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A StudyHistorical Literaryand SpiritualInterpretation ofthe Book of.Numbers Published 1996 Who is Dennis Olsen Dennis T Olson is the Charles T Haley Professorof Old Testament Theology and Chair of the.Biblical Studies Department at PrincetonTheological Seminary He earned his M Div from Luther Theological Seminary and his M A M Phil and Ph D from Yale University Hisacademic interests are in literary approaches to.Old Testament interpretation and OldTestament and biblical theology He specializesin the Pentateuch and other narrative literatureof the Old Testament An ordained Lutheranminister he has chaired the Convocation of.Teaching Theologians for the EvangelicalLutheran Church in America INTRODUCTIONAND OVERVIEW The Book of Numbers Neglected and.UnderappreciatedChurch father Origen writing in the early 3 rd century When the Gospels or the Apostle or the Psalms are read another personjoyfully receives them gladly embraces them But if the book of Numbers isread to him and especially those passages we have now in hand he will judge.that there is nothing helpful nothing as a remedy for his weakness or a benefitfor the salvation of his soul He will constantly spit them out as heavy andburdensome food Origen p 246 In a long series of sermons on Numbers Origen sought to show that thispopular impression of Numbers was misguided and untrue For Origen the.book of Numbers was filled with insight wisdom and spiritual sustenance foranyone with a hunger for God s guidance through the wilderness journey of life Olson Dennis T 2012 07 31 Numbers Interpretation A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching Interpretation A BibleCommentary for Teaching Preaching p 1 Westminster John Knox Press Kindle Edition Numbers Basics. Fourth Book of the OT Named for the census lists of ch 1 and 26 Hebrew name is In the Wilderness from firstverse of Num Numbers is the story of the Israelites in the.wilderness traveling from slavery in Egypt tofreedom in Canaan What do you know about Numbers The Wilderness A Powerful Metaphor for Isa 2 Used for the promise of return of Israel from.Babylonian exile Isa 43 19 God will do a new thing John the Baptist Luke 3 1 2 A place for the temptation of Jesus Luke 4 A place for Monks to live. A modern metaphor for many disenfranchised or alienated Gary Eberle Post modern people live without a spiritualgeography and lost connection to identity personal Numbers was probably written by manypeople over centuries of time.A variety of literary forms appear Stories travel itineraries census lists lists of personal names. lists of instructions for worship reports of military battles accounts of legal disputes Literary Traditions in NumbersTradition Written Where Found.J Yawist 700 900 B C Ch 11 25E Elohist 700 900 B C Ch 11 25P Priestly 400 600 B C Ch 1 10 26 36Also later supplementary materialadded to these traditions . Scholars identify oral traditions thatpreceded literary traditions Twelve tribe system Ordering of camp of Israel Ch 2 Levite traditions 3 4 . Wilderness murmuring 11 12 13 14 16 17 Balaam cycle 22 24 Allocation of land 26 34 Numbers records historical issues in Ancient Conquest 13 21 32 . Levitical cities 35 Development of Israelite priesthood 16 17 Census lists 1 26 Old Testament law particularly ritual festival and purity 5 9 19 27 36 . A Summary of Numbers in One Sentence The book of Numbers was the product of the Jewishcommunity s struggle to understand the pain andpunishment of exile and its implications for Israel srelationship to God Israel s definition as a people .and Israel s posture toward the promised land whichhad been lost but was now about to be regained Olson Dennis T 2012 07 31 Numbers Interpretation A Bible Commentaryfor Teaching and Preaching Interpretation A Bible Commentary for Teaching Preaching p 3 Westminster John Knox Press Kindle Edition . The Parallel Structure of Numbers Chapters 1 25 Story of the generation who were freed from slavery inEgypt but are wandering in the wilderness toward thepromised land . The old generation never sees the promised landbecause of their rebellion Chapters 26 36 Story of the next generation who will obey and see thepromised land in their lifetime . They will emerge as the generation of hope Parallelism in NumbersNumbers 1 25 Gen of Rebellion Numbers 26 36 Gen of Hope11 Census of 12 tribes 26 Census of 12 tribes3 Census of Levites 26 Census of Levites.5 Legal discourse about women 27 Legal discourse about women6 Laws concerning vows 30 Laws concerning vows7 15 Laws concerning celebrations 29 16 25 Instructions for future9 Celebration of Passover Passover celebrations10 8 9 Law for priests to blow trumpets 31 6 Priest blow the trumpets to start.to start holy war holy way against Midian12 13 Spies chosen to spy Prom Land 34 Leaders chosen to divide Prom Land13 14 Spy story rebellion of old gen 32 6 15 Spy story recalled as a lesson10 25 Scattered geographical notations 33 Summary of places Israel journeyedabout placed journeyed in the wildern through the wilderness.18 21 32 Provisions for the Levites 35 Provisions for Levitical Cities21 35 Victory over Sihon and Og 32 Assignment of land captured East ofJordan from Sihon and Og25 Midianites cause Israel to Sin and 31 Holy war against Midianites to punishGod s command to punish them them for Ch 25 . PART ONE DEATH OF THE OLDGENERATIONI OBEDIENTBEGINNINGS .PREPARATION TOMARCH IN THEWILDERNESS Chapter 1 The Census To organize the former slave society. To prepare for war includes men of fighting age To mark remarkable increase in numbers of the12 tribes since Genesis 46 To stress unity of all the 12 tribes This may havebeen very important centuries later after return.from Babylonian exile as well Census Results Num 1 vs 26Tribe Num 1 Num 26 Totals of adult men imply that total populationReuben 46 500 43 730 of 12 tribes of 2 million Simeon 59 300 22 200.600 000 fighting men would be a huge army inGad 45 650 40 500 the 21st century Washington had 11 000 troopsJudah 74 600 76 500 vs Cornwallis in decisive battle ofIssachar 54 400 64 300 Revolutionary War