The people of Israel have been numbered and divided. Each is in his tribe and place. Yet the Levites were not numbered with the people. They had been set apart by God / YHWH for His specific purpose. Now we begin to see a bit more about this purpose and the Levite’s role and jobs.
Here in chapter 3 we see that while the Levites missed out on the general census, they will be having a special census all their own. While the general population was numbered by their men 20 years old and older, the Levites are numbered by the males from one month and up. Everyone MUST be accounted for. There must be an accurate count. YHWH is dividing up the Levites into their duties, and there must be an accurate count of who is involved in what.
The most interesting part of this chapter for me though mainly starts in vs. 11; “Again the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, ‘Now, behold, I have taken the Levites from among the sons of Israel instead of every firstborn, the first issue of the womb among the sons of Israel. So the Levites shall be Mine. For all the firstborn are Mine; on the day that I struck down all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, I sanctified to Myself all the firstborn in Israel, from man to beast. They shall be Mine; I am the LORD.’” So YHWH, when He was freeing the people from the hand of Pharaoh, killed all of the firstborn of the Egyptians, but He spared those who were under the protection of the blood. Yet when He did that, He did not just ignore those who were spared, but He set them aside as belonging to Him.
I don’t know why, but for some reason this just strikes me. YHWH spared the firstborn of Israel. His angel of death took all of the firstborn of the land, except for the protected. This was in punishment for Pharaoh & Egypts’ sins against God and the people of Israel. Yet as a result of this sparing of the people of Israel, YHWH sees the firstborn of Israel as belonging to Him. I mean, He spared them because they were obedient to Him and He was punishing the Egyptians for their sins, defiance of Him, and slavery of the Israelites. So how does His sparing of the Israelites make them now His? I mean in a sense, it makes sense. In another sense, not so much.
Moses has, with YHWH’s direction and doing, successfully brought the people of Isreal out of their bondage in the land of Egypt. He has brought them to Mount Sinai, the Lord’s / YHWH’s mountain, and brought them face to face with God / YHWH. From there, YHWH has given the people direction, understanding, and instruction. They have built a tabernacle for YHWH to go with them, and it is getting ready for the people to start heading out.
In the meantime, the people need to be prepared. They will be taking the promised land. They will be fighting battles and defeating nations of people who had allowed their sin to consume them to the point of their being vomited out by the land they live in. As such the men of Israel need to be aware of who they are, what they are capable of, and how many of them are going out to war. So God / YHWH calls them to do something simple. Number yourselves. Figure out how many there are who can fight and go to war. So every male 20 years old and older has to register by their families and tribes. They must make themselves known and be prepared for war.
So the leader of each tribe goes about getting their people registered. In the end, all the males 20 years old and up of the sons of Israel amounts to 603,550 men. Not counting women and children under the age of 20, and not even counting one of the tribes. The Levites have been set aside to serve the LORD / YHWH. As such, approximately 1/12th of the people aren’t even considered for the census That is a lot of people!
What’s amazing to me is that just over 500 years before this census occurred, God made a promise to 1 elderly man and his elderly, barren wife;
“Go forth from your country, And from your relatives And from your father’s house, To the land which I will show you; And I will make you a great nation, And I will bless you, And make your name great; And so you shall be a blessing; And I will bless those who bless you, And the one who curses you I will curse. And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.” (Genesis 12:1-3)
“I will make your descendants as the dust of the earth, so that if anyone can number the dust of the earth, then your descendants can also be numbered.” (Genesis 13:16)
So from 2 elderly and barren people and a promise from YHWH, around 500 years later is this huge, massive nation divided into 12 tribes with an army of over 600,000 men aged 20 and older with 1/12 of them not even involved in that number. Now that’s what I call fulfilling a promise!
What kind of promises has God / YHWH made in your life? Are they promises you are working to fulfill, or are you trusting completely in Him to do all the work and fulfill them for you? Think about it…
This is one of those things that i find so awesome about the Bible and the scriptures. How even the little things mean a whole lot. And, how everything seems to just come together. It becomes clear that God is a step ahead of man and his work… or hundreds, even thousands of years ahead. In this chapter we see AT LEAST four different prophecies being fulfilled in those first years of His life.
