christine's bible study

The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God stands forever. Isa 40:8

numbers 1:1-4:20, parashah bamidbar (in the desert)

I study the Torah every year using the teaching tools of Scripture. (Why?)

Today is the 32nd Sabbath of the annual Torah cycle. Today, the seventh sabbath of the counting of the seven sabbaths toward the Feast of Weeks, the Torah reading is BamidbarNum 1:1-4:20.

The paragraph divisions are as follows:

Num 1:1-21 p The leaders of the tribes + the number of the army of Reuben
— Num 1:1-19 s The leaders chosen by name of their fathers’ tribes to number Israel
— Num 1:20-21 p The number of the army of Reuben (of Leah): 46,500.
Num 1:22-23 p The number of the army of Simeon (of Leah): 59,300.
Num 1:24-25 p The number of the army of Gad (of Zilpah): 45,650 (the south encampment)
Num 1:26-27 p The number of the army of Judah (of Leah): 74,600.
Num 1:28-29 p The number of the army of Issachar (of Leah): 54,400.
Num 1:30-31 p The number of the army of Zebulun (of Leah): 57,400 (the east encampment)
Num 1:32-33 p The number of the army of Ephraim (of Rachel): 40,500.
Num 1:34-35 p The number of the army of Manasseh (of Rachel): 32,200.
Num 1:36-37 p The number of the army of Benjamin (of Rachel): 35,400 (the west encampment)
Num 1:38-39 p The number of the army of Dan (of Bilhah): 62,700.
Num 1:40-41 p The number of the army of Asher (of Zilpah): 41,500.
Num 1:42-43 p The number of the army of Naphtali (of Bilhah): 53,400 (the north encampment)
Num 1:44-47 p The number of the armies of Israel: 603,550.
Num 1:48-54 p The Levites not numbered as they have charge of the tabernacle
Num 2:1-31 p The encampment of the tribes of Israel around the tabernacle of the Testimony
— Num 2:1-9 s The east camp 1st: Judah, Issachar, Zebulun: 186,400.
— Num 2:10-16 s The south camp 2nd: Reuben, Simeon, Gad: 151,450.
— Num 2:17 s The tabernacle of meeting with the Levites in the middle
— Num 2:18-24 s The west camp 3rd: Ephraim, Manasseh, Benjamin: 108,100.
— Num 2:25-31 p The north camp last: Dan, Asher, Naphtali: 157,600.
Num 2:32-34 p The number of the children of Israel + Levites not numbered
Num 3:1-4 p The sons of Aaron who ministered as priests
Num 3:5-10 p Aaron and sons attend to his priesthood, Levites attend to Aaron and the tabernacle
Num 3:11-13 p YHVH has taken the Levites instead of every firstborn
Num 3:14-43 p Number of the Levites + number of the firstborn males
— Num 3:14-26 s Number the Levites + Gershon
— Num 3:27-39 s Kohath + Eleazar + Merari + camp of Moses + Aaron + number of Levites
— Num 3:40-43 p The number of the firstborn males
Num 3:44-51 p The redemption money for the firstborn given to Aaron
Num 4:1-16 p The duty of Kohath + Eleazar the priest
Num 4:17-20 p That Kohath may live and not die

These are the chiastic structures I was able to find. You will notice they go from one to another until the end of the parashah, and that the paragraph divisions help define them:

Num 1:1-19 s
1a) Num 1:1-2a, YHVH commanded Moses in the Wilderness of Sinai to take a census;
1b) Num 1:2b-3, Of all the congregation by their fathers’ houses from 20 yrs +;
1c) Num 1:4-15, Twelve men mentioned by name, each one the head of his father’s house;
central axis) Num 1:16, “These were chosen from the congregation, leaders of their fathers’ tribes, heads of the divisions in Israel;”
2c) Num 1:17, Moses and Aaron took those men mentioned by name;
2b) Num 1:18, All the congregation recited their ancestry by their fathers’ houses from 20 yrs old and upwards;
2a) Num 1:19, As YHVH commanded Moses, so he numbered them in the Wilderness of Sinai.

