Saturday March 11, 2023
From Numbers 35 and 36 we learn three things: towns of refuge, the cities of the Levites, and the limitations of female property owners.
Chapter 35 –
The tribe of Levi did not receive any inheritance because the Lord was their portion- that is, they had been chosen from among all tribes to serve the Lord at the tabernacle. However, they still needed a place to live and pastures for their herds. God gave instructions to Moses to give property to the Levites. Being placed where they were they were accessible to all people.
Among the cities of the Levites six were designated as cities of refuge. As the name implies, there were places where a person who had (killed) someone unintentionally (might) flee…until he (stood) trial.
There was no refuge for the person who intentionally committed murder. This required the death penalty oftentimes a family member would carry out the punishment. Cities of refuge provided that safe haven for those committing manslaughter without hostility and without malicious intent. The process is outlined as to protection from the assembly, the court would rule if the court ruled for the defendant he would be taken back to his city of refuge to live until the priests died then he could return home. If he violated these conditions his accuser could kill him.
Another provision to prevent miscarriages of justice was the necessity of having a multitude of witnesses one witness could not generate a sentence of death.
At the end of the chapter, we learn the bottom-line reason for these ordinances: Bloodshed defiles the land. There can be atonement to cleanse the land…except the blood of the person who shed it.
Chapter 36 –
Concluding the book of Numbers, we come in contact with a family we have met before in our reading. The five daughters of Zelophehad. The first time they met Moses they were concerned their father had no sons therefore they had no inheritance. This time the ones raising the question was the heads of the clan of the families.
Again Moses recognized that what they said was right. So he sought the Lord once again and returned with a ruling on how to proceed. The daughters were free to marry anyone…provided they marry within a clan of their ancestral tribe. Also, no inheritance belonging to the Israelites (was) was to transfer from tribe to tribe.
We have come from Mt. Sinai in the book of Numbers to where the Lord made a covenant with Israel, to the edge of the land He had promised them. Though the people, including Moses would be unfaithful God remained faithful, He would preserve His people.
But in the days to come He would also be faithful to His greatest promise of all: “A star will come from Jacob; a scepter will arise form Israel.” (24:17). And sure enough the messianic King, Jesus Christ, came to atone for sin, defeat His enemies, and give the riches of His grace to His people.