according to the shekel of the sanctuary, both of them full of fine flour mixed with oil for a grain offering; 56one gold pan of ten [shekels], full of incense; 57one bull, one ram, one male lamb one year old, for a burnt offering; 58one male goat for a sin offering; 59and for the sacrifice of peace offerings, two oxen, five rams, five male goats, five male lambs one year old. This [was] the offering of Gamaliel the son of Pedahzur. 60On the ninth day [it was] Abidan the son of Gideoni, leader of the sons of Benjamin; 61his offering [was] one silver dish whose weight [was] one hundred and thirty [shekels], one silver bowl of seventy shekels, according to the shekel of the sanctuary, both of them full of fine flour mixed with oil for a grain offering; 62one gold pan of ten [shekels], full of incense; 63one bull, one ram, one male lamb one year old, for a burnt offering; 64one male goat for a sin offering; 65and for the sacrifice of peace offerings, two oxen, five rams, five male goats, five male lambs one year old. This [was] the offering of Abidan the son of Gideoni. 66On the tenth day [it was] Ahiezer the son of Ammishaddai, leader of the sons of Dan; 67his offering [was] one silver dish whose weight [was] one hundred and thirty [shekels], one silver bowl of seventy shekels, according to the shekel of the sanctuary, both of them full of fine flour mixed with oil for a grain offering; 68one gold pan of ten [shekels], full of incense; 69one bull, one ram, one male lamb one year old, for a burnt offering; 70one male goat for a sin offering; 71and for the sacrifice of peace offerings, two oxen, five rams, five male goats, five male lambs one year old. This [was] the offering of Ahiezer the son of Ammishaddai. 72On the eleventh day [it was] Pagiel the son of Ochran, leader of the sons of Asher; 73his offering [was] one silver dish whose weight [was] one hundred and thirty [shekels], one silver bowl of seventy shekels, according to the shekel of the sanctuary, both of them full of fine flour mixed with oil for a grain offering; 74one gold pan of ten [shekels], full of incense; 75one bull, one ram, one male lamb one year old, for a burnt offering; 76one male goat for a sin offering; 77and for the sacrifice of peace offerings, two oxen, five rams, five male goats, five male lambs one year old. This [was] the offering of Pagiel the son of Ochran. 78On the twelfth day [it was] Ahira the son of Enan, leader of the sons of Naphtali; 79his offering [was] one silver dish whose weight [was] one hundred and thirty [shekels], one silver bowl of seventy shekels, according to the shekel of the sanctuary, both of them full of fine flour mixed with oil for a grain offering; 80one gold pan of ten [shekels], full of incense; 81one bull, one ram, one male lamb one year old, for a burnt offering; 82one male goat for a sin offering; 83and for the sacrifice of peace offerings, two oxen, five rams, five male goats, five male lambs one year old. This [was] the offering of Ahira the son of Enan.

These offerings have to do with the service at the altar, the testimony before God in the tabernacle. God’s great appreciation of the offerings of the leaders is shown by the enumeration of what each leader has given individually, although that seems to be a repetition of what another has given. Repetition is not a tiring activity for God. Thus, the repeated line in every verse of the 26 verses of Psalm 136 – “For His lovingkindness is everlasting” (Psa 136:1-261Give thanks to the LORD, for He is good,
For His lovingkindness is everlasting.
2Give thanks to the God of gods,
For His lovingkindness is everlasting.
3Give thanks to the Lord of lords,
For His lovingkindness is everlasting.
4To Him who alone does great wonders,
For His lovingkindness is everlasting;
5To Him who made the heavens with skill,
For His lovingkindness is everlasting;
6To Him who spread out the earth above the waters,
For His lovingkindness is everlasting;
7To Him who made [the] great lights,
For His lovingkindness is everlasting:
8The sun to rule by day,
For His lovingkindness is everlasting,
9The moon and stars to rule by night,
For His lovingkindness is everlasting.
10To Him who smote the Egyptians in their firstborn,
For His lovingkindness is everlasting,
11And brought Israel out from their midst,
For His lovingkindness is everlasting,
12With a strong hand and an outstretched arm,
For His lovingkindness is everlasting.
13To Him who divided the Red Sea asunder,
For His lovingkindness is everlasting,
14And made Israel pass through the midst of it,
For His lovingkindness is everlasting;
15But He overthrew Pharaoh and his army in the Red Sea,
For His lovingkindness is everlasting.
16To Him who led His people through the wilderness,
For His lovingkindness is everlasting;
17To Him who smote great kings,
For His lovingkindness is everlasting,
18And slew mighty kings,
For His lovingkindness is everlasting:
19Sihon, king of the Amorites,
For His lovingkindness is everlasting,
20And Og, king of Bashan,
For His lovingkindness is everlasting,
21And gave their land as a heritage,
For His lovingkindness is everlasting,
22Even a heritage to Israel His servant,
For His lovingkindness is everlasting.
23Who remembered us in our low estate,
For His lovingkindness is everlasting,
24And has rescued us from our adversaries,
For His lovingkindness is everlasting;
25Who gives food to all flesh,
For His lovingkindness is everlasting.
26Give thanks to the God of heaven,
For His lovingkindness is everlasting.
) – is an expression of God’s lovingkindness as reaction on what is mentioned in the preceding line.

