Numbers 18-20: More of the same

Part five of Numbers begins with some more administrative details for Aaron and moves through the water out of a rock story and on to talk about the deaths of Miriam and Aaron.

Chapter eighteen

This chapter has God talking primarily to Aaron, though He talks to Moses a bit too. God tells them about the changes in handling their inheritance through the tithes of the other tribes and that they won’t have any land. There was one spot here that gave me pause.

In a most holy place shall you eat it. Every male may eat it; it is holy to you.

Why only the males? There is a fully separated section of things that are for only the males to eat that are given to the Levites for contributions and sacrifice and then a whole other section of things that the daughters can have too; these come into play around verse 19. The above quote is part of verse 10. The only difference between these two sets of contributions is that the first and male-only set are the consecrated things.

So the study portion of my Bible explains it like this: Only priests could eat parts of the cereal, sin, and guilt offerings. Everyone can eat the peace offerings, but even that has an addendum in it. It is “everyone who is clean in your house may eat it”.

I go back and forth on the reasoning behind this but since the peace offerings primarily consist of the same types of foods as the other offerings, I can’t exactly say it promotes the malnourishment of females or anything like that.

About the unclean, remember that the unclean would be outside the camp until they are deemed clean again and allowed to re-enter. That being said, these Levites not eating of the offerings probably doesn’t mean that they don’t eat, they’d just eat outside among the other unclean who are probably not starving to death out there. While they could be, the women would be out there at least one week a month and for almost three months after having a baby girl. There had to be a system.

Chapter nineteen

The conversation from chapter eighteen appears to continue but changes subjects to handling the dead and the uncleanliness that comes from it. There are specific instructions on how to cleanse after dealing with death and dead bodies that seem to make good sense when it comes to sanitation. I thought it was interesting that this was included:

If the man who is unclean does not cleanse himself, that person shall be cut off from the midst of the assembly, since he has defiled the sanctuary of the Lord

Yeah, God knows some people are just gross and won’t clean themselves. He wants the people to know what to do about it.

Chapter twenty 

So again the Israelites have a complaint. It was finally in this chapter that I realized the real problem with the complaints that they have had so far. It wasn’t that they weren’t perfectly happy, I think God knows He didn’t really makes us capable of that, but it’s the whiny way it’s done. It’s not just that they say they would have been better off staying in Egypt, or in this story that they would have perished when their brothers did, but that they always say it before saying that there is a problem. It’s never just a simple explanation of an issue and request for a resolution. It’s never a prayer, it’s a complaint.

Anyway, this time Moses and Aaron mess things up too. Instead of giving credit where it’s due, Moses and Aaron took credit for making the water gush out of the rock when they said:

Hear now, you rebels: shall we bring water for you out of this rock?

How about you just say it the way God told you to and tell them that He was giving them water miraculously? Not sure what made Moses do it this way. Though my heart goes out to both of them. Neither wanted this job, Moses has said plenty that he isn’t good at talking to a crowd, maybe they just caught him at a bad time. Whatever the case, God decides that taking credit from Him is cause to not see the promised land that they are finally back on their way to.

I don’t blame Him. Moses has done a great job, but he doesn’t have a sparkling reputation with believing in God either.

Afterward, they request the king of Edom allow them to pass through their territory peacefully, not disturbing anything, and are refused twice. They’re even threatened. This chapter also includes the deaths of Miriam and Aaron, Moses’s siblings. Miriam’s death is in the opening. We don’t hear about her often, but she’s significant enough that we do get this. Then Aaron’s is at the end of the chapter. His garments are put on Eleazor, his son, who becomes the next priest. As the priest, Aaron got a 30 day mourning period.

So there are my feelings and impressions on chapters 18-20 of Numbers. Have you read it? What do you think?

Chapter links go to the ESV translations at but I’m reading from the ESV Global Study Bible, which is available for free on the Kindle Reading App.



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