Thebook of numbers was anciently ascribed to Moses .The message which iscontained in the book of numbers is universal as it bridged the gapthat existed between the Israelites and the land which they were toinhabit. The information contained in the text is also salient and itshows how the Israelites received the law prior to their entry to thePromised Land. The sons of Israel were the recipients of the book ofnumbers. This implies that the writings of the book were beingaddressed to the people of Israel. These people were known to be ofthe conquest generation as they were waiting for the command whichGod had to give them to cross the River of Jordan and enter the landof Canaan have possessed of the place. It is salient to note that thelarger part of the book gives a description of the people of theExodus generation. The teachings of the book are geared to thechildren who were to inherit the land which was promised to Abrahamby God. The first twenty-five chapters of the book expound on theexperiences of the first generation of Israel when they were in thewilderness. The remaining chapters expound on the experiences of thesecond generation. Through the entire book, it is noted that theobedience and repentance are the main themes which are addressed.
Thehistorical and literal context of the text
Thewhole of numbers chapter 15 explores on the laws concerning theofferings. In verse 17 to 21 of the same chapter, “The LORDsaid to Moses, “Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘Whenyou enter the land to which I am taking you and you eat the food ofthe land, present a portion as an offering to the LORD. Present acake from the first of your ground meal and present it as an offeringfrom the threshing floor. Throughout the generations to come you areto give this offering to the LORD from the first of your groundmeal.’” (Num. 15:17-21).In their journey, the Israelites did notget the meaning of the message in that it never made sense to them.The lord had instructed Moses to send the men to go and spy the landof Canaan. From every tribe, Moses was to send one man. However ofthe twelve men who were sent, ten of them came back with a reportwhich was evil. They said that the Land which they had gone to spy isa land which devours people and that the men whom they saw in theland were of great stature. The people of Israel took heed of whatthe spies had said and therefore rejected to enter the land which Godhad promised them. They murmured against Moses and Aaron as they saidthat it could have been better if they had died in Egypt rather thanin the wilderness. ‘Why does the Lord bring us into this land tofall by the sword?”. Our wives and our little ones will become aprey would it not be better for us to go back to Egypt. Joshua theson of Nun and Caleb the son of Jephunneh who were among the spiesdecided to tell the Israelites the truth concerning the land ofCanaan, however, the congregationdid not give a hear to whatJoshua and Caleb told them. God gave them an assurance that due totheir rejection, they would not enter the Promised Land .Only Joshuaand Caleb were to enter the land. The men who had made thecongregation to murmur by bringing a report which was evil died by aplaque. However, Joshua and Caleb remained alive. The people thenmourned bitterly when Moses told them the words that God had spokento him. The next day the woke up early in the morning and went to thehill country, then they said. See, we are here, we will go up to theplace which the Lord has promised for we have sinned.” However,Moses gave them a warning not to proceed because their enemies willstrike them as God was not among them. He told them that theAmalekites and the Canaanites were before them and therefore theywould fall by a sword since they had rejected the command of theLord. Despite the fact that Moses gave them a warning they presumedto enter the land but they were defeated by the Amalekites and theCanaanites.
Therefore,the instructions which are presented in chapter 15 come after ofIsrael’s double disobedience to God. This is after they have beendefeated by the Amalekites and the Canaanites1.They had been told that they will not possess the Promised Landexcept for Joshua, Caleb, and their children. Therefore, theinstructions given in Numbers chapter 15:17-21 concerns theIsraelites who were going to enter the land of Canaan. The commandsgiven in this scenario are the same to those in the book of Exodus(34:26) where God commanded the Israelites through Moses that thefirst of their first fruits of their ground was to be taken in thehouse of the Lord. Similarly, in the book of Leviticus (23:9-14,17).God told Moses to tell the people of Israel that when they willgo to the land which He will give them, they should take the sheaf oftheir first fruit reap to the priest.
Itis salient to note that the term “food of the land” as used inthe context implies that the people in that generation were to eatfood from the land2.Therefore, they were not going to eat the manna and the quails. Thisis evidenced in the book of Joshua 5:10-12).And on the morning afterthe Passover, on that very day, they ate the produce of the land,unleavened cakes, and parched grain. And the manna ceased on themorrow when they ate of the produce of the land, and the people ofIsrael had manna no more but ate of the fruit of the land of Canaan.
