Numbers 35-36

Thursday Evening Bible Study

June 3, 2010


We are at the end of Numbers.  We are wrapping up the final details of the wilderness wanderings before Moses gives the people a refresher course on the Law – the book of Deuteronomy.

Do people see Jesus? Is the gospel preached? Does it speak to the broken hearted? Does it build up the church? Milk – Meat – Manna Preach for a decision

Numbers 35

35:1-8 Levite Cities

:1 And the LORD spoke to Moses in the plains of Moab by the Jordan across from Jericho, saying:

:2 “Command the children of Israel that they give the Levites cities to dwell in from the inheritance of their possession, and you shall also give the Levites common-land around the cities.

:3 They shall have the cities to dwell in; and their common-land shall be for their cattle, for their herds, and for all their animals.

:2 give the Levites cities to dwell in

Earlier God had told Aaron:

(Nu 18:20 NKJV) Then the Lord said to Aaron: “You shall have no inheritance in their land, nor shall you have any portion among them; I am your portion and your inheritance among the children of Israel.
We talked back then about the importance of finding your hope in God, in God being the greatest treasure in your life.
But let’s get practical, how does that put food on the table?  How does that put shoes on the kids’ feet?

Even though the priests and Levites were not to have full “family farms” that were passed down from generation to generation, they were to be taken care of.  They were to be given cities to live in with pasture land around them. They could raise their cattle on the pasture lands


God’s Practical Provision

God’s Word has a marvelous promise for us:
(Php 4:19 NKJV) And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.

The question is, just how does that work?  What does that look like?

A young man gets engaged to a young woman and goes to meet her parents over dinner. After dinner the father takes the young man into the drawing room to find out his plans for life with his daughter. “So, what are your plans?” The father asks the fiancée. “I am a Biblical Scholar” he replies “A Biblical Scholar. Admirable, but what will you do to provide a nice home for my daughter to live in, as she deserves?” The father asks. “I will study” the young man replies “...God will provide for us.” “And how will you buy her a beautiful engagement ring, such as she deserves?” The father asks. “I will concentrate on my studies, God will provide for us.” the young man replies. “And children” the father asks “how will you support your children?” “Don’t worry sir” the young man replies “God will provide.” The conversation proceeds like this, and each time the father asks a question the young man insists that God will provide. Later, the mother asks about the discussion, “So, how did it go?” The father replies “He has no job and no plans, but the good news is he thinks I’m God.”
Sometimes God does indeed provide in a miraculous way.  We read this week in our Quiet Times about a period in Elijah’s life where God said:
(1 Ki 17:3–6 NKJV) —3 “Get away from here and turn eastward, and hide by the Brook Cherith, which flows into the Jordan. 4 And it will be that you shall drink from the brook, and I have commanded the ravens to feed you there.” 5 So he went and did according to the word of the Lord, for he went and stayed by the Brook Cherith, which flows into the Jordan. 6 The ravens brought him bread and meat in the morning, and bread and meat in the evening; and he drank from the brook.

I have to tell you though, this is more the exception to the rule rather than the normal way God does things.

When Jesus and Peter came to Capernaum, they were faced with owing some tax money.  Jesus said to Peter,
(Mt 17:27 NKJV) —27 Nevertheless, lest we offend them, go to the sea, cast in a hook, and take the fish that comes up first. And when you have opened its mouth, you will find a piece of money; take that and give it to them for Me and you.”

You might be tempted to look at this story much like that of Elijah’s.  God used a “miracle fish”.  But take a moment to think about Peter’s line of work.  He was a fisherman.  How would he get the money?  By going to work.

In my experience, the normal way that God will provide is in a very practical way.
(Eph 4:28 NKJV) Let him who stole steal no longer, but rather let him labor, working with his hands what is good, that he may have something to give him who has need.

I understand that not all of us are physically capable of work.  We are grateful for things like Social Security.

But for those who are able to work, then work. 

For the Levites, they were given real property.  And they had to work a day job by raising their livestock to make ends meet.

:4 The common-land of the cities which you will give the Levites shall extend from the wall of the city outward a thousand cubits all around.

:5 And you shall measure outside the city on the east side two thousand cubits, on the south side two thousand cubits, on the west side two thousand cubits, and on the north side two thousand cubits. The city shall be in the middle. This shall belong to them as common-land for the cities.

:5 you shall measure

Apparently there would be a band of land wrapping around each of these cities that was given to the Levites for their herds.

The band started at 1,000 cubits from the city wall (or 1500 feet) and extended to 2,000 cubits (or 3,000 feet).