Num 1:20-2:34
1a) Num 1:20-54 (px14), The number of the children of Israel + the Levites not numbered;
1b) Num 2:1-16 s+s, The east + south camps of Judah, Issachar, Zebulun, Reuben, Simeon, Gad;
central axis) Num 2:17 s, The tabernacle of meeting with the Levites;
2b) Num 2:18-31 s+p, The west + north camps of Ephraim, Manasseh, Benjamin, Dan, Asher, Naphtali;
2a) Num 2:32-34 p, The number of the children of Israel + the Levites not numbered.

Num 1:48-54 p
1a) Num 1:48, YHVH had spoken to Moses;
1b) Num 1:49-50a, Appoint the Levites over the tabernacle of the Testimony;
1c) Num 1:50b, The Levites shall camp around the tabernacle;
central axis) Num 1:51, “And when the tabernacle is to go forward, the Levites shall take it down; and when the tabernacle is to be set up, the Levites shall set it up. The outsider who comes near shall be put to death.”
2c) Num 1:52-53a, Israel shall camp by their standards, but the Levites shall camp around the tabernacle of the Testimony;
2b) Num 1:53b, The Levites shall keep charge of the tabernacle of the Testimony;
2a) Num 1:54, Israel did according to all that YHVH had commanded Moses.

Num 3:1-10 p+p
1a) Num 3:1-4 p The sons of Aaron who ministered as priests;
1b) Num 3:5-7a, The tribe of Levi to attend to Aaron and his needs;
1c) Num 3:7b, And the needs of the whole congregation to do the work of the tabernacle
central axis) Num 3:8a, And they shall attend to all the furnishings of the tabernacle of meeting;
2c) Num 3:8b, And to the needs of the children of Israel to do the work of the tabernacle;
2b) Num 3:9, And you shall give the Levites to Aaron and his sons;
2a) Num 3:10 p, And you shall appoint Aaron and his sons to attend to their priesthood.

Num 3:11-43 p+s+s+p
1a) Num 3:11-13 p, I have taken the Levites instead of every firstborn, for the firstborn are Mine;
1b) Num 3:14-20, Number the families of the Levites by their fathers’ houses;
1c) Num 3:21-26 s, Gershon: number + camp + leader + duties;
1d) Num 3:27-31 Kohath: number + camp + leader + duties;
central axis) Num 3:32, Eleazar the son of Aaron the priest, chief over the leaders of the Levities;
2d) Num 3:33-37, Merari: number + leader + camp + duties;
2c) Num 3:38, Moses + Aaron: camp + duties;
2b) Num 3:39 s, The number of the Levites (22,000);
2a) Num 3:40-43 p, The number of the firstborn males (22,273) taking the Levites instead of the firstborn.

Num 4:1-20 p+p
1a) Num 4:1-15, Kohath and their service + Aaron and their service + warning lest they die:
— 1.1 Num 4:1-4, The family of Kohath from among the tribe of Levi in regard to the service of the most holy things;
— 1.2 Num 4:5-15a, Aaron and his sons shall cover the most holy things, then Kohath shall come to carry them;
— 1.3 Num 4:15b, But they shall not touch any holy thing, lest they die.
central axis) Num 4:16 p, The appointed duty of Eleazar the son of Aaron the priest;
2a) Num 4-17-20 p, Kohath and their service + Aaron and their service + warning lest they die:
— 2.1 Num 4:17-18, That the family of Kohath is not cut off from among the Levites;
— 2.2 Num 4:19, Aaron and his sons shall appoint each of them to his task;
— 2.3 Num 4:20 p, But they shall not watch the holy things being covered, lest they die.

