Commentary on Numbers 7

Notes (NET Translation)

1 When Moses had completed setting up the tabernacle, he anointed it and consecrated it and all its furnishings, and he anointed and consecrated the altar and all its utensils.

The dedication of the tabernacle took place on the first day of the first month of the second year (Ex 40:17), a month prior to the census of Num 1:1.

Date (Year, Month, Day) Event
1.1.14 Exodus from Egypt (Ex 14:6, 31-32
1.3.14 Israelites arrive at Sinai (Ex 19:1)
2.1.1 Tabernacle erected (Ex 40:2, 17)
Priestly sanctification begins (Lev 8:1-36)
Altar offerings commence (Lev 1:1-7:38)
Tribal offerings begin (Num 7:1, 3)
Cloud covers tabernacle (Num 9:15)
2.1.8 Priestly sanctification completed (Lev 9:1)
2.1.12 Tribal offerings completed (Num 7:78-83)
2.1.14 Second Passover (Num 9:1)
2.2.1 First census begins (Num 1:1-2)
2.2.14 Second Passover for the unclean (Num 9:11)
2.2.20 Cloud moves and Israel departs Sinai (Num 10:11)

2 Then the leaders of Israel, the heads of their clans, made an offering. They were the leaders of the tribes; they were the ones who had been supervising the numbering.

The leaders named are the same as those in 1:5-15.

3 They brought their offering before the LORD, six covered carts and twelve oxen – one cart for every two of the leaders, and an ox for each one; and they presented them in front of the tabernacle.

4 Then the LORD spoke to Moses:

5 “Receive these gifts from them, that they may be used in doing the work of the tent of meeting; and you must give them to the Levites, to every man as his service requires.”

The gifts are to be used by the Levites to transport the Tent of Meeting through the wilderness (see Num 4).

6 So Moses accepted the carts and the oxen and gave them to the Levites.

7 He gave two carts and four oxen to the Gershonites, as their service required; 8 and he gave four carts and eight oxen to the Merarites, as their service required, under the authority of Ithamar son of Aaron the priest.

9 But to the Kohathites he gave none, because the service of the holy things, which they carried on their shoulders, was their responsibility.

The Kohathites transported the holy things they were responsible for on their shoulders with poles (4:15).

10 The leaders offered gifts for the dedication of the altar when it was anointed. And the leaders presented their offering before the altar.

This passage indicates that donations are necessary for maintaining the cult. All the people have a share in the cult. The Levites do not make a donation because the cult is their life’s work.

11 For the LORD said to Moses, “They must present their offering, one leader for each day, for the dedication of the altar.”

The altar was located in the courtyard facing the entrance of the tent.

12 The one who presented his offering on the first day was Nahshon son of Amminadab, from the tribe of Judah. 13 His offering was one silver platter weighing 130 shekels, and one silver sprinkling bowl weighing 70 shekels, both according to the sanctuary shekel, each of them full of fine flour mixed with olive oil as a grain offering; 14 one gold pan weighing 10 shekels, full of incense; 15 one young bull, one ram, and one male lamb in its first year, for a burnt offering; 16 one male goat for a purification offering; 17 and for the sacrifice of peace offerings: two bulls, five rams, five male goats, and five male lambs in their first year. This was the offering of Nahshon son of Amminadab.

The amount and type of each offering is the same for each of the twelve tribes. Each tribe has an equally strong commitment to the worship of God. The repetition in this passage highlights the unity and harmony of the Israelites.

We cannot be sure of the exact nature of the vessels mentioned. The silver platter weighed about 3 pounds (130 shekels), the silver sprinkling bowl weighed about 1.75 pounds (70 shekels), and the gold pan weighed about 4 ounces (10 shekels). All the regular offerings (grain, burnt, purification, peace [Lev 1-4]) are made by each tribe. The guilt offerings (Lev 5:14-6:7; 7:1-10), reserved for specific serious sins, are not presented. The normal ritual sequence of the sacrifices was purification, burnt, and then peace (Lev 8:1-9:21). The grain offerings were made in conjunction with the animal sacrifices. The order of offerings in this passage is for administrative purposes rather than the prescribed sequence.

18 On the second day Nethanel son of Zuar, leader of Issachar, presented an offering. 19 He offered for his offering one silver platter weighing 130 shekels and one silver sprinkling bowl weighing 70, both according to the sanctuary shekel, each of them full of fine flour mixed with olive oil as a grain offering; 20 one gold pan weighing 10 shekels, full of incense; 21 one young bull, one ram, and one male lamb in its first year, for a burnt offering; 22 one male goat for a purification offering; 23 and for the sacrifice of peace offerings: two bulls, five rams, five male goats, and five male lambs in their first year. This was the offering of Nethanel son of Zuar.

24 On the third day Eliab son of Helon, leader of the Zebulunites, presented an offering. 25 His offering was one silver platter weighing 130 shekels and one silver sprinkling bowl weighing 70 shekels, both according to the sanctuary shekel, each of them full of fine flour mixed with olive oil as a grain offering; 26 one gold pan weighing 10 shekels, full of incense; 27 one young bull, one ram, and one male lamb in its first year, for a burnt offering;28 one male goat for a purification offering; 29 and for the sacrifice of peace offerings: two bulls, five rams, five male goats, and five male lambs in their first year. This was the offering of Eliab son of Helon.