Thecultural context of the text
Thecontext of the text reflects on the law in which the Israelites werecommanded to give unto the Lord the first fruit of their land. Giventhe fact that they had left the eating of manna, they were to eat thefruit of their land. God was to be their benefactor. They were alsorequired to offer part of their dough to God as a sign of theirtribute to Him.
Observationsmade from the text
Fromthe text, it is noted that there are words which are repeated. Thesewords include present, you, offering, land, and the first of yourland fruit. Within the text there are active verbs such as give, eat,present, taking and enter. A generational command is given. TheIsraelites are instructed that throughout their generation theyshould continue giving offerings to the lord. God acts by taking themto the land. On the same note, the actions of the people areidentified in that they engage in eating, giving and entering.
Step1: What did the text mean (or what was the author`s intent) to thebiblical audience?
Theaudience presented, in this case, is the people of Israel .Theintention of the author, in this case, was to give the Israelites theinstructions on how they were to show their honor and obedience toGod. They were instructed to honor God with the first ground meal ofthe place which He was giving them. The meal of the ground meant thatthey were to eat food from the land. This is illustrated in the bookof Joshua where the people of Israel were in a place known as Gilgalkeeping the Passover. When the Passover ended the author assertsthat the people ate the produce of their land (Josh. 5:10-12).
Step2: What are the differences between the biblical audience and us?
Themain difference between us and the biblical evidence is that we arein the new covenant .The biblical audiences as reflected in the textwere in the old covenant. The believers of today are under the newcovenant and they approach God through Christ. The biblical audience,however, was under the old covenant and the law was central to theircase. In our case, we have been given the promise to possess a land.Still we have not been defeated .Moses was the mediator of theIsraelites but in our case, Jesus is our high priest and ourmediator. The Israelites lived in the tents the Middle Easterndesert. They were led by God in the form of a cloud or fires unlikeour case .We have not been recently freed out of bondage from Egyptby the great wonders. However, we have been freed from the slavery ofsin through the death of Christ Jesus.
Thereexists a difference in the theological scenario of the two groupssince they are under different covenants. On the same note, thebiblical audience as reflected in the text was civilians oftheocracy. Contrastingly, the Christians of today are not civiliansof theocracy. It is also noted that when the Israelites were about toenter the Promised Land they were told that they will die in thewilderness because they had disobeyed God .Furthermore they hadcomplained that it was better for them to die in Egypt than in thewilderness. This shows that they did not completely put their trustin God. In our case, we have not been denied the possessing of thePromised Land.
Wehave been given an assurance that Christ is preparing a home for us.Christ Jesus speaks through the book of John and urges that ourhearts should not be troubled, we should believe in Him and God.Christ further explains that in His Father’s house there are manymansions and therefore He has gone to prepare a place for us. “Andwhen I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and take youto myself that where I am you may be also” (Luke 14:3).Absolutely,we are given hope that we will inherit the land.
Step3: What is the theological principle in this-this text?
Thetheological principle underlying this text is that we should obey Godand honor Him with the first of the things which He has endowed andblessed us with. The Israelites, in this case, were instructed topresent an offering to the Lord throughout their generation. This wasto include the first course of their meal .Therefore, they weresupposed to obey and honor God.
Step4: How does our theological principle fit with the rest of the bible?Does the New Testament modify or qualify the new principle
Thegreatest manifestation of the people of God is obedience. God isglorified through our obedience, forgiveness and faithfulness. Boththe new and old testament gives an illustration of how obedience toGod is crucial. In the book of Luke, the author puts emphasis onobedience to God by articulating that blessed are those who hear theword of God and keep it (Luke. 11:28).Similarly, in the book of 1stJohn (2:3-6) it is explored that we become sure that we know God ifwe keep His commandments. It further expounds that whoever says thathe knows God and does not keep His commandments is a liar and thatthe truth is not in him. It concludes by stating that whoever keepsthe word of God truly loves Him and surety is granted to that personbecause he walks in the ways which please God. The qualification ofthis principle is also given light in the book of Romans where it isexplored that those people who live according to the Flesh set theirminds on the things of the flesh but those who live according to thespirit set their minds ion the things of the spirit3.It further asserts that those people who set their minds on the fleshare death whereas those whose focus is on the spirit have life andpeace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, itdoes not submit to the law of God, indeed, it cannot, and those whoare in the flesh cannot please God (Rom. 8:5, 14,).It is alsoexpounded in the book of 1st peter that, obedient children should notbe conformed to the passion of former ignorance. They are urged togird their minds, and be sober while putting hope on the revelationof Jesus Christ (1Pet. 1:13-16).
