Chapter 28

NUMBERS CHAPTER 28

The Prescribed Offerings

    • The Lord told Moses to give the Israelites the following instructions, “See to it that you present My offerings to Me at the times I appointed. They are My food and a pleasing smell to Me. The following is the fire offering that you must present to the Lord:”

      • The language in this passage (referring to the offerings as His “food”) has caused some individuals to wonder if God literally eats. Additionally, skeptics use Scripture such as these to claim that the idea that the sacrificial system (commonly inferred by skeptics to be God depending on the Israelites for food) is an element borrowed from pagan cultures such as the Mesopotamian/Sumerian or Canaanite/Ugaritic theology. This article from Christianthinktank, Does God really get hungry and have to eat food?, addresses this topic exhaustively and I highly recommend it to those interested in an in depth discussion/rebuttal of this position. The author makes the following points regarding the various Scriptural references to sacrifice as God’s food in light of the overall witness of the Bible (view the article for his extensive Scriptural corroboration of these points):

        • God doesn’t need the physical parts/aspects of ANY of the types of sacrifices/offerings”

        • God doesn’t eat or drink the physical parts of the sacrifices/offerings”

        • God doesn’t even LIKE the act of hypocritical Israelites bringing the physical parts of the sacrifice/offerings in ritual.”

        • …the biblical witness is both aware that other gods ‘eat and drink’ (in pagan and some popular Israelite thought at the time) and sometimes even makes fun of them for it–using satire and foreign terminology in describing this.”

        • …with regards to Mesopotamia/Sumerian, there is no evidence to support the claims that the biblical God was ‘like them’ in needing to eat, and there is plenty of evidence to support the claim that Yahweh was ‘unlike them’ in this regard.

        • …the data from Ugarit cannot carry the argument that the biblical God ‘needed food’ like the gods in the Canaanite pantheon appeared to. Even if the form of the rituals look ‘more like Canaanite’ than they look ‘like Mesopotamian’, the theology and interpretation of those rituals in the Hebrew bible are still very, very forceful that God was in no way dependent on Israel or the sacrifices she brought before God.”

      • So, how do we understand what is meant in these passages? The two primary approaches can be summarized as follows:

        • (1) The most common understanding is that the references are an “archaic form” or “linguistic fossil.” According to this view, the references don’t really mean “food,” it is just an ancient idiom. For example, when we say “it’s raining cats and dogs” we don’t mean that literally, it’s just a modern descriptive phrase. The same concept applies here. The phrase is playing off the known pagan customs of the day and its meaning doesn’t carry over in a modern context.”

        • (2) “Since the term is actually only used of the single ‘shared communion’ sacrifice (shelamin), some have thought it to be a symbolic term for God’s ‘portion’ of the shared communal meal with His offerer(s). Under this understanding, the term has a metaphorical reference to a shared meal, without implying actual ‘food’ or ‘eating’. [Like we might set a place setting out for God at a family ritual meal — like Thanksgiving in the USA–without actually putting turkey and dressing on the plate.] It is called ‘food’ (even though it is actually smoke) because it represents God’s presence in the celebration part of the offering, and God can call it ‘My food’ because it is the part of the sacrifice that is His ‘possession’ (i.e. not shared with others… ‘mine and not yours’).”

Daily Offerings

    • Every day two unblemished year old male lambs must be offered as a burnt offering. One should be offered in the morning and the other in the evening. A grain offering consisting of two quarts of fine flour mixed with a quart of pressed olive oil and drink offering consisting of one quart of an alcoholic drink (poured out to the Lord in the Holy Place) must also accompany each lamb. This burnt offering was established at Mount Sinai and is a pleasing smell to the Lord.”

      • Guzik writes, “This reminds us that it is appropriate to begin and end our day with a statement of trust in God’s atonement and expression of our devotion to Him.”

Sabbath Offerings

    • On the Sabbath day, two unblemished male lambs accompanied by a grain offering consisting of 4 quarts of fine flour mixed with pressed olive oil and a drink offering must be offered in addition to what is offered daily.”

      • HCSB notes, “The daily burnt offerings of lamb, grain, and liquid libation were doubled on the Sabbath.”

