Commentary on Numbers 15:1-16

Notes (NET Translation)

1 The LORD spoke to Moses:

2 “Speak to the Israelites and tell them, ‘When you enter the land where you are to live, which I am giving you, 3 and you make an offering by fire to the LORD from the herd or from the flock (whether a burnt offering or a sacrifice for discharging a vow or as a freewill offering or in your solemn feasts) to create a pleasing aroma to the LORD, 4 then the one who presents his offering to the LORD must bring a grain offering of one-tenth of an ephah of finely ground flour mixed with one fourth of a hin of olive oil. 5 You must also prepare one-fourth of a hin of wine for a drink offering with the burnt offering or the sacrifice for each lamb.

After the spy story brings the future of the people into doubt, v 2 reasserts that God will bring his people into the promised land. The sacrificial system provides a means of reconciling the Israelites to God. The phrase “a pleasing aroma to the LORD” means the particular sacrifice is acceptable to and efficacious with Yahweh. Every offering by fire (v 3) must be accompanied by a grain offering (v 4) and a drink offering (v 5).

Though cereal offerings are mentioned in Leviticus as accompaniments of animal sacrifice (cf. chs. 8-9, 14), and a libation of wine is specified in the Nazirite law (Num. 6:15ff.), this is the first time that it has been made clear that they must accompany every burnt offering and peace offering.1

The theological purpose of these additional offerings is not clear. In so far as they cover the main agricultural products of Canaan, it may be that they are intended to symbolize every aspect of life. The worshipper must symbolically offer his whole life and work to God.2

6 Or for a ram, you must prepare as a grain offering two-tenths of an ephah of finely ground flour mixed with one-third of a hin of olive oil, 7 and for a drink offering you must offer one-third of a hin of wine as a pleasing aroma to the LORD.

The larger the animal, the larger the grain and drink offerings that accompanied it.

8 And when you prepare a young bull as a burnt offering or a sacrifice for discharging a vow or as a peace offering to the LORD, 9 then a grain offering of three-tenths of an ephah of finely ground flour mixed with half a hin of olive oil must be presented with the young bull, 10 and you must present as the drink offering half a hin of wine with the fire offering as a pleasing aroma to the LORD.

11 This is what is to be done for each ox, or each ram, or each of the male lambs or the goats. 12 You must do so for each one according to the number that you prepare.

The amounts for each offering are given on a per animal basis.

13 “‘Every native-born person must do these things in this way to present an offering made by fire as a pleasing aroma to the LORD. 14 If a resident foreigner is living with you — or whoever is among you in future generations — and prepares an offering made by fire as a pleasing aroma to the LORD, he must do it the same way you are to do it. 15 One statute must apply to you who belong to the congregation and to the resident foreigner who is living among you, as a permanent statute for your future generations. You and the resident foreigner will be alike before the LORD. 16 One law and one custom must apply to you and to the resident foreigner who lives alongside you.'”

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. Wenham 2015, Kindle Locations 2229-2231 
  2. Wenham 2015, Kindle Locations 2248-2250 
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