:6 “Now among the cities which you will give to the Levites you shall appoint six cities of refuge, to which a manslayer may flee. And to these you shall add forty-two cities.

:7 So all the cities you will give to the Levites shall be forty-eight; these you shall give with their common-land.

:6 cities of refuge – We’ll get more about these in a minute.

:7 to the Levites – In Joshua 21, we have a list of these Levitical cities.

:8 And the cities which you will give shall be from the possession of the children of Israel; from the larger tribe you shall give many, from the smaller you shall give few. Each shall give some of its cities to the Levites, in proportion to the inheritance that each receives.”

:8 from the larger tribe you shall give many

The tribes that had more land and more cities were to give more of their cities to the Levites.

A good example of proportional giving


Proportional Giving

When God asks us to give, it isn’t a flat amount that applies to everyone.
God expects our giving to be in proportion to our substance.
If you have more, you give more. If you have less, you give less.

(1 Co 16:2 NKJV) On the first day of the week let each one of you lay something aside, storing up as he may prosper, that there be no collections when I come.

Note the “as he may prosper”.

Sometimes we’re “in the money”, and we need to honor God and give from our abundance.

But sometimes we’re hurting financially.  Don’t feel like you are supposed to come up with the same dollar amounts as when you’re doing well financially.

Jesus was sitting near the place in the temple where people gave their money, and he pointed out the person whom He said gave the most.
(Mk 12:42–44 NKJV) —42 Then one poor widow came and threw in two mites, which make a quadrans. 43 So He called His disciples to Himself and said to them, “Assuredly, I say to you that this poor widow has put in more than all those who have given to the treasury; 44 for they all put in out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all that she had, her whole livelihood.”

See picture of “mite”.  A “mite” is a very, very small increment of money.  Much less than a penny. 

The point is that most “giving” is to be done proportionally.  If you are doing well financially, then your “portion” comes out greater.  If you are struggling financially, your portion comes out smaller.

35:9-34 Cities of Refuge

:9 Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying,

:10 “Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: ‘When you cross the Jordan into the land of Canaan,

:11 then you shall appoint cities to be cities of refuge for you, that the manslayer who kills any person accidentally may flee there.

For the last forty years, the people as a nation have lived close together.  After they conquer the Promised Land, they will spread out and things will change.  Matters like crime and justice will be handled differently than they were when they all lived together.

:11 the manslayer

This is a person who has accidentally killed another person.  The courts today call it manslaughter.  Note:  Manslaughter is still a serious offense.  But it is not one that is punishable by death.

:12 They shall be cities of refuge for you from the avenger, that the manslayer may not die until he stands before the congregation in judgment.

:12 the avenger

Later this person will be called the “avenger of blood” (vs.19)

In those days, if you killed one of my sisters, even accidentally, I would be obligated to hunt you down and kill you for myself.

:12 until he stands before the congregation in judgment

God was interested in justice. 

God did not want the people taking the law into their own hands.
Each person was entitled to a trial to hear their case.
These “cities of refuge” would provide protection from the “avenger” to those guilty of manslaughter, as well as provide a court system to judge these cases.

:13 And of the cities which you give, you shall have six cities of refuge.

:14 You shall appoint three cities on this side of the Jordan, and three cities you shall appoint in the land of Canaan, which will be cities of refuge.

:15 These six cities shall be for refuge for the children of Israel, for the stranger, and for the sojourner among them, that anyone who kills a person accidentally may flee there.

:15 six cities

Where were they? (see Josh.20:7,8 for ref.).  See map.

The three cities on the east of the Jordan were Bezer in Reuben, Ramoth in Gilead from Gad, and Golan from Manasseh.
These cities have already been conquered and will be set up as cities of refuge in a few days (Deut. 4:43).
The three cities on the west of the Jordan were Kedesh in Galilee from Naphtali, Shechem from Ephraim, and Hebron from Judah.
These cities hadn’t been conquered, and would be set aside as cities of refuge at the end of Joshua (ch. 20)
The idea was to scatter the cities throughout Israel so that no matter where you were, you were never more than a day or two’s journey from one of these cities of refuge.


You’re never too far from God’s help.