What’s even more interesting to me is that of these four prophecies, three of them seem to be contradictory of one another. The first one states that from Bethlehem of Judah will come forth the ruler (Messiah). Thus Jesus, the Christ, is born in Bethlehem. The second says that “Out of Egypt I called My Son”. So the Messiah is to come out of Egypt… wasn’t He supposed to come out of Bethlehem of Judah, not Egypt? Yet here He is, the Messiah coming out of Egypt as well. Then there’s the prophecy that, “He shall be called a Nazarene.” He shall be called a Nazarene because He came out of Nazareth. So now we have three different conflicting prophecies being fulfilled by the same child.
This is what i love about the scriptures. In what seems like an insurmountable conflict and opposing ideas, there is a smooth and elegant solution that surpasses and bypasses our lack of understanding. Prior to understanding how all of this comes together in the end, these three passages could almost seem impossible to reconcile together. Yet God / YHWH brought it all together. That brings us back to the conflict mentioned in chapter 1’s post. The conflict seems almost insurmountable with no real answer in sight, and it may remain that way through your entire life. Yet, as we can see from this chapter; what seems impossible to man, is more than possible with God / YHWH.
I have answers to the conflict of Chapter 1, but i will not give them at this time. Faith, Hope, and Love abide. In this conflict, pursue those things.
Rev. John Camiolo
This chapter is a very controversial chapter and tends to bring up all kinds of questions and debate. In it YHWH deals with defilement (primarily sexual defilement); what defiles the people and what defiles the land. In this chapter YHWH gives instruction for the people not to uncover their relative’s nakedness (or have sexual relations with them). Incest is forbidden including incestual relations between a man and his mother, a father and his daughter-in-law, a man and both a woman and her daughter, and other relations.
There are other issues at work in this chapter as well. For instance there is the command not to uncover a woman’s nakedness during her menstrual period, not to sleep with a neighbor’s wife, and not to sacrifice your child to Molech (this doesn’t happen anymore… does it?). Each of these issues is very important and significant and should in no way be minimized.
However, the most controversial verse in this chapter (according to the current cultural view) is verse 22: “You shall not lie with a male as one lies with a female; it is an abomination.” You can see where a big part of the controversy begins here. There are many that say that this passage does not apply anymore due to Christ having fulfilled the law. That since Christ came and died and was raised again, and the curtain to the most holies was torn, we are no longer bound by the law. We do not have to fulfill the sacrificial rules and regulations because Christ became the perfect sacrifice. Since this passage is part of the legal instructions given to the Israelite people, it is completed and fulfilled and no longer applicable to us.
To some extent, that is an accurate (albeit flawed) understanding of Christ’s fulfillment of the law. This entire chapter holds a different kind of sway than most of the rest of the law. It is true to some extent that the law was for the nation of Israel, but this chapter is about what supersedes that law. Verses 24-25 explain this a little bit better:
“Do not defile yourselves by any of these things; for by all these the nations which I am casting out before you have become defiled. For the land has become defiled, therefore I have brought its punishment upon it, so the land has spewed out its inhabitants.”
It doesn’t take an exegetical genius to understand that the commands in this chapter aren’t limited to the people of the Israelite nation. These are laws that defy nature itself. They are not limited to the people of Israel. They apply to all people and all time. It is because of these kinds of sins that the Israelites have the right, and the responsibility to not only conquer the land of Canaan, but to destroy its inhabitants as well. The land itself has judged the Canaanites and is spewing them out because of the sins listed in this chapter. The Israelites are simply tools to the fulfillment of that justice.
