Numbers 7

The Word Made Fresh

1When Moses completed the sanctuary he anointed and dedicated it. He also anointed and dedicated the altar and all its tools. 2Then the family heads, the leaders who conducted the census, brought their gifts: 3six carts (two family heads giving each cart) and twelve oxen (one from each leader), which they presented before the sanctuary.

4The LORD said to Moses, 5“Accept these gifts and use them for the meeting tent. Give them to the Levites to use as their work requires.”

6Moses gave the carts and oxen to the Levites. 7Two carts and four oxen were given to the Gershonites for their work 8and four carts with eight oxen to the Merarites for their work, all under the direction of Ithamar son of Aaron. 9The Kohathites were given none, since they were required to carry the sacred items they were responsible for on their shoulders.

10When the altar was anointed the leaders brought their offerings for its dedication. 11The LORD had told Moses one leader was to bring his offering each day.

12On the first day, Nahshon son of Amminadab of the tribe of Judah brought 13one silver plate weighing three and a quarter pounds and one silver bowl for sprinkling, weighing one and three fourths pounds, each according to the sanctuary scales and each filled with finely ground flour mixed with olive oil as a grain offering; 14one gold dish weighing four ounces, filled with incense; 15one young bull, one ram, and one male lamb a year old for a burnt offering; 16one male goat for a guilt offering; 17and two oxen, five rams, five male goats, and five male lambs a year old to be sacrificed as a thanksgiving offering.

18On the second day Nethanel son of Zuar of the tribe of Issachar brought his offering: 19the silver plate and silver sprinkling bowl with the flour and oil as the grain offering; 20the gold dish with incense; 21the young bull, ram, and male yearling lamb for the burnt offering; 22a male goat for the guilt offering; 23and two oxen, five rams, five male goats, and five male yearling lambs for the thanksgiving offering.

24On the third day Eliab son of Helon of the tribe of Zebulun brought his offering: 25the silver plate and silver sprinkling bowl with the flour and oil as the grain offering; 26the gold dish with incense; 27the young bull, ram, and male yearling lamb for the burnt offering; 28a male goat for the guilt offering; 29and two oxen, five rams, five male goats, and five male yearling lambs for the thanksgiving offering.

30On the fourth day Elizur son of Shedeur of the tribe of Reuben brought his offering: 31the silver plate and silver sprinkling bowl with the flour and oil as the grain offering; 32the gold dish with incense; 33the young bull, ram, and male yearling lamb for the burnt offering; 34a male goat for the guilt offering; 35and two oxen, five rams, five male goats, and five male yearling lambs for the thanksgiving offering.

36On the fifth day Shelumiel son of Zurishaddai of the tribe of Simeon brought his offering: 37the silver plate and silver sprinkling bowl with the flour and oil as the grain offering; 38the gold dish with incense; 39the young bull, ram, and male yearling lamb for the burnt offering; 40a male goat for the guilt offering; 41and two oxen, five rams, five male goats, and five male yearling lambs for the thanksgiving offering.

42On the sixth day Eliasaph son of Deuel of the tribe of Gad brought his offering: 43the silver plate and silver sprinkling bowl with the flour and oil as the grain offering; 44the gold dish with incense; 45the young bull, ram, and male yearling lamb for the burnt offering; 46a male goat for the guilt offering; 47and two oxen, five rams, five male goats, and five male yearling lambs for the thanksgiving offering.

48On the seventh day Elishama son of Ammihud of the tribe of Ephraim brought his offering: 49the silver plate and silver sprinkling bowl with the flour and oil as the grain offering; 50the gold dish with incense; 51the young bull, ram, and male yearling lamb for the burnt offering; 52a male goat for the guilt offering; 53and two oxen, five rams, five male goats, and five male yearling lambs for the thanksgiving offering.

54On the eighth day Gamaliel son of Pedahzur of the tribe of Manasseh brought his offering: 55the silver plate and silver sprinkling bowl with the flour and oil as the grain offering; 56the gold dish with incense; 57the young bull, ram, and male yearling lamb for the burnt offering; 58a male goat for the guilt offering; 59and two oxen, five rams, five male goats, and five male yearling lambs for the thanksgiving offering.

60On the ninth day Abidan son of Gideoni of the tribe of Bemjamin brought his offering: 61the silver plate and silver sprinkling bowl with the flour and oil as the grain offering; 62the gold dish with incense; 63the young bull, ram, and male yearling lamb for the burnt offering; 64a male goat for the guilt offering; 65and two oxen, five rams, five male goats, and five male yearling lambs for the thanksgiving offering.

66On the tenth day Ahiezer son of Ammishadai of the tribe of Dan brought his offering: 67the silver plate and silver sprinkling bowl with the flour and oil as the grain offering; 68the gold dish with incense; 69the young bull, ram, and male yearling lamb for the burnt offering; 70a male goat for the guilt offering; 71and two oxen, five rams, five male goats, and five male yearling lambs for the thanksgiving offering.