For God, what each person brings personally counts, and for Him it is not a pure repetition of what another person has brought. He doesn’t say, and we shouldn’t say, “That’s what someone else has already done or said.” God wants to hear it from each individual. Everyone is given the full opportunity to bring his offering and receives the full attention of God.

The fact that all bring the same shows a common understanding. Yet everyone brings it personally. For God, not only the total counts, but also what the individual brings. He sees the separate gift of each of His own, though many will bring the same as what another brings. In praise, we often use the same words, but God never says, “I have heard that before.” God sees in the praise of His people again and again the glorious work of His Son. And about that He gladly hears (Heb 13:1515Through Him then, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name.).

In the dedication offerings are offerings that are durable, such as the dishes and pans. There are also offerings that are no longer there after use, such as the different offerings. Furthermore, the daily offering is also important. Every day a gift is offered to God.

In the gift of the leaders, the sacrifice of the peace offering occupies a prominent place. But first they offer dishes and pans. Those silver dishes and gold pans speak of believers. They can, if they separate themselves from sin, serve at the altar (2Tim 2:20-2120Now in a large house there are not only gold and silver vessels, but also vessels of wood and of earthenware, and some to honor and some to dishonor.21Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from these [things], he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified, useful to the Master, prepared for every good work.). Those who have a place of responsibility in the local church can bring such believers to the Lord. They can offer them in the prayers.

The silver dishes are filled to the brim (“full”) with fine flour mixed with oil and the gold pans are filled to the brim (“full”) with incense. In the lives of such believers, God sees abundantly Who the Lord Jesus has been in His life on earth. The fine flour speaks of the perfect life of the Lord Jesus. Mixed with oil speaks of the fact that He has let Himself be guided in everything by the Holy Spirit. The incense indicates that such a life is a pleasant scent for God.

As offerings are offered burnt offerings, a sin offering and peace offerings. This shows that the leaders have an insight into the distinction between the offerings. Leaders among the believers know the different aspects of the work of the Lord Jesus. That there are different kinds of burnt offerings indicates that there are different aspects in what the Lord Jesus did for God.

There is only one animal as a sin offering. The aspect of the forgiveness of sins does not occupy the greatest place. They are more filled with Him as a burnt offering and still more as a peace offering. The peace offering is the offering that expresses the fellowship between God and His people and between the members of the people with each other.

The order in which the leaders bring their offerings begins with Judah and ends with Naphtali. That is the same order as the one in which the tribes camp described in Numbers 2.


Totals of the Dedication Offering

84This [was] the dedication [offering] for the altar from the leaders of Israel when it was anointed: twelve silver dishes, twelve silver bowls, twelve gold pans, 85each silver dish [weighing] one hundred and thirty [shekels] and each bowl seventy; all the silver of the utensils [was] 2,400 [shekels], according to the shekel of the sanctuary; 86the twelve gold pans, full of incense, [weighing] ten [shekels] apiece, according to the shekel of the sanctuary, all the gold of the pans 120 [shekels]; 87all the oxen for the burnt offering twelve bulls, [all] the rams twelve, the male lambs one year old with their grain offering twelve, and the male goats for a sin offering twelve; 88and all the oxen for the sacrifice of peace offerings 24 bulls, [all] the rams 60, the male goats 60, the male lambs one year old 60. This [was] the dedication [offering] for the altar after it was anointed.

Everything is added up by God. But it is not a great heap for God: it is the sum of the individual parts. After twelve days God counts:
1. twelve silver dishes, each one hundred and thirty shekels (about one and a half kilos) filled with fine flour mixed with oil;
2. twelve silver bowls, each seventy shekels (about eight hundred grams) filled with fine flour mixed with oil;
3. twelve golden bowls, each ten shekels (about one hundred and ten grams) filled with incense;
4. twelve oxen for the burnt offering and the accompanying grain offering;
5. twelve rams for the burnt offering and the accompanying grain offering;
6. twelve male lambs one year old for the burnt offering and the accompanying grain offering;
7. Twelve male goats for a sin offering;
8. 24 bulls for a peace offering;
9. 60 rams for a peace offering;
10. 60 male goats for a peace offering;
11. 60 male lambs one year old for a peace offering.

What a joy it must be for Him if at the end of a meeting on the first day of the week, where we have honored Him with the dedication offerings – our sacrifices of praise (Heb 13:1515Through Him then, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name.) – that each of us has brought to Him, He can add this up.


The LORD Speaks to Moses

89Now when Moses went into the tent of meeting to speak with Him, 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, so He spoke to him.

Moses enters the tent of meeting to speak with God. Moses is a picture of the Lord Jesus as the Teacher Who hears and reveals the thoughts of God. It is significant that this happens after the description of the voluntary offerings brought by the leaders. God then makes His thoughts known. He can only really share His thoughts when we have a willing heart that is full of admiration for the Lord Jesus.

Despite all the hustle and bustle of his leadership, or maybe that is why, Moses finds and takes the time to be with the LORD, to speak with Him and to listen to Him. The silence of the sanctuary is the appropriate place for this.


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