Highlights From Bible Reading ‒ Numbers 14, 15, 16
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Highlights From the Book of Numbers 14-16
Aug. 25 Bible reading: Numbers 14-16
Lessons for Us:14:24. A key to resisting worldly pressures toward wrongdoing is to develop “a different spirit,” or mental attitude. It must be one that is not like that of the world.
15:37-41. The unique fringe of the Israelites’ dress was intended to remind them that they were a people set apart to worship God and to obey his commandments. Should we not also live by God’s standards and stand out as different from the world?
*** w13 8/15 p. 11 par. 7 Never Become “Enraged Against Jehovah” ***
7 The negative speech of others can influence us. (Read Deuteronomy 1:26-28.) The Israelites had just been delivered from slavery in Egypt. Jehovah had miraculously brought ten plagues on that oppressive nation and thereafter destroyed Pharaoh and his military force in the Red Sea. (Ex. 12:29-32, 51; 14:29-31; Ps. 136:15) God’s people were poised to enter the Promised Land. Yet, at that crucial moment, the Israelites started to complain about Jehovah. What caused this lack of faith? Their hearts melted because of the negative report of some who had been sent to spy out the land. (Num. 14:1-4) What resulted? A whole generation was not allowed to enter into that “good land.” (Deut. 1:34, 35) Could we at times allow the negative speech of others to weaken our faith and cause us to grumble about Jehovah’s dealings with us?
*** w13 8/15 p. 14 Never Become “Enraged Against Jehovah” ***
TREASURE YOUR PRECIOUS RELATIONSHIP WITH JEHOVAH
22 When you are undergoing hardship and difficulties, remember the example of Joshua and Caleb. Unlike the ten other spies, these two faithful men brought back a positive report. (Num. 14:6-9) They showed faith in Jehovah. Even so, they had to wander in the wilderness for 40 years along with the rest of the Israelites. Did Joshua and Caleb complain or become bitter, feeling that this was unfair? No. They trusted in Jehovah. Were they blessed? Absolutely! Whereas a whole generation died in the wilderness, both of these men eventually entered the Promised Land. (Num. 14:30) Similarly, we will receive Jehovah’s blessing if we do not “tire out” in doing his will.—Gal. 6:9; Heb. 6:10.
23 If you are discouraged because of problems, the imperfections of others, or your own imperfections, what should you do? Focus on Jehovah’s marvelous qualities. Visualize the hope that Jehovah has given you. Ask yourself, ‘Where would I be without Jehovah?’ Always remain close to him, and never allow your heart to become enraged against him!
*** w11 1/15 pp. 27-28 Empowered to Overcome Any Trial ***
Helped to Resist Peer Pressure
8 A more subtle form of opposition that Christians must endure is negative peer pressure. However, because Jehovah’s spirit is much more powerful than the spirit of the world, we can resist people who ridicule us, who spread untruths about us, or who attempt to force us to conform to their standards. What was it, for example, that enabled Joshua and Caleb to disagree with the views of the ten other spies who were sent into the land of Canaan? Holy spirit stirred within them a different “spirit,” or mental inclination.—Read Numbers 13:30; 14:6-10, 24.
*** w11 3/15 p. 27 par. 15 Prove Yourself Ready! ***
15 Over the next 40 years, from 1513 B.C.E. to 1473 B.C.E., Moses faced disappointments. Yet, he watched for opportunities to honor Jehovah and wholeheartedly encouraged his fellow Israelites to do so. (Deut. 31:1-8) Why? Because he loved Jehovah’s name and sovereignty more than his own name. (Ex. 32:10-13; Num. 14:11-16) Despite disappointments or setbacks, we too must continue to support God’s rulership, confident that his way of doing things is wiser, more righteous, and better than any other. (Isa. 55:8-11; Jer. 10:23) Is that how you feel?