30 On the fourth day Elizur son of Shedeur, leader of the Reubenites, presented an offering. 31 His offering was one silver platter weighing 130 shekels and one silver sprinkling bowl weighing 70 shekels, both according to the sanctuary shekel, each of them full of fine flour mixed with olive oil as a grain offering; 32 one gold pan weighing 10 shekels, full of incense; 33 one young bull, one ram, and one male lamb in its first year, for a burnt offering; 34 one male goat for a purification offering; 35 and for the sacrifice of peace offerings: two bulls, five rams, five male goats, and five lambs in their first year. This was the offering of Elizur son of Shedeur.

36 On the fifth day Shelumiel son of Zurishaddai, leader of the Simeonites, presented an offering. 37 His offering was one silver platter weighing 130 shekels and one silver sprinkling bowl weighing 70 shekels, both according to the sanctuary shekel, each of them full of fine flour mixed with olive oil as a grain offering; 38 one gold pan weighing 10 shekels; 39 one young bull, one ram, and one male lamb in its first year, for a burnt offering; 40 one male goat for a purification offering; 41 and for the sacrifice of peace offerings: two bulls, five rams, five male goats, and five lambs in their first year. This was the offering of Sheloumiel son of Zurishaddai.

42 On the sixth day Eliasaph son of Deuel, leader of the Gadites, presented an offering. 43 His offering was one silver platter weighing 130 shekels and one silver sprinkling bowl weighing 70 shekels, both according to the sanctuary shekel, each of them full of fine flour mixed with olive oil as a grain offering; 44 one gold pan weighing 10 shekels; 45 one young bull, one ram, and one male lamb in its first year, for a burnt offering; 46 one male goat for a purification offering; 47 and for the sacrifice of peace offerings: two bulls, five rams, five male goats, and five lambs in their first year. This was the offering of Eliasaph son of Deuel.

48 On the seventh day Elishama son of Ammihud, leader of the Ephraimites, presented an offering. 49 His offering was one silver platter weighing 130 shekels and one silver sprinkling bowl weighing 70 shekels, both according to the sanctuary shekel, each of them full of fine flour mixed with olive oil as a grain offering; 50 one gold pan weighing 10 shekels, full of incense; 51 one young bull, one ram, and one male lamb in its first year, for a burnt offering; 52 one male goat for a purification offering; 53 and for the sacrifice of peace offerings: two bulls, five rams, five male goats, and five lambs in their first year. This was the offering of Elishama son of Ammihud.

54 On the eighth day Gamaliel son of Pedahzur, leader of the Manassehites, presented an offering. 55 His offering was one silver platter weighing 130 shekels and one silver sprinkling bowl weighing 70 shekels, both according to the sanctuary shekel, each of them full of fine flour mixed with olive oil as a grain offering; 56 one gold pan weighing 10 shekels, full of incense; 57 one young bull, one ram, and one male lamb in its first year, for a burnt offering; 58 one male goat for a purification offering; 59 and for the sacrifice of peace offerings: two bulls, five rams, five male goats, and five lambs in their first year. This was the offering of Gamaliel son of Pedahzur.

60 On the ninth day Abidan son of Gideoni, leader of the Benjaminites, presented an offering. 61 His offering was one silver platter weighing 130 shekels and one silver sprinkling bowl weighing 70 shekels, both according to the sanctuary shekel, each of them full of fine flour mixed with olive oil as a grain offering; 62 one gold pan weighing 10 shekels, full of incense; 63 one young bull, one ram, and one male lamb in its first year, for a burnt offering; 64 one male goat for a purification offering; 65 and for the sacrifice of peace offerings: two bulls, five rams, five male goats, and five lambs in their first year. This was the offering of Abidan son of Gideoni.

66 On the tenth day Ahiezer son of Amishaddai, leader of the Danites, presented an offering. 67 His offering was one silver platter weighing 130 shekels and one silver sprinkling bowl weighing 70 shekels, both according to the sanctuary shekel, each of them full of fine flour mixed with olive oil as a grain offering; 68 one gold pan weighing 10 shekels, full of incense; 69 one young bull, one ram, and one male lamb in its first year, for a burnt offering; 70 one male goat for a purification offering; 71 and for the sacrifice of peace offerings: two bulls, five rams, five male goats, and five lambs in their first year. This was the offering of Ahiezer son of Amishaddai.

72 On the eleventh day Pagiel son of Ocran, leader of the Asherites, presented an offering. 73 His offering was one silver platter weighing 130 shekels and one silver sprinkling bowl weighing 70 shekels, both according to the sanctuary shekel, each of them full of fine flour mixed with olive oil as a grain offering; 74 one gold pan weighing 10 shekels, full of incense; 75 one young bull, one ram, and one male lamb in its first year, for a burnt offering; 76 one male goat for a purification offering; 77 and for the sacrifice of peace offerings: two bulls, five rams, five male goats, and five lambs in their first year. This was the offering of Pagiel son of Ocran.