Theclimax of this principle in the New Testament is reflected in thebook of revelation in which it is stated that “Blessed are thosewho wash their robes that they have the right to enter the tree oflife and that they may enter the city by the gates” (Rev. 22:14). Honoring God through the offerings of the first blessings that He hasendowed us with is given a little light in the New Testament. Theauthor illustrates in the book of Hebrews that, “God has nopleasure in sacrifices and offeringsburnt offerings, and offeringsfor sin (which are offered according to the law)”, and in Christ“He takes away the first that He may establish the second” (Heb.10:8-9). By Christ’s offering “we have been sanctified…once forall” (Heb. 10:10).This implies that we do not have an obligation togive an offering to God for anything unless we accept ourselves4.However, it is salient to note that some verses in the bible assertthat our offerings are supposed to be sacrifices which offer praiseand thanksgiving to God. “Through Him then let us continually offerup a sacrifice of praise to God that is the fruit of lips thatacknowledge His name” (Heb. 13:15).On the same note in the book ofEphesians Christians are encouraged to walk in the love of Christthrough imitating the love of Christ since He gave himself for us(Eph. 5:2).
Moreover,we are urged to present our bodies to be living sacrifices which areholy and pleasing to the Lord (Rom. 12:1).Therefore, we should obeyGod as the biblical audience in the Old Testament. We should honorGod with the life which He has blessed us with5.However we should not do these for the fulfillment of the law butinstead, it should because we desire to honor God and that He deserveto be honored6.
Step5: How should the individual Christians today live out this modifiedtheological principle?
Thetheological principle can be applied by the Christians by studyingthe word of God and adhering to the instructions given. In daily lifesituations, believers are presented with an opportunity to make adecision on whether to obey or disregard the instructions given tothem by God. Christians are also faced with circumstances whichnecessitate them to decide whether to honor God with their firstblessings or not. However, it is imperative that Christians obey andhonor God because this command had been given even during thecreation of the universe. It is salient to identify that disobedienceresulted to sin .This is illustrated in the Genesis stories ofcreation. In the New Testament, we are told that every blessing comesfrom the Lord and therefore we should be responsible for everythingthat He has endowed us with. Similarly, they follow the theologicalprinciple through the keeping of the commandments of God.
Stenschke,Christoph. 2006. "Global Bible Commentary." EuropeanJournal Of Theology 15, no. 2: 169-171.Academic Search Premier,EBSCOhost (accessed June 12, 2016).
Stenschke,Christoph. 2012. "Global Bible Commentary. Edited by DanielPatte, J. Severino Croatto, Nicole Wilkinson Duran et al. Nashville:Abingdon, 2004. Pp. 571. USD 39 (Paperback). ISBN0-687-06403-1."Religion & Theology 19, no. 1/2: 165-168.
Hendel,Rusell Jay. 2011. "NUMBERS: THE LAWBOOK ON SPEECH MORALITY."Jewish Bible Quarterly 39, no. 2: 74-82.
1 Christoph, Stenschike. 2012. "Global Bible Commentary. Edited by Daniel Patte, J. Severino Croatto, Nicole Wilkinson Duran et al. Nashville: Abingdon, 2004. Pp. 571. USD 39 (Paperback). ISBN 0-687-06403-1."Religion & Theology 19, no. 1/2: 165-168.
2 Christoph, Stenschike. 2012. "Global Bible Commentary. Edited by Daniel Patte, J. Severino Croatto, Nicole Wilkinson Duran et al. Nashville: Abingdon, 2004. Pp. 571. USD 39 (Paperback). ISBN 0-687-06403-1."Religion & Theology 19, no. 1/2: 165-168.
3 Christoph, Stenschike. 2006. "Global Bible Commentary." European Journal Of Theology 15, no. 2: 169-171..
4 Christoph, Stenschike. 2006. "Global Bible Commentary." European Journal Of Theology 15, no. 2: 169-171..
5Christoph, Stenschike. 2006. "Global Bible Commentary." European Journal Of Theology 15, no. 2: 169-171.
6 Rusell Jay,Hendel. 2011. "NUMBERS: THE LAWBOOK ON SPEECH MORALITY." Jewish Bible Quarterly 39, no. 2: 74-82.