*** w11 7/15 p. 12 Will You Follow Jehovah’s Loving Guidance? ***
Do Not Follow “Your Hearts and Your Eyes”
9 The second dangerous influence we will discuss is an internal one. We might illustrate it this way: If you were taking a journey to a particular destination, can you imagine deciding to cast aside your map and simply follow your impulses—perhaps turning onto every road that seemed to offer pretty views? Clearly, giving in to such impulses would keep you from reaching your goal. In this regard, consider another of Jehovah’s laws to ancient Israel. Many today might find a law about putting fringes and blue threads on their garments hard to understand. (Read Numbers 15:37-39.) Do you see the relevance, though? Obeying such a law helped God’s people to keep themselves distinct and separate from the pagan nations around them. That was vital if they were to gain and maintain Jehovah’s approval. (Lev. 18:24, 25) However, that law also reveals a dangerous internal influence that might lead us away from our destination of everlasting life. How so?
*** w11 7/15 p. 12 par. 11 Will You Follow Jehovah’s Loving Guidance? ***
11 In our own day, it is even easier for our treacherous heart to be seduced by our physical senses. We live in a world that is geared toward appealing to fleshly inclinations. So how can we apply the principle behind Numbers 15:39? Consider: If those around you at school, at the workplace, or in your community are dressing more and more provocatively, might you be affected? Might you be tempted to ‘follow your heart and eyes’ and be seduced by what you see? Then might you be tempted to lower your own standards by dressing in a similar manner?—Rom. 12:1, 2.
*** w98 9/1 pp. 19-20 Be Sure to Put First Things First! ***
What Should Come First?
Shortly after the Israelites received the Ten Commandments, a man was discovered gathering wood on the Sabbath. This was strictly forbidden in the Law. (Numbers 15:32-34; Deuteronomy 5:12-15) How would you have judged the case? Would you have excused the man, arguing that, after all, he was not working to maintain a luxurious life-style but to provide the necessities for his family? Would you have pointed out that there would be many occasions throughout the year to observe the Sabbath and that one missed opportunity, perhaps because of the man’s failure to plan ahead, could easily be forgiven?
Jehovah viewed the case more seriously. “In time,” the Bible states, “Jehovah said to Moses: ‘Without fail the man should be put to death.’” (Numbers 15:35) Why did Jehovah feel so strongly about what the man did?
The people had six days to gather wood as well as to handle their needs regarding food, clothing, and shelter. The seventh day was to be devoted to their spiritual needs. While it was not wrong to gather wood, it was wrong to use time that should have been set aside to worship Jehovah to do so. Although Christians are not under the Mosaic Law, does this incident not teach us a lesson in properly setting our priorities today?—Philippians 1:10.
*** w12 10/15 pp. 13-14 pars. 5-7 What Kind of Spirit Do You Show? ***
5 Such attitudes are not new. In Moses’ time, Korah rose up against those in authority in the congregation of Israel. He particularly targeted Aaron and his sons, who had the privilege of serving as priests. Perhaps he saw their imperfections. Or he may have argued that Moses practiced nepotism—giving privileges to his relatives. Whatever the case, it is obvious that Korah began to look at things from a human viewpoint and spoke out against those appointed by Jehovah, disrespectfully telling them: “That is enough of you . . . Why, then, should you lift yourselves up above the congregation?” (Num. 16:3) Similarly, Dathan and Abiram had complaints against Moses, telling him that he was ‘trying to play the prince over them to the limit.’ When called to appear before Moses, they responded arrogantly: “We are not going to come up!” (Num. 16:12-14) Jehovah was clearly not pleased with their spirit. He executed all the rebels.—Num. 16:28-35.
7 Obviously, such a spirit has no place in the Christian congregation. That is why there is a need for caution in this regard. Older men in the congregation are not perfect, just as they were not perfect in Moses’ day and in the apostle John’s time. Elders may make mistakes that affect us personally. If that happens, how inappropriate it would be for any member of the congregation to react according to the world’s spirit, vehemently demanding “justice” or that “something be done about this brother”! Jehovah may choose to overlook certain minor failings. Can we not do the same? Because of what they perceive as defects in the elders, some individuals who engage in serious wrongdoing in the congregation have refused to appear before a committee of elders assigned to help them. This could be likened to a patient who loses out on the benefits of a treatment because he does not like something about the doctor.