Have you ever felt like you were at the end of your rope?
Have you ever wondered where you were going to go for help?
In the movie “It’s a Wonderful Life”, George Bailey has lived the life of a good guy.  But he comes to a place where everything seems to fall apart.  Listen to his prayer... (Play clip)
David was at that place many times.  During one such time he was fleeing from Saul and went to the land of the Philistines.  He had run too far from the cities of refuge, but he found refuge in God.
(Ps 34:1–8 NKJV) —1 I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth. 2 My soul shall make its boast in the Lord; The humble shall hear of it and be glad. 3 Oh, magnify the Lord with me, And let us exalt His name together. 4 I sought the Lord, and He heard me, And delivered me from all my fears. 5 They looked to Him and were radiant, And their faces were not ashamed. 6 This poor man cried out, and the Lord heard him, And saved him out of all his troubles. 7 The angel of the Lord encamps all around those who fear Him, And delivers them. 8 Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good; Blessed is the man who trusts in Him!

:8 trusts – NAS translates this phrase

(Ps 34:8 NASB95) …How blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him!

A refuge is a place of safety. You don’t have to feel scared or uncertain.  God wants to be your refuge.

:6  to the Levites … cities of refuge

These six cities of refuge were to belong to the Levites.  The Levites were the tribe that God had set aside to help out with the worship of the tabernacle.  They were those involved in ministry.

Part of the reasoning in this is that the Levites would also serve as judges among God’s people.  The High Priest was considered something equivalent to the “Chief Justice”.

But there’s more…


Be a person of grace and safety.

It seems to me that sometimes Christians can come across and pretty cold and judgmental.
Yet the people that God would be using in ministry, those who were chosen to help the priests (the Levites) were supposed to be the ones welcoming in those seeking refuge.
They were to be the ones who welcomed with open arms, those fleeing for their lives.
Do people feel comfortable coming to you with their problems?  Do they feel like you’re going to be fair with them?
(Ro 15:7 NKJV) —7 Therefore receive one another, just as Christ also received us, to the glory of God.
(Eph 4:2 NKJV) —2 with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love,

:16 ‘But if he strikes him with an iron implement, so that he dies, he is a murderer; the murderer shall surely be put to death.

:17 And if he strikes him with a stone in the hand, by which one could die, and he does die, he is a murderer; the murderer shall surely be put to death.

:18 Or if he strikes him with a wooden hand weapon, by which one could die, and he does die, he is a murderer; the murderer shall surely be put to death.

:16 strikes him

Part of the formula to differentiate between murder and manslaughter was whether the use of a deadly weapon was involved.

It’s one thing if you accidentally fire a rubber band and hit someone, but if you used something like this gun you might be in trouble. PlayDisentegrator Rubber Band Gun” clip.

This doesn’t cover the area of self-defense.  This is only part of what’s involved in determining justice.

:19 The avenger of blood himself shall put the murderer to death; when he meets him, he shall put him to death.

:20 If he pushes him out of hatred or, while lying in wait, hurls something at him so that he dies,

:21 or in enmity he strikes him with his hand so that he dies, the one who struck him shall surely be put to death. He is a murderer. The avenger of blood shall put the murderer to death when he meets him.

:20 out of hatred

If there was a motive involved with the death, then it looks like murder.  Another part of the “murder” formula.

:21 the avenger of blood

If it was determined that the crime committed was indeed murder, then the avenger of blood was allowed to carry out the death sentence.

:22 ‘However, if he pushes him suddenly without enmity, or throws anything at him without lying in wait,

:23 or uses a stone, by which a man could die, throwing it at him without seeing him, so that he dies, while he was not his enemy or seeking his harm,

:24 then the congregation shall judge between the manslayer and the avenger of blood according to these judgments.

These are all examples of manslaughter, when another person was killed by you without premeditation or intent.

:24 the congregation shall judge

This isn’t always as easy as it seems.

I’ve served on a couple of trial juries, and it seems like going into a trial you have your first impressions, which can be TOTALLY wrong.
The fun thing about a really good murder mystery is how the writer gets you to think that one person is guilty, but in fact it was someone else who was at fault.


To judge or not to judge
Is “judging” contrary to the New Testament?  Didn’t Jesus say...

(Mt 7:1 NKJV) —1 “Judge not, that you be not judged.

A.  Judgment belongs to God

For the most part we are unable to accurately judge many situations

1.  We don’t really know a person’s motives.

(1 Co 4:5 NKJV) Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord comes, who will both bring to light the hidden things of darkness and reveal the counsels of the hearts. Then each one’s praise will come from God.

2.  We’re pretty biased judges.

The things that bother us most about some people are the very problems we have ourselves.

(Mt 7:4 NKJV) Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye’; and look, a plank is in your own eye?

3.  We don’t always see the whole picture.

(Pr 18:13 NKJV) He who answers a matter before he hears it, It is folly and shame to him.