So how should we respond to those caught up in these kinds of sins? Are we to judge and condemn them? Is that our “right”? I don’t believe so. God says, “Judge not, lest you be judged.” In that passage He is referring to not judging those of the world. That judgment is His, not ours to dole out. However, in I Corinthians 5 we are instructed to judge those within the body that are sinning against the body, and the sin refereed to there is a sin directly related to this chapter. It was a sin being accepted and even praised within the church that should have been condemned. That is a pattern we would be wise to heed. The leaders of the church are responsible for understanding and responding appropriately to sin within the body. In NO WAY should the church be lifting up and encouraging within the body what YHWH has condemned. We are to be the light of hope to the troubled and struggling, not following in the defilement of the world.
After going through Exodus like this; i’ve come to understand it a little bit better. Exodus is more than just about YHWH bringing his people out of Egypt and rescuing them from Pharaoh. It’s more than about bringing them through the wilderness to Mount Sinai. It’s even more than about bringing the people of Israel face-to-face with God. The conclusion that i’ve come to is that Exodus is about fulfilling a promise and it’s about giving the people true worship.
YHWH had made a promise to Abraham, Isaac, & Jacob about their descendants; that he would make their descendants a great nation and that he would bring them out of Egypt. This is the beginning of the fulfillment of that promise. The people of Israel have become vast in number, yet they have turned against each other. In fact, they have united against Egypt and become a unified nation in spite of being 12 separate tribes. YHWH has led them out of Egypt and brought them to Himself. He made promises to Moses and to the people as well, and is fulfilling them.
What is worship, and what place does it have in our lives? The only understanding of God that the people of Israel had was that He was the God of their fathers, and what limited experience and information had been passed down through the generations. The people knew that there was a God of their fathers, but they had no understanding of who He was / is and what His purpose was for them. There was a need and a desire for God. There was a drive to know and worship Him. There was a pursuit of God, but there was no fulfillment. That, i believe, was YHWH’s greatest gift to the people of Israel in the book of Exodus. Not the parting of the Red Sea… not water from a rock… not manna… not the destruction of Egypt… not even freedom from slavery or the unification of a nation. No, the greatest gift that YHWH gave to the Israelites in Exodus, was the ability to worship Him. It was the fulfillment of their need and purpose. That’s the true jewel of the book of Exodus.
Well, here is where it all hits the fan! The people are tired of waiting for Moses to return from the mountain. He has been there for 40 days and nights. They are growing impatient with Moses and God taking their time, and they decide to do something about it. So what do they do? They decide to make their own god! They convince Aaron to make them a god so that they can worship it. Aaron makes them a golden calf and the people begin to worship it!
I have been trying to understand this. I really have been. I try to make it a point to understand the situations that the Israelites are going through. I know that these are people just like you and i. I can usually get some sort of grasp on some of the insane things that the Israelites do and make some sort of sense of it, but this one absolutely takes the cake!
God has done all of these amazing things for and with the people of Israel. He has rescued them from Egypt. He has done miracles and wonders to the Egyptians absolutely destroying their nation. He brought them across the Red Sea. He made water come out of the rock. He even appeared in a cloud to the people and the leaders saw Him. He spoke His 10 commandments out loud to them; the second of which was not to make for themselves a graven image! They even agreed! Yet here they are. Moses has returned to the mountain, and is gone for only 40 days. Now here they are doing one of the most foolish and insane things they could possibly do.
I try to imagine myself in the situation. I try to picture it and try to process what is going on in their minds, and i just don’t get it. I mean, i can kind of get it. When you are in that emotional high and you need a release… you need to release it some how, i can understand needing to be able to worship. But wow! I mean really!?! WOW! I think that that’s all I can say about that situation.
I look at YHWH’s response, and i am in no way surprised that He wants to destroy them all and start over. My real amazement is in Moses response. He sticks up for them and hold’s God’s fury at bay, but he also doesn’t really know what’s going on the time. Once he finds out… it becomes a bloodbath. What is a man of God to do?
They have come to the Mountain of God (Elohim). All that has happened in Egypt and in the wilderness has been in preparation for this. When Moses told Pharaoh to let the people go, it was to bring them to this; “We must go a three days’ journey into the wilderness and sacrifice to the LORD (YHWH) our God (Elohim) as He commands us.” So now here they are (three months later) at the foot of Mount Sinai, the mountain of God.