*** w11 12/1 p. 3 Is God Punishing Us? ***
Has God really been using natural disasters to punish people? Is the recent barrage of disastrous events punishment from God?
In their rush to blame God, some point to Bible accounts where God brought destruction by natural elements. (Genesis 7:17-22; 18:20; 19:24, 25; Numbers 16:31-35) An examination of these Bible accounts shows, however, that in each case, there are three major distinguishing factors. First, there was warning beforehand. Second, unlike today’s natural disasters, which kill good and bad people alike, destruction from God was selective. Only the incorrigibly wicked or those who refused to listen to warnings were destroyed. Third, God made a way for innocent people to escape.—Genesis 7:1, 23; 19:15-17; Numbers 16:23-27.
*** km 9/04 p. 3 We Must Respect Jehovah’s Authority ***
We Must Respect Jehovah’s Authority
With what do you associate the ancient names Korah, Dathan, and Abiram? Rebellion! Against what? Godly authority. The details of their tragic course are recorded in Numbers chapter 16, and an overview of the matter is provided in the article “Loyally Submit to Godly Authority” in the August 1, 2002, Watchtower. You would find it beneficial to read this material and then view the sobering portrayal of it in the video Respect Jehovah’s Authority. You will see the conflict that developed between the faithful sons of Korah and their rebellious father, who was on a collision course with the Sovereign of the universe. (Num. 26:9-11) This true-life drama should inspire all of us to develop our loyalty to Jehovah even more fully.
As you watch the video, look for the evidence that Korah and his fellow rebels failed the test of loyalty in six crucial areas: (1) How did they disrespect godly authority? (2) How did they let pride, ambition, and jealousy affect them? (3) How did they focus on the deficiencies of those appointed by Jehovah? (4) What complaining attitude had they developed? (5) Why had they become dissatisfied with their privileges of service? (6) How did they let friends and family take precedence over loyalty to God?
Consider how the lessons learned in this Bible drama apply to our personal view of godly authority today: (1) How should we respond to the decisions of elders in the congregation, and why? (2) How can we counteract any improper motives within us? (3) How should we react to the imperfections of those appointed to take the lead? (4) What should we do if a complaining spirit begins to develop in our heart? (5) How should we feel about any privileges we have been given? (6) Who should never take priority over our loyalty to God, and when might this become a difficult test for us?
After this information is discussed in the congregation, why not watch the video again? Let it doubly impress upon your mind the reasons why we must always respect Jehovah’s authority!—Ps. 18:25; 37:28.
*** w06 7/15 p. 15 pars. 6-7 ‘Keep Free From Murmurings’ ***
6 Not long thereafter, the Israelites murmured once again. Moses sent 12 men to spy out the Promised Land. Ten of them returned with a bad report. The result? “All the sons of Israel began to murmur against Moses and Aaron, and all the assembly began to say against them: ‘If only we had died in the land of Egypt, or if only we had died in this wilderness! And why is Jehovah bringing us to this land [Canaan] to fall by the sword? Our wives and our little ones will become plunder. Is it not better for us to return to Egypt?’”—Numbers 14:1-3.
7 How Israel’s spirit had changed! Initial gratitude for their release from Egypt and deliverance through the Red Sea had moved them to sing praises to Jehovah. (Exodus 15:1-21) Faced with the discomforts of the wilderness and fearful of the Canaanites, however, the gratitude of God’s people was replaced by a spirit of discontent. Instead of thanking God for their freedom, they blamed him for what they wrongly viewed as deprivation. Murmuring was thus an expression of lack of proper appreciation for Jehovah’s provisions. No wonder he said: “How long will this evil assembly have this murmuring that they are carrying on against me?”—Numbers 14:27; 21:5.