B.  Judging is appropriate when God places it in our hands

1.  Civil law matters

In our current passage, God is making is clear that He expects the congregation to pass judgment on these situations.

2.  Internal church disputes

Paul tells the Corinthians that they really out to be able to figure out the problems that develop between two people in church.

(1 Co 6:2 NKJV) —2 Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world will be judged by you, are you unworthy to judge the smallest matters?

I have to tell you from experience, this isn’t as easy as Paul makes it sound.

3.  Fruit inspection

Notice what follows just a few verses after Jesus talking about judging others.  He talks about how to recognize false prophets:

(Mt 7:16 NKJV) You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles?

Jesus tells us that we ought to be able to pick out the “false prophets” by doing “fruit inspection”.

It’s a fine line we have to walk sometimes.

We can’t always know people’s motives, but are taught to observe and take note of their fruit, what comes out of their lives.

When someone has been telling you that they are your friend, yet their actions don’t match their words, you need to pay attention!

:25 So the congregation shall deliver the manslayer from the hand of the avenger of blood, and the congregation shall return him to the city of refuge where he had fled, and he shall remain there until the death of the high priest who was anointed with the holy oil.

:25 until the death of the high priest

It has been suggested that the death of the high priest brought about some kind of atoning for sin.  The death of the high priest brought the cancellation of the manslayer’s sin.

It was kind of a prison system, but without the bars.

You would be a captive in your city of refuge.  But instead of having a certain numbers of years to serve, you had to wait until the death of the high priest.
For some that would be a few years.  For others, that might mean a lifetime sentence.
If you committed manslaughter, and an old 60 year old guy like Jehoiada is the high priest, you might think you’ve got it made, until it turns out that Jehoiada would live to be 130 years old!
It put things into the hands of God.

There were also some other things that developed as a result of this.

Apparently the mothers of the priests would be sure to supply lots of food and clothing to those taking refuge so that they might be less inclined to pray for the death of their sons (Gill)

:26 But if the manslayer at any time goes outside the limits of the city of refuge where he fled,

:27 and the avenger of blood finds him outside the limits of his city of refuge, and the avenger of blood kills the manslayer, he shall not be guilty of blood,

In other words, if the manslayer was not abiding under the rules, and left his city of refuge, he is open to capital punishment.

The one who puts the guilty party to death is not guilty of murder.

:28 because he should have remained in his city of refuge until the death of the high priest. But after the death of the high priest the manslayer may return to the land of his possession.

When the high priest died, the sentence was over.  The manslayer could go home and was not a target anymore of the avenger.  If an avenger tried to kill the freed prisoner, he would in turn be guilty of murder.

:29 ‘And these things shall be a statute of judgment to you throughout your generations in all your dwellings.

:30 Whoever kills a person, the murderer shall be put to death on the testimony of witnesses; but one witness is not sufficient testimony against a person for the death penalty.

It always took two or more witnesses to convict a person of murder.

:31 Moreover you shall take no ransom for the life of a murderer who is guilty of death, but he shall surely be put to death.

:31 no ransom – In other words, a murderer could not buy his way out of his sentence.

There was nothing that he could do once found guilty, he was to die.

:32 And you shall take no ransom for him who has fled to his city of refuge, that he may return to dwell in the land before the death of the priest.

:32 no ransom

A person guilty of manslaughter could also not buy his way out of his sentence.

:33 So you shall not pollute the land where you are; for blood defiles the land, and no atonement can be made for the land, for the blood that is shed on it, except by the blood of him who shed it.

:34 Therefore do not defile the land which you inhabit, in the midst of which I dwell; for I the LORD dwell among the children of Israel.’ ”

:33 blood defiles the land

The only way for a country not to be polluted by the blood spilt by murderers, is to put to death those convicted of murder.

Do you think our country is polluted?

We’ve heard it said by Billy Graham that if God doesn’t judge America, He’ll have to apologize to Sodom and Gomorrah.

Numbers 36

36:1-13 Zelophehad Weddings

:1 Now the chief fathers of the families of the children of Gilead the son of Machir, the son of Manasseh, of the families of the sons of Joseph, came near and spoke before Moses and before the leaders, the chief fathers of the children of Israel.

:2 And they said: “The LORD commanded my lord Moses to give the land as an inheritance by lot to the children of Israel, and my lord was commanded by the LORD to give the inheritance of our brother Zelophehad to his daughters.

:2 to his daughters

We saw this back in Numbers 27, when these gals came forward with a concern that the portion of the Promised Land that might have gone to their family was going to disappear because their father had no sons, only daughters.  God responded by promised that the daughters would get a piece of the inheritance.