72On the eleventh day Pagiel son of Ocran of the tribe of Asher brought his offering: 73the silver plate and silver sprinkling bowl with the flour and oil as the grain offering; 74the gold dish with incense; 75the young bull, ram, and male yearling lamb for the burnt offering; 76a male goat for the guilt offering; 77and two oxen, five rams, five male goats, and five male yearling lambs for the thanksgiving offering.

78On the twelfth day Ahira son of Enan of the tribe of Naphtali brought his offering: 79the silver plate and silver sprinkling bowl with the flour and oil as the grain offering; 80the gold dish with incense; 81the young bull, ram, and male yearling lamb for the burnt offering; 82a male goat for the guilt offering; 83and two oxen, five rams, five male goats, and five male yearling lambs for the thanksgiving offering.

84Here, then, is the total of the offerings of the leaders for the anointing and dedication of the altar: twelve silver plates, twelve silver sprinkling bowls and twelve gold dishes. 85Each silver plate weighed three and one fourth pounds; each silver sprinkling bowl weighed one and three fourths pounds. Taken together the silver dishes weighed sixty pounds on the sanctuary scales. 86Each of the twelve gold dishes weighed four ounces; altogether they weighed three pounds. 87The total number of animals sacrificed for the burnt offerings was twelve young bulls, twelve rams, and twelve male yearling lambs, together with the grain offerings. Twelve male goats were sacrificed for the guilt offerings. 88Twenty-four oxen, sixty rams, sixty male goats, and sixty male yearling lambs were sacrificed for the thanksgiving offerings. All these were sacrificed for the dedication of the altar after it was anointed.

89Whenever Moses entered the meeting tent to speak with the LORD, he heard the voice speaking to him from between the two cherubim on the cover of the chest containing the law of the covenant. This is how the LORD spoke to him.

Commentary

1-9: The leaders of the 12 tribes (10 tribes plus the two half-tribes of Manasseh and Ephraim) donate 6 wagon teams, each consisting of a covered wagon (probably not a Conestoga) and two oxen to pull it, to the service of the tabernacle. This seems to be a spontaneous act on their part, not one ordered by Moses. The wagons and oxen are divided between the Gershom and Merari divisions. The Kohath division, being responsible for the most holy things which must be carried on the shoulders, didn’t get any oxen or carts. The Kohathites would sing a little song as they trudged along with their heavy burdens, a popular little ditty called, “Oh, to be a Gershonite” (this is a joke).

10-11: When the time comes for the dedication of the altar, the leaders of the tribes are to present an offering each day.

Big tip: You don’t have to read this whole chapter: just read verses 1-18, and then read 24, 30, 36, 42, 48, 54, 60, 66, 72, 78, and finally 84-89. The 5 verses you skip each time are exactly the same as verses 13-17.

12-88: the leaders make offerings for the dedication of the tabernacle and the cleansing of the tribes. They are:

Nahshon of Judah

Nethanel of Issachar

Eliab of Zebulun

Elizur of Reuben

Shelumiel of Simeon

Eliasaph of Gad

Elishamah of Ephraim

Gamaliel of Manasseh

Abidan of Benjamin

Ahiezer of Dan

Pagiel of Asher

Ahira of Naphtali

These are the same leaders appointed in chapter 1 to conduct the census. But note that the order here is the same as that given in chapter 3 rather than chapter 1: Judah seems to have assumed a leadership status among the 12 tribes.

Each of them brings:

  • 1 silver plate weighing 130 shekels (a shekel is roughly ½ ounce)
  • 2 silver basins weighing 70 shekels – both full of choice flour mixed with oil for a grain offering
  • 3 golden dishes weighing ten shekels and filled with incense
  • 4 young bulls, 1 ram, and 1 male lamb a year old for a burnt offering
  • 1 male goat for a guilt offering
  • And for the sacrifice of wellbeing: 2 oxen, 5 rams, 5 male goats, and 5 male lambs a year old

The totals are given in verses 84-88. Each tribe brings the same gifts, regardless of the size of the tribe.

89: This very curious verse tells us that Moses would go into the “meeting tent,” presumably the sanctuary, where he would hear the “Voice” speaking to him from between the two golden cherubim on the ark of the covenant. This verse has been given all sorts of bizarre interpretations, including the wild suggestion that Moses was a paranoid schizophrenic, and the even wilder one that the ark was a communications device placed by alien beings from another world! But what is recorded here is simply what was already said in Exodus 25:21-22: God tells Moses that he will speak with him from between the cherubim above the ark. Numbers 7:89 simply assumes that is what happens.

Takeaway

These chapters can be tedious to us with the (we would say) completely unnecessary repetition. But this is the kind of thing that made the people of Israel unique in the ancient world. When, in years to come, they were exiled and scattered, they never forgot who they were, or whose they were.