God is getting ready to speak with the people of Israel, so he first meets with Moses in order to get the people prepared to meet with Him. The people are given a few simple instructions before they come near to God. God instructs Moses to consecrate the people, they must wash their clothes, and the men must abstain from a woman for the three days. When they do come to the mountain of God, they must not touch the mountain. Anyone who does must be killed and their bodies not touched… this is obviously very serious.
The third day finally comes and Moses goes up Mount Sinai to meet with God, but YHWH wants to make sure that the people are not going to break through to see Him. So, He sends Moses back down to remind the people that they cannot touch the Mountain of God, and for Moses to bring Aaron back up with him.
So that naturally leads to the question, do we prepare to meet with God? When we go to spend time with YHWH, do we prepare ourselves? Do we understand that our God is the God of such Holiness, that any sin we bring into His presence is a foul stench in His nostrils? Are we preparing ourselves to meet with Him, or is He of such little regard to us that it doesn’t matter what kind of state we are in? The beautiful thing is that we do not need two days of preparation and abstaining from sexual intercourse in order to meet with Him. With the blood of Christ through repentance we are made clean. We are able to come into the presence of God cleaned from the inside. We are prepared through repentance and the blood.
When you come to God, do you come prepared? I know that repentance is something that i just do not do as i should, so that is something that i need to work on.
Rev. John Camiolo Jr.
It’s funny because after all that God has done for them, you would think that the Israelites would trust and honor God. Instead, when they see the Egyptians coming after them they could only see punishment and reprimand from the Egyptians and not relief from YHWH. Pharaoh and the army are chasing after them, and their first reaction is to blame God and Moses. They said, “Is it because there were no graves in Egypt that you brought us out here to the wilderness to die?”
So what does God respond? He tells them to keep going! He makes it clear that He WILL be honored, and it will be at the expense of the Egyptians. Three times this word “Honored” shows up in this chapter. God will be honored by the Egyptians and the people of Israel. Yet, how do the people react? They fear the Egyptians instead of God. They would rather return to slavery than to risk relying on God.
YHWH instructs Moses to move forward while He personally covers their flanks. He tells Moses to open a pathway through the trouble and into the relative safety beyond. In the end, YHWH brings the Israelites through the Red Sea on dry land and sweeps the Egyptian army with all of their world class chariots away in the sea. In the end, the honor and glory belong to Him and Him alone. He will be honored, and He is, both by the Egyptians, the Israelites, and later by the people of the promised land.
Are we giving God the honor that He deserves?
Looking at the chapter and trying to sum up the themes and basic concepts in one word brings me to the idea of ownership. Verses 1-16 are an intermingling of two ideas that most of us would consider separate. There are these very different and distinct concepts. The first is that YHWH spared the firstborn of Israel, and as such they belong to the Lord. Form here on out the firstborn, the one to open the womb, belongs to God. They must be given to God, or they must be redeemed. The second concept is that every year the people of Israel are to have seven days of unleavened bread and a feast at the end. This is in celebration of the Lord passing-over the Israelite’s, destroying the Egyptians, and rescuing the people from slavery. In honor of that event, Passover must be celebrated every year. The people of Israel are to take ownership of the acknowledgment and remembrance of this event. This should be something that they not only acknowledge and understand, but that they also celebrate. The Israelite people must take ownership of the remembrance of this event.
What’s interesting to me, is that these two very distinct and separate concepts are so intermingled in these first 16 verses that as much as it seems like they should be different, it becomes clear that they are interconnected and dependent upon one another. I can’t say that i fully understand it. To me they seem like two very different concepts, but God seems to say otherwise. How and why?
The final concept of ownership in this chapter goes from vs. 17 through the end of the chapter. In this section God takes responsibility / ownership for the people of Israel. He doesn’t just tell Moses to lead them to the Mountain of God; He leads them. He goes before them in a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. He does not leave this to someone else. He takes ownership and does it himself.
We serve a God of words and actions. He doesn’t just tell us to do something. He makes it happen. As a result He is also a God that expects action and ownership from us. We are to take ownership of the tasks that He gives us to do.