78 On the twelfth day Ahira son of Enan, leader of the Naphtalites, presented an offering. 79 His offering was one silver platter weighing 130 shekels and one silver sprinkling bowl weighing 70 shekels, both according to the sanctuary shekel, each of them full of fine flour mixed with olive oil as a grain offering; 80 one gold pan weighing 10 shekels; 81 one young bull, one ram, and one male lamb in its first year, for a burnt offering; 82 one male goat for a purification offering; 83 and for the sacrifice of peace offerings: two bulls, five rams, five male goats, and five lambs in their first year. This was the offering of Ahira son of Enan.

84 This was the dedication for the altar from the leaders of Israel, when it was anointed: twelve silver platters, twelve silver sprinkling bowls, and twelve gold pans. 85 Each silver platter weighed 130 shekels, and each silver sprinkling bowl weighed 70 shekels. All the silver of the vessels weighed 2,400 shekels, according to the sanctuary shekel. 86 The twelve gold pans full of incense weighed 10 shekels each, according to the sanctuary shekel; all the gold of the pans weighed 120 shekels. 87 All the animals for the burnt offering were 12 young bulls, 12 rams, 12 male lambs in their first year, with their grain offering, and 12 male goats for a purification offering. 88 All the animals for the sacrifice for the peace offering were 24 young bulls, 60 rams, 60 male goats, and 60 lambs in their first year. These were the dedication offerings for the altar after it was anointed.

89 Now when Moses went into the tent of meeting to speak with the LORD, he heard the voice speaking to him from above the atonement lid that was on the ark of the testimony, from between the two cherubim. Thus he spoke to him.

This verse reports the fulfillment of the promise made in Ex 25:22: “I will meet with you there, and from above the atonement lid, from between the two cherubim that are over the ark of the testimony, I will speak with you about all that I will command you for the Israelites.”

The regulations for the construction of the so-called mercy seat (kappōreṯ) are found in Exod. 25:17–22. It consisted in a golden slab 2.5 cubits long by 1.5 cubits wide (approximately 44 x 26 in.), placed on top of the ark. This slab formed the base for the two golden cherubim (and was of one piece with them). The cherubim were winged creatures upon whom Yahweh’s throne was conceived to sit.1

Earlier Moses is described as meeting with Yahweh in a tent outside the camp, and the people worshiped God as they observed the cloud descending upon it. The Tent of Meeting had been set up in the tabernacle on the first day of the first month (Exod 40:2-17), but Moses was not able to enter the Tent at that time when the cloud covered the Tent and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle (Exod 40:34-35). But now, with the completion of the tabernacle and the twelve days of consecration, Yahweh meets with Moses in the midst of his people, revealing himself in a new setting.2

Many critical scholars take this passage as an unrelated appendage to the story of the tabernacle consecration. Davies succinctly epitomizes this viewpoint: “This verse is clearly an isolated fragment bearing no obvious connection with what precedes or with what follows.” From a slightly different vantage point, Levine describes the import of this verse as “phenomenological,” designed to bring together two source traditions: (1) to “acknowledge the function of the tabernacle as an oraculum” (Elohist) and (2) cult and sacrificial role of the tent (Priestly).” The sequence of this passage following the tabernacle celebration, however, closely parallels that of Lev 8:1-9:24. After the instructions to offer the same set of sacrifices for priestly ordination–namely sin, burnt, and fellowship–Moses and Aaron entered and exited the Tent of Meeting (9:23); and then the glory of the Lord appeared to the people. Joy and worship ensued. In Num 7:89 divine disclosure followed the bringing of sacrifices. As Harrison summarizes, “The Lord is communicating through Moses to the people and by implication making Himself available to the Israelites when they need an intermediary through whom they can present petitions to him.” Additionally, the following chapter may contain a portion of the word received from the Lord in this setting.3

Bibliography

Ashley, Timothy R. The Book of Numbers. The New International Commentary on the Old Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1993.

Brown, Raymond E., Joseph A. Fitzmyer, and Roland E. Murphy, eds. The New Jerome Biblical Commentary. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1990.

Cole, R. Dennis. Numbers. Kindle Edition. The New American Commentary. Nashville, Tennessee: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2000.

Friedman, Richard Elliott. Commentary on the Torah. First Edition. San Francisco, Calif.: HarperOne, 2001.

Levine, Baruch A. Numbers 1-20. The Anchor Yale Bible. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1993.

Mays, James L., ed. The HarperCollins Bible Commentary. Revised Edition. San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 2000.

Milgrom, Jacob. Numbers. The JPS Torah Commentary. Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1989.

Wenham, Gordon J. Numbers. Kindle Edition. Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries. IVP Academic, 2015.


  1. Ashley 1993, 165 
  2. Cole 2000, Kindle Locations 4182-4186 
  3. Cole 2000, Kindle Locations 4189-4200 
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