*** w11 7/15 pp. 25-26 pars. 9-10 God’s Rest—What Is It? ***
9 What a privilege Israel had—to work along with Jehovah’s purpose, resulting in blessings not only for themselves but, eventually, for all families of the earth! (Gen. 22:18) However, as a whole, that rebellious generation showed little interest in setting up a model kingdom under theocratic rule. Why, they even demanded to return to Egypt! (Read Numbers 14:2-4.) Now, how would their returning to Egypt advance God’s purpose to make Israel into a model kingdom? It would not do so. In fact, if the Israelites returned to the custody of their pagan captors, they would never be able to follow the Mosaic Law and benefit from Jehovah’s arrangement for forgiveness of their sins. How fleshly—how shortsighted—they were! No wonder Jehovah said of those rebels: “I became disgusted with this generation and said, ‘They always go astray in their hearts, and they themselves have not come to know my ways.’ So I swore in my anger, ‘They shall not enter into my rest.’”—Heb. 3:10, 11; Ps. 95:10, 11.
10 By seeking to return to Egypt, that wayward nation showed that it esteemed as of little value the spiritual blessings it had received, preferring instead the leeks, onions, and garlic that were available in Egypt. (Num. 11:5) Like ungrateful Esau, the rebels were ready to forfeit a precious spiritual heritage in exchange for a tasty meal.—Gen. 25:30-32; Heb. 12:16.
*** w06 10/1 pp. 16-17 par. 5 Courageous Through Faith and Godly Fear ***
5 Two of the spies, Joshua and Caleb, however, were eager to enter the Promised Land. The Canaanites “are bread to us,” they said. “Their shelter has turned away from over them, and Jehovah is with us. Do not fear them.” (Numbers 14:9) Were Joshua and Caleb being foolishly optimistic? By no means! Along with the rest of the nation, they had seen Jehovah humiliate mighty Egypt and its gods by means of the Ten Plagues. Then they saw Jehovah drown Pharaoh and his military force in the Red Sea. (Psalm 136:15) Clearly, the fear shown by the ten spies and those who were influenced by them was inexcusable. “How long will they not put faith in me for all the signs that I performed in among them?” said Jehovah, expressing his deep hurt.—Numbers 14:11.
*** it-1 p. 135 Appointed Times of the Nations ***
That a specific number of days may be used in the Bible record to represent prophetically an equivalent number of years can be seen by reading the accounts at Numbers 14:34 and Ezekiel 4:6. Only by applying the formula there expressed of “a day for a year” to the “seven times” of this prophecy can the vision of Daniel chapter 4 have significant fulfillment beyond the day of now extinct Nebuchadnezzar, as the evidence thus far presented gives reason to expect. They therefore represent 2,520 years.
*** it-1 pp. 97-98 Amorite ***
A Dominant Tribe in Canaan. Some commentators consider the term “Amorites” as used at Genesis 15:16 and 48:22 to represent the peoples of Canaan as a whole. The Amorites do appear to have been the principal or dominant tribe in Canaan at the time of the Israelite Exodus from Egypt. (Compare De 1:6-8, 19-21, 27; Jos 24:15, 18; Jg 6:10.) If this is so, then it would be understandable that, at times, other subordinate and related tribes should be referred to under the name of the dominant tribe of the Amorites. Thus, at Numbers 14:44, 45 the account states that “Amalekites” and “Canaanites” handed the Israelites their first military defeat, whereas Moses’ recapitulation of events at Deuteronomy chapter 1 simply says “the Amorites” administered the defeat. (De 1:44) Likewise, Jerusalem is said to be ruled by an Amorite king at Joshua 10:5 (compare Eze 16:3, 45) but is shown elsewhere to be inhabited by Jebusites. (Jos 15:8, 63; Jg 1:21; compare also the case of Gibeon at Jos 9:7 and 2Sa 21:2.) In a similar manner, the name of one tribe of the nation of Israel, Judah, came to apply to all Israelites through the appellative “Jew.”
*** it-1 p. 338 Blasphemy ***
Even where there were no spoken expressions against God, one’s actions against the laws of God’s covenant evidently could amount to “speaking abusively of Jehovah” or a blaspheming of him. Thus, while merciful consideration was given to the unintentional violator of God’s law, the individual committing deliberate, willful offenses, whether native Israelite or alien resident, was to be put to death as having spoken abusively of Jehovah and as having despised his word and commandment.—Nu 15:27-31; compare De 31:20; Ne 9:18, 26.