:3 Now if they are married to any of the sons of the other tribes of the children of Israel, then their inheritance will be taken from the inheritance of our fathers, and it will be added to the inheritance of the tribe into which they marry; so it will be taken from the lot of our inheritance.

:4 And when the Jubilee of the children of Israel comes, then their inheritance will be added to the inheritance of the tribe into which they marry; so their inheritance will be taken away from the inheritance of the tribe of our fathers.”

:4 Jubilee

The Jubilee was a special year that came once every fifty years. (Lev.25)

All debts were to be forgiven.

Any land that was sold was to be returned to the original family and the original tribe of that family.

Yet apparently land could be lost if it was acquired by marriage.

Here’s the problem:

If any of these daughters of Zelophehad started to notice one of the fellows from outside the tribe of Manasseh, then their property would become the property of the husband’s tribe.

The leaders of the tribe of Manasseh were concerned that these new inheritance laws were going to result in all their tribe’s property being taken away through marriage.

Think of it this way:  If a gal from California married a fellow from Arizona, would her property then become part of the state of Arizona?  Something like that…

:5 Then Moses commanded the children of Israel according to the word of the LORD, saying: “What the tribe of the sons of Joseph speaks is right.

:5 sons of Joseph – Joseph had two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh.  The tribe of Manasseh was part of the tribe of Joseph.

:6 This is what the LORD commands concerning the daughters of Zelophehad, saying, ‘Let them marry whom they think best, but they may marry only within the family of their father’s tribe.’

:6 marry only within the family

These five daughters were all now property owners.  But their pieces of property also came a restriction – they had to marry someone within their tribe.


Blessings come with restrictions.

There are lots of incredible, wonderful promises that God has for us.
But some of these promises require that we follow some restrictions in order to receive them.
It’s just like the principle of “borders” we talked about in Numbers 34.  God has some limits for His children.
Example – God’s Peace
We’d all like to have a sense of peace in our lives.  But there are some restrictions to receiving the promise of peace:

(Php 4:6–9 NKJV) —6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; 7 and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. 8 Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things. 9 The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you.

God gives some of the “restrictions” if you want to “inherit” peace.

You need to learn to pray. (vs. 6)

You need to learn to trust God (pray with thanksgiving)

You need to change your thought life. (vs. 8)

You need to learn to “do” (vs. 9) godly things.

The daughters of Zelophehad had to choose to follow the restrictions if they wanted the blessings.

:7 So the inheritance of the children of Israel shall not change hands from tribe to tribe, for every one of the children of Israel shall keep the inheritance of the tribe of his fathers.

:7 keep the inheritance

God didn’t want families giving away their inheritance.

A major theme running through the Old Testament is the idea of the family inheritance.

It was the plot of land that was given to your family all the way back in the days of Joshua.
God wanted families to have an inheritance to pass on from generation to generation.
That was one of the reasons for the “jubilee”.  It ensured that even if someone in your family had to sell the property, at the year of jubilee the property came back into the family.


Family Heritage.

It’s important to have something to pass on to your kids.  It’s important to pass on the right things to your kids.
Play “Polar Bear Mom” video clip.
I may not teach my kids how to hunt seals, but I can teach them how to know the Lord and experience the joys and blessings of walking with God.
I want to be careful that the way I am guiding my family doesn’t lead them further from the Lord, but closer to Him.
Say I receive a job offer out of state, better money, better position, but no healthy churches around.
Is it better for me to go for the world’s standards of climbing the corporate ladder, or taking care of the spiritual welfare of my family?
Don’t jeopardize your inheritance

:8 And every daughter who possesses an inheritance in any tribe of the children of Israel shall be the wife of one of the family of her father’s tribe, so that the children of Israel each may possess the inheritance of his fathers.

:9 Thus no inheritance shall change hands from one tribe to another, but every tribe of the children of Israel shall keep its own inheritance.”

:10 Just as the LORD commanded Moses, so did the daughters of Zelophehad;

:11 for Mahlah, Tirzah, Hoglah, Milcah, and Noah, the daughters of Zelophehad, were married to the sons of their father’s brothers.

:12 They were married into the families of the children of Manasseh the son of Joseph, and their inheritance remained in the tribe of their father’s family.

:13 These are the commandments and the judgments which the LORD commanded the children of Israel by the hand of Moses in the plains of Moab by the Jordan, across from Jericho.

:10 so did the daughters of Zelophehad

These gals wanted a piece of the Promised Land. They did it God’s way.