Monthly Offerings

    • On the first day of each month, you must present a burnt offering to the Lord consisting of the following, all unblemished animals: two young bulls accompanied by a grain offering of six quarts of fine flour mixed with olive oil and drink offering of two quarts of wine per bull; one ram accompanied by a grain offering of four quarts of fine flour mixed with olive oil and a drink offering of one and a third quarts of wine; and seven, one-year old male lambs accompanied by a grain offering of two quarts of fine flour mixed with olive oil and a drink offering of one quart of wine per lamb. These are a pleasing smell to the Lord. In addition to these, a sin offering consisting of one male goat accompanied by its drink offering must be presented on the first day of each month.”

      • HCSB notes, “On the first day of the month, the new moon, additional burnt offerings of consecration included two young bulls (for the priests), one ram (for the leaders), seven male lambs (for the people), and their proportional grain-oil and libation offerings, plus a male goat for a sin offering.”

      • Guzik adds, “ 1 Samuel 20:5 gives an example of how this offering might become part of a monthly feast for the leaders of the nation.” Quoting Allen, Guzik writes, “Later in Israel’s history, the New Moon festivals may have become opportunities for excess, for licentious behavior. In the Prophets there are times when God says to his erring people, ‘I hate your New Moons’ (cf. Isaiah 1:14).” Guzik continues, “ Isaiah 1:14 shows how these festivals became corrupted:Your New Moons and your appointed feasts My soul hates; they are a trouble to Me, I am weary of bearing them. We can come to the same place today, where God is tired of us going to church.”

Offerings for Passover

    • On the fourteenth day of the first month you are to celebrate the Lord’s Passover. The next day (the fifteenth day of the month) a seven day festival will begin during which time no bread that contains yeast (leavening) may be eaten. On the first day of this festival you are to hold a sacred assembly and no one is to do any work that they would normally do on an ordinary day. Every day of the festival a burnt offerings consisting of the following unblemished animals must be presented to the Lord as a pleasing smell: two young bulls accompanied by a grain offering of six quarts of fine flour mixed with olive oil and the appropriate drink offering per bull; one ram accompanied by a grain offering of four quarts of fine flour mixed with olive oil and the appropriate drink offering; and seven, one-year old male lambs accompanied by a grain offering of two quarts of fine flour mixed with olive oil and the appropriate drink offering per lamb. In addition to these, a sin offering consisting of one male goat must be offered to make atonement for yourselves (make you right with the Lord). These are to be offered in addition to your regular daily burnt offerings and should be offered along with the morning offering. On the last day of the festival (the seventh day), you are to hold another sacred assembly and no one is to do any normal daily work.”

      • NLT Illustrated Study Bible notes, “The Passover followed by the Festival of Unleavened Bread, was the first of five great annual festivals; it was held in early March-April.”

Offerings for the Festival of Weeks (or Festival of Harvest)

    • At the Festival of Weeks, when you present your offering consisting of the first of your new grain, you are to hold a sacred assembly and no one is to do any ordinary work they would do on a regular day. You are to present a burnt offering as a pleasing smell to the Lord consisting of the following unblemished animals: two young bulls accompanied by a grain offering of six quarts of fine flour mixed with oil and the appropriate drink offering per bull; one ram accompanied by a grain offering of four quarts of fine flour mixed with olive oil and the appropriate drink offering; and seven, one-year old lambs accompanied by a grain offering of two quarts of fine flour mixed with oil and the appropriate drink offering per lamb. In addition, you are to present one male goat to make atonement for yourselves. These are to be offered in addition to your regular daily burnt and grain offerings.”

      • NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible writes, “Originally called the Festival of Harvest (Exodus 23:16), the Festival of Shavuoth (Weeks) celebrated the completion of the grain harvest season begun at Passover/Unleavened Bread. The early barley harvest bore direct connection to the end of the wheat harvest by the counting of the omer grain offering during the 50-day period.”

      • The NLT Illustrated Study Bible notes, “The Festival of Harvest was later called the Festival of Pentecost (see Acts 2:1); see also Leviticus 23:15-22. It celebrated the end of the barley harvest and the beginning of the wheat harvest in the early summer (May-June). The Greek name Pentecost means “fiftieth day.”

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