*** it-1 p. 562 Custody ***
Custody as used by the Bible in some instances means the detention of a person. An example is the half Israelite who abused Jehovah’s name while in the camp of Israel. After he transgressed the Law, the account states: “Then they committed him into custody till there should be a distinct declaration to them according to the saying of Jehovah.” (Le 24:10-16, 23) As a rule Israel did not commit criminals into any extended custody, because they were required to execute justice swiftly. (Jos 7:20, 22-25) However, in this case, as well as the case of the Sabbath breaker at Numbers 15:32-36, a clarification of the law was being awaited; but as soon as Jehovah’s saying on the matter was clear, the sentence was immediately executed.
*** w03 7/15 p. 13 par. 15 Do You Have “a Waiting Attitude”? ***
15 The Israelites were to make “fringed edges upon the skirts of their garments” and to “put a blue string above the fringed edge of the skirt.” Why? So that they would remember Jehovah’s commandments, obey them, and “prove to be holy” to their God. (Numbers 15:38-40) As Jehovah’s present-day servants, we stand out as different from the world because we observe divine laws and principles. For instance, we maintain moral cleanness, we respect the sanctity of blood, and we avoid idolatry of all sorts. (Acts 15:28, 29) Many respect us for our firm determination to keep ourselves undefiled.—James 1:27.
*** w00 8/1 p. 10 par. 4 Presumptuousness Leads to Dishonor ***
4 Korah was a Kohathite Levite, a first cousin of Moses and Aaron. Apparently, he was loyal to Jehovah for decades. Korah was privileged to be among those who were miraculously delivered through the Red Sea, and he likely shared in executing Jehovah’s judgment against the calf-worshiping Israelites at Mount Sinai. (Exodus 32:26) Eventually, however, Korah became the ringleader in an uprising against Moses and Aaron that included the Reubenites Dathan, Abiram, and On, along with 250 Israelite chieftains. “That is enough of you,” they said to Moses and Aaron, “because the whole assembly are all of them holy and Jehovah is in their midst. Why, then, should you lift yourselves up above the congregation of Jehovah?”—Numbers 16:1-3.
*** it-1 p. 25 Abiram ***
Abiram and his brother Dathan supported Korah the Levite in his rebellion against the authority of Moses and Aaron. A third Reubenite, named On, is also included in the initial stage of the rebellion but thereafter receives no mention. (Nu 16:1) Having gathered a group of 250 chieftains, who were “men of fame,” these men accused Moses and Aaron of arbitrarily elevating themselves over the rest of the congregation. (Nu 16:1-3) From Moses’ words to Korah it is clear that Korah and his followers among the Levites sought the priesthood that had been conferred on Aaron (Nu 16:4-11); but this was evidently not the case with Abiram and Dathan, who were Reubenites. Moses dealt separately with them, and their rejection of his call for them to appear before him contains accusations directed solely against Moses, with no mention made of Aaron. They decried Moses’ leadership of the nation and said that he was ‘trying to play the prince over them to the limit,’ and that he had failed in making good the promise of leading them into any land flowing with milk and honey. Moses’ prayer to Jehovah in answer to these accusations likewise contains a defense of his own actions, not those of Aaron.—Nu 16:12-15.
From this it would appear that the rebellion was two-pronged and aimed not only at the Aaronic priesthood but also at Moses’ position as administrator of God’s instructions. (Ps 106:16) The situation may have seemed opportune for organizing popular sentiment toward a change, since shortly before this the people had severely complained against Moses, had talked of appointing a new head to lead the nation back to Egypt, and had even talked of stoning Joshua and Caleb for upholding Moses and Aaron. (Nu 14:1-10) Reuben was Jacob’s firstborn son but lost his right to the inheritance as such because of wrong action. (1Ch 5:1) Thus, Dathan and Abiram may have been expressing resentment at Moses the Levite’s exercise of authority over them, because of desiring to regain the lost primacy of their forefather. Numbers 26:9, however, shows that their struggle was not only against Moses and Aaron but also “against Jehovah,” who had divinely commissioned Moses and Aaron to occupy positions of authority.