Num 4:1-15
1a) Num 4:1-4, The sons of Kohath + their service in the tabernacle of meeting relating to the most holy things;
1b) Num 4:5-15a, Aaron and his sons shall cover the most holy things;
central axis) Num 4:15b, Then the sons of Kohath shall come to carry them;
2b) Num 4:15c, But the sons of Kohath shall not touch any holy thing, lest they die;
2a) Num 4:15d, These are the things in the tabernacle of meeting which the sons of Kohath are to carry.

Num 4:5-16
1a) Num 4:5-15a, The sons of Aaron shall cover the most holy things;
1b) Num 4:15b, Then the sons of Kohath shall come to carry them;
central axis) Num 4:15c, But they shall not touch any holy thing, lest they die;
2b) Num 4:15d, These are the things in the tabernacle of meeting which the sons of Kohath are to carry;
2a) Num 4:16 p, The appointed duty of Eleazar the son of Aaron the priest.

Num 4:17-20 p
1a) Num 4:17-19a, Do not cut off Kohath from among the Levites, but do this that they may live and not die;
1b) Num 4:19b, When they approach the most holy things;
central axis) Num 4:19c, Aaron and his sons shall appoint each of them to his task;
2b) Num 4:20a, But they shall not watch the holy things being covered;
2c) Num 4:20b p, Lest they die.

You will notice that there is one paragraph which did not figure into any of the chiastic structures so far, and that is Num 3:44-51 p, The redemption money for the 273 firstborn to be given to Aaron. I have seen that parashah Bamidbar forms a chiastic structure with the next parashah which we will study next week, and it is my theory that either this lone paragraph is the central axis of that greater structure, or has a matching pair to be found in the next parashah. We will see!

If we take each of the central axis’ uncovered so far, and put them together, we will see a summary of Bamidbar:

Num 1:16, “These were chosen from the congregation, leaders of their fathers’ tribes, heads of the divisions in Israel;”
Num 2:17 s, The encampment of the tabernacle of meeting with the Levites;
Num 1:51, “And when the tabernacle is to go forward, the Levites shall take it down; and when the tabernacle is to be set up, the Levites shall set it up. The outsider who comes near shall be put to death.”
Num 3:8a, The Levities shall attend to all the furnishings of the tabernacle of meeting;
Num 3:32, Eleazar the son of Aaron the priest, chief over the leaders of the Levities;
Num 4:16 p, The appointed duty of Eleazar the son of Aaron the priest;
Num 4:15b, Then the sons of Kohath shall come to carry the most holy things;
Num 4:15c, But Kohath shall not touch any holy thing, lest they die;
Num 4:19c, Aaron and his sons shall appoint each of the sons of Kohath to his task.

Wow, I did not see this before, but the central axis’ of Bamidbar form their own chiastic structure! Does anyone yet doubt that the chiastic structure is the thumbprint of the Holy Spirit on the Word of God? There is no human logic or capability that can order a narrative of history in such a way that all of these elements contribute to the flow of the logic of the narrative, without disturbing it, and yet embed these teaching treasures within it, to this elegance, this beauty, this complexity, and this simplicity and consistency of message!

Here is the structure of the central axis’ that I am seeing, and please remember, it is probable that I have not uncovered them all:

1a) Num 1:51, “And when the tabernacle is to go forward, the Levites shall take it down; and when the tabernacle is to be set up, the Levites shall set it up. The outsider who comes near shall be put to death.”
1b) Num 3:8a, The Levities shall attend to all the furnishings of the tabernacle of meeting;
1c) Num 3:32, Eleazar the son of Aaron the priest, chief over the leaders of the Levities;
2c) Num 4:16 p, The appointed duty of Eleazar the son of Aaron the priest;
2b) Num 4:15b, Then the sons of Kohath shall come to carry the most holy things;
2a) Num 4:15c, But Kohath shall not touch any holy thing, lest they die.

The paragraph which has not figured into any of the chiasms so far, Num 3:44-51 p, happens to fall between the 1c and 2c pair. If so, that would make the central axis of Bamidbar, Redemption. We saw that the central axis of Leviticus, each week, was Atonement. I think the Holy Spirit of God is trying to tell us something!

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