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The New Oxford Annotated Bible New Revised Standard Study Bible that provides essential scholarship and guidance for Bible readers.

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Commentary on Numbers

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Commentary spanning earlier chapters

18.1–32 : Priesthood and Levitical duties and dues.

This builds on chs 16–17 .

1–7 :

For the duties outlined here, see 3.5–10,14–39; 4.1–49 .

3,4,5 :

Perform duties, perform guard duty.

6 :

Perform service, do the work of transporting the tabernacle (also vv. 21,23,31 ).

8–20 :

The priests receive offerings (pre‐bends) for their work.

8–10 :

The priests eat the portions of the most holy offerings (see Lev 2.3n. ) in the sanctuary court (Lev 6.16,26; 7.6; 10.13,17; 24.9 ).

11–20 :

The whole priestly family, including females, may eat of lesser holy offerings 10.14–15; 22.10–14 ). This may be done outside the sanctuary, but must be done in a state of ritual purity.

11 :

Gifts of all the elevation offerings, rather, “gifts including all the elevation offerings.” Elevation, done in the sanctuary, specially consecrates portions of offerings (Ex 29.27–28; Lev 7.30; 10.14–15; 23.17–20; Num 6.19–20 ). Gifts include these and other items dedicated outside the sanctuary.

12–13 :

For first produce and first fruits, cf. Ex 23.19; Lev 2.12; 19.24; Num 15.17–20; Deut 18.4 .

14 :

Devoted thing, see Lev 27.28n.

15–18 :

Firstborn animals, cf. Lev 27.26; Num 1.11–13 .

16 :

Shekel, see 3.47n.

17 :

Pleasing odor, see 15.3n.

19 :

Covenant of salt, see Lev 2.13n.

21–32 :

The Levites receive the produce tithe (cf. vv. 27,30; cf. Neh 10.38–39 ). This amends Lev 27.30–33 , where produce and animal tithes appear to go to the priests.

25–32 :

Even Levites are not exempt from supporting the priests. The tenth of the Levitical tithe that goes to the priests is holy (vv. 28–29 ) while the remaining nine‐tenths is not (vv. 31–32 ).

13.1–14.45 : Scouting the land of Canaan.

This story is incorporated here as a long complaint narrative. This complaint arrative about conquering the land of Canaan exhibits two layers, as may be seen in tension concerning the extent of the trip, and the roles of Caleb and Joshua. In an earlier (JE) version of the story, scouts are sent only to the southern half of the land, and only Caleb urges its conquest ( 13.17b–20,22–24,26b–31; 14.1b,4,11–25,26–45 ). This was augmented with elements (some attributed to P, others hard to identify) telling about a larger scouting expedition covering the entire land of Canaan. In this, Joshua adds an affirmative voice 13.1–3,4–17a,21,25–26a,32–14.1a,2–3,5–10,26–38 ). The earlier version is reflected in Josh 14.6–9 . The combined account is reflected in Num 26.64–65; 32.8–13; Deut 1.19–46 (cf. also Ps 95.10–11; 106.24–26; Neh 9.21 ).

13 :

2 :

Spy out, better, “scout out,” since the mission is not strictly military or covert. For similar episodes, cf. 21.32; Josh 2.1–22; 7.2–3; Judg 1.23; 18.1–30 .

3 :

Wilderness of Paran, in the south central Sinai (see color Map at end of book).

4–15 :

Most of the individuals named here do not occur elsewhere.

6 :

In other places (e.g., 32.12 ), Caleb is considered a Kenizzite, a group eventually incorporated into Judah.

17 :

The Negeb, the southern region of Israel.

20 :

Grapes ripen in late summer.

21 :

Wilderness of Zin, just north of Paran (v. 3 ). For Lebo‐hamath, in the North, see 34.8n. and color Map 6.

22 :

Hebron, a major city in the southern part of the land (see Map on p. 28 HB). For the Anakites, see v. 33n. (cf. Josh 15.13–14).

23 :

Wadi Eshcol, near Hebron. Eshcol means “grape cluster.”

26 :

Kadesh(barnea), an oasis between the wildernesses of Paran and Zin (see color Map 2), where the Israelites will stay until 20.22 .

27 :

Flows with milk and honey, a description with mythological overtones. The honey was probably a thick syrup made from grapes or dates.

29 :

Amalekites, a widespread semi‐nomadic group often at war with Israel; see Gen 14.9; Ex 17.8–16; Judg 6.3; 1 Sam 15.2–8 . The other groups in this verse form part of a traditional list of the inhabitants of the land; see Gen 10.16n–18n.; 15.19–21; Ex 3.8; Josh 3.10n.

33 :

Nephilim, cf. Gen 6.1–4 . Like the Anakites (v. 22 ), their size and strength were legendary (cf. Deut 1.28 ).

14.1–10 :

The negative reports of the scouts 13.28–29,31–33 ) lead to the people's complaint.

5–6 :

Fell on their faces, in order to beseech the people. Joshua and Caleb tear their clothing in distress (Gen 37.29 ) and deliver a positive report (cf. Caleb already in 13.30 ).

9 :

Bread for us, cf. Ps 14.4 .

10 :

Stoning may be legal ( 15.36 ) or extra‐legal (Ex 17.4 ), as here. The glory of the Lord was the visible manifestation of the divine presence; see Ex 16.6n–7n.

12 :

God was ready to make Moses’ posterity his chosen people also in Ex 32.10 (Deut 9.14).

13–19 :

Moses defends the people in two ways: He says that God's reputation will suffer if he destroys them (vv. 13–16 ) and that God has before promised to be patient and forgiving (vv. 17–19; cf. Ex 34.5–8 ). The first argument had been used previously with success in Ex 32.12 . On the cloud, see 9.15n–23n.

20–45 :

God imposes lesser punishments, some of which are ironic: The people will die in the wilderness as they wished ( 14.2,28–32 ), yet their children will enter the land contrary to their fear ( 14.3, 31 ); the people will be allowed to journey in the direction of Egypt (the way to the Red Sea) as they wished, but only to die on the way ( 14.4,25,28–29 ); some die by the sword as they feared ( 14.3,43 ); they seek to take the land but fail as they said they would 13.28–29,31–33; 14.40–45 ).

34 :

Cf. Ezek 4.6 .

36–37 :

The scouts who gave a discouraging report are killed in a plague, though the people in general are spared (cf. 14.12 ).

39–45 :

The people cannot escape punishment by performing the original command, since God is not with them.

44 :

On the ark representing God in battle, see 10.25n–26n.

45 :

Hormah, a city in the Negeb near Beer‐sheba; see 21.2n–3n.

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