*** w00 8/1 pp. 10-11 par. 6 Presumptuousness Leads to Dishonor ***
6 Part of Korah’s problem very likely was that he did not cherish his own privileges in God’s arrangement. True, the Kohathite Levites were not all priests, but they were teachers of God’s Law. Some also carried the furniture and utensils of the tabernacle when these had to be transported. That was no insignificant task, for the holy utensils could be handled only by individuals who were religiously and morally clean. (Isaiah 52:11) Hence, when Moses confronted Korah, he was, in effect, asking, Do you view your assignment as something so trivial that you must also secure the priesthood? (Numbers 16:9, 10) Korah failed to realize that the greatest honor is serving Jehovah faithfully according to his arrangement—not the attaining of some special status or position.—Psalm 84:10.
*** w02 8/1 pp. 11-12 Loyally Submit to Godly Authority ***
Israel’s Judge Intervenes
12 When Jehovah gave the Law to Israel, he told the people that if they were obedient, they would become “a holy nation” and that the nation could remain holy as long as they accepted Jehovah’s arrangement. (Exodus 19:5, 6) Now, with an open rebellion afoot, it was time for Israel’s Judge and Statute-giver to intervene! Moses said to Korah: “You and all your assembly, be present before Jehovah, you and they and Aaron, tomorrow. And take each one his fire holder, and you men must put incense upon them and present each one his fire holder before Jehovah, two hundred and fifty fire holders, and you and Aaron each his fire holder.”—Numbers 16:16, 17.
13 According to God’s Law, only the priests could offer incense. The very idea of a nonpriestly Levite offering incense before Jehovah should have shaken those rebels to their senses. (Exodus 30:7; Numbers 4:16) Not so Korah and his supporters! The next day he “got all the assembly together against [Moses and Aaron] at the entrance of the tent of meeting.” The record tells us: “Jehovah now spoke to Moses and Aaron, saying: ‘Separate yourselves from the midst of this assembly, that I may exterminate them in an instant.’” But Moses and Aaron pleaded for the lives of the people to be spared. Jehovah consented to their pleas. As for Korah and his crowd, “a fire came out from Jehovah and proceeded to consume the two hundred and fifty men offering the incense.”—Numbers 16:19-22, 35.
*** w02 8/1 p. 12 pars. 14-15 Loyally Submit to Godly Authority ***
14 Strangely enough, the Israelites who saw how Jehovah dealt with the rebels still did not learn their lesson. “The next day the whole assembly of the sons of Israel began to murmur against Moses and Aaron, saying: ‘You men, you have put Jehovah’s people to death.’” The Israelites were taking the side of the conspirators! Finally, Jehovah’s patience came to an end. No one—not even Moses or Aaron—could intercede for the people now. Jehovah caused a scourge to afflict the disobedient ones, “and those dead from the scourge amounted to fourteen thousand seven hundred, aside from those dead on account of Korah.”—Numbers 16:41-49.
15 It was so unnecessary for all those people to lose their lives. If only they had reasoned matters out. They could have asked themselves such questions as: ‘Who appeared before Pharaoh at the risk of their lives? Who demanded that the Israelites be set free? Who alone was invited to ascend Mount Horeb after Israel’s deliverance to speak face-to-face with God’s angel?’ Surely the remarkable record of Moses and Aaron gave proof of their loyalty to Jehovah and their love for the people. (Exodus 10:28; 19:24; 24:12-15) Jehovah took no pleasure in putting the rebels to death. Still, when it became evident that the people were going to persist in their rebellion, he took decisive action. (Ezekiel 33:11) All of this is of great significance to us today. Why?
References consulted on: Watchtower Library 2013 CD‒ROM
Download the references adapted for Laptops, Mobiles and Tablets