Zebulun 57 400 60 500.Early church father Jerome held these totals as aEphraim 40 500 32 500mystery John Calvin saw them as evidence ofManasseh 32 200 52 700 God s ability to increase Israel s population fromBenjamin 35 400 45 600 one family to 2 million in about 250 years .Dan 62 700 64 400Others have postulated that the totals wereAsher 41 500 53 400misinterpreted but they are self consistent inNaphtali 53 400 45 400 the book may have been misinterpreted by.Total 603 550 601 730 later scribes though The tabernacle of the covenant was in thecenter of the encampment Tent was 145 ft long 72 ft wide and 7 ft high Exod 27 18 . The Holy of Holies containing the ark was insideanother curtained enclosure inside the tent The Levites were to surround the tabernacle toprotect it The tabernacle and Levites around it are visible.signs of God s presence and love with dangerouspower but with forgiving compassion Num 2 Organization and LeadershipThe tribes were arranged incamp around the Tabernacle .The arrangement indicates therelative level of holiness prominence but ultimateinclusion of all Levites Service to Tabernacle.Reuben Simeon Judah Ephraim arrangements reflectbirth stories of the twelve sonsof Jacob to Leah and Rachel Placement of the tribes is another indication Shifts in relative status over.of the development of a society as compared time are evident in theto the previously disordered state as slaves in scriptures Changing status of the tribes Levi drops out to takepriestly status . Joseph tribe is replaced byhis two sons Manassehand Ephraim Birth order originally placesReuben in top position . Tribes born of the maidsare of lower social status However by Num 2 Judah isplaced in top position Judahis reflected in the Gen 49 8 12.blessing of Jacob Judahbecomes the most powerfultribe for centuries beyond thereturned to the land of Lessons of Num 2. Order structure and clear lines of accountability neededto move a large community through the Wilderness Those with authority and prominence bear specialresponsibilities Levites protect tabernacle but give uprights to land of their own . God periodically reshuffles the deck of authority basedon faithfulness Organization with God s Tabernacle at the center invokes a sense of discipline to the goal and orientationtoward God . Num 3 Priests and Levites 3 1 repeats a generational formula used 11 times in thebook of Genesis reinforcing the relationship to theearlier book Generational formulas do two things . Exclusion Narrow the focus to highlight certain peoples Inthis case the sons of Aaron and Moses i e Levites and Priests Inclusion Show relationship to the rest of world or tribes Cautionary reference to Nadab and Abihu foreshadowsthe consequences of disobedience Original story is Lev . Num 3 The first Levite census lists The purpose of the first list is to determine if there areenough Levites to substitute for the first born of each of theother tribes 3 11 The tradition comes from the last plague during the exodus.out of Egypt Levites are substitutes for the first born In asense they experience death as not having a right to land Results are problematic Total of the three groups of Levitesis 22 300 but is reported as 22 000 Israelite first born totalis 22 273 but a shortfall of 273 is instead reported . Extra Israelites may be redeemed instead by payment ofmoney 3 44 51 Giving the first born or first fruits is a tradition to recognizethat we owe our existence and all that we have to God Num 4 The second Levite census. Identifies those 30 50 years old who will be serving maintaining the tent of meeting The Levites serve the sons of Aaron who are the high priests inthe tabernacle Three households of Levites are headed by the three sons of. Kohathites care for the most holy things but must not see them Gershonites carry curtains and outer coverings of the tent Merarites carry frames and bases of the tent of meeting Hierarchy does not indicate divine favor but instead that beingclose to holiness is dangerous God s chosen people must.never the merely human to encroach onto God s holy space Num 5 1 6 21 Preserving Holiness in the Preparation for invading the Promised Landcontinues as the focus switches from safeguardingholiness among the clergy to safeguarding holiness.among the laity Impurity 5 1 4 threatens the camp but so doesinjustice between people which is another form ofunfaithfulness 5 5 However impurity and injury to others need not be.fatal procedures are provided to deal with them What is the meaning of purity in the OT Purity highlights the difference between the holy and the In the OT impurity is not a matter of class or nationality butis a state caused by what comes out of a person or contact.with the unclean and everyone will be unclean at times andneed purification Functions of purity in ancient Israel suggested by scholars Rules of hygiene Make distinction from Canaanite religious practices. Reflect sacredness of life or other deep ethics Boundaries to protect society from destructive powers What did Jesus teach about Purity Laws Jesus had sympathy for the downtrodden sinner andhealed those unclean . He did not overturn purity laws but extended themto include impure thoughts and intentions Jesus tells a leper he heals to show himself to thepriest and make an offering as Moses commanded Luke 5 14 . As Christianity grew among Gentiles purity lawsbecame less relevant and meaningful Acts 10 Gal 2 Num 5 Focus on the unfaithful wife Modern difficulties Unjust emphasis on woman s guilt. Unfair that husband accuse without evidence No penalty to husband if accusation is unfounded Degrading ritual of drinking the bitter water However it could be that ritual protects woman from a lynch moband provides for innocence. Women in ancient Israel were treated as property but lawsattempted to regulate this behavior â€œA Study Combining Historical, Literary and Spiritual Interpretation of the Book of Numbersâ€(Published 1996) Who is Dennis Olsen? Dennis T. Olson is the Charles T. Haley Professor of Old Testament Theology and Chair of the Biblical Studies Department at Princeton Theological Seminary.