Study Notes

Numbers 35:1-36:13

35:1-8 Cities For The Levites

Each of the tribes would receive their inheritance, their portion, of land. Reuben, Gad, and the half tribe of Manasseh opted to take the land east of the Jordan rather than enter into the inheritance that God had prepared for them.

But remember that the Levites were not getting an inheritance in the land. They would receive the tithe of the Israelites as their inheritance.

Num. 18:21 "And to the sons of Levi, behold, I have given all the tithe in Israel for an inheritance, in return for their service which they perform, the service of the tent of meeting.

But they still needed a place to live, so the Lord tells Moses that each of the tribes are to give cities to the Levites, as well as pastureland around those cities.

This concept of the people providing physically to those who minister spiritually carries through to this day.

1Cor. 9:13-14 Do you not know that those who perform sacred services eat the {food} of the temple, {and} those who attend regularly to the altar have their share with the altar? So also the Lord directed those who proclaim the gospel to get their living from the gospel.

Just as ministers are provided for by their church congregations, the Levites will receive 48 cities in total, which we will see happen in Joshua 21.

In Proportion To His Possession

The tribes were not to divide the 48-city requirement among themselves equally, but proportionally. This principle also carries through to this day. Paul wrote regarding financial giving,

2Cor. 8:12 For if the readiness is present, it is acceptable according to what a man has, not according to what he does not have.

We read of how Jesus observed people giving.

Mark 12:41-44 And He sat down opposite the treasury, and {began} observing how the multitude were putting money into the treasury; and many rich people were putting in large sums. And a poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which amount to a cent. And calling His disciples to Him, He said to them, "Truly I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all the contributors to the treasury; for they all put in out of their surplus, but she, out of her poverty, put in all she owned, all she had to live on."

It wasn't how much she gave, but how she gave. Those with much should give much. Those with little need not give as much.

35:9-28 Cities Of Refuge

In that culture, when someone in your family was killed, you were obligated by honor to track the killer down and kill him. Here God is offering refuge to people in the instance of an unintentional death, what we call manslaughter.

There were to be six cities: three east of the Jordan, three to the west. If a man accidentally killed someone, he was to flee to one of these cities, where his case would be heard. If the congregation judged that it was not an accident, but intentional murder, the blood avenger would put him to death. If they did decide that it was in fact an accident, he would be allowed to live in the city of refuge until the death of the high priest.

If before the death of the high priest, he went beyond the border of the city of refuge, the blood avenger would be allowed to kill the person without guilt.

In these cities, we have a picture of Jesus Christ. First of all, our sin has a death penalty tacked to it.

Rom. 6:23 For the wages of sin is death...

The blood avenger, the devil, is after us, accusing us, wanting to kill us.

1Pet. 5:8 ...Your adversary, the devil, prowls about like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.

But we can run to Jesus to take refuge. Jesus is exemplified by these cities. There were to be six of them. Six is the number of man, which Jesus had to become to die for our sins. The names of the cities were KEH-desh, Shek-EM, Kheb-RONE, BEH-tser, Raw-MOTH, and Go-LAWN. Each of these names points to Christ.

KEH-desh means "holy place."

Hebr. 10:19 ...Brethren, we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus,

Shek-EM means "shoulder."

Isa. 9:6 For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; And the government will rest on His shoulders; And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.

Kheb-RON means "fellowship."

1Cor. 1:9 God is faithful, through whom you were called into fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

BEH-tser means "fortress."

Ps. 18:2 The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, My God, my rock, in whom I take refuge...

Raw-MOTH means "exaltation."

Acts 5:31 "He is the one whom God exalted to His right hand as a Prince and a Savior, to grant repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins.

Go-LAWN means "their rejoicing."

Ps. 5:11 But let all who take refuge in Thee be glad, Let them ever sing for joy; And mayest Thou shelter them, That those who love Thy name may exult in Thee.

Finally, the one who sought refuge was to stay in that place until the death of the high priest. For us, we will never leave, because our high priest will never die.


Jesus is the fulfillment of the cities of refuge.

Matt. 5:17 "Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish, but to fulfill.

In Christ, these things are complete.

35:29-34 Dealing With Murderers

The cities of refuge were for those who had killed unintentionally. But for premeditated first degree murder, there was no such refuge - they were to be killed as they had killed.

God instituted capital punishment back in Genesis 9, when He told Noah,

Gen. 9:6 "Whoever sheds man's blood, By man his blood shall be shed, For in the image of God He made man.

This was repeated in the law many times. There was not to be any buying your way out, or paying your debt with time. It was to be life for life. This is not a cultural thing, something that applied then but doesn't now. God said,

Num. 35:33 "...Blood pollutes the land and no expiation can be made for the land for the blood that is shed on it, except by the blood of him who shed it."

Blood that is shed by murder pollutes the land in the eyes of God, and nothing could make amends except for the shedding of the murderer's blood. Remember after Cain killed his brother Abel, the Lord told Cain,

Gen. 4:10-11 ..."What have you done? The voice of your brother's blood is crying to Me from the ground. And now you are cursed from the ground, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother's blood from your hand."

The land on which blood is shed is cursed if the death penalty is not instituted. Is it any wonder that our country is in such dire straights today?

36:1-4 Zelophehad's Daughters Again

You recall from chapter 27 that the five daughters of Tsel-of-CHAWD asked that their father's inheritance be given to them, insuring that the land would stay in the family, even though Tsel-of-CHAWD had no sons.

God had said, "Yes, they're right, if there are no sons, then daughters should be allowed to inherit their father's land."

But now some guys from the tribe of Manesseh come to Moses regarding this command, saying, "If these gals marry outside of the tribe is Israel, then on the next year of jubilee, the land would become the inheritance of the tribe they married into. This isn't fair."

36:5-9 The Command Of Marriage

God agreed that this would be wrong, so He issues this commandment:

Num. 36:6 ..."Let them marry whom they wish; only they must marry within the family of the tribe of their father."

The daughters of Tsel-of-CHAWD, as well as any daughter that inherits land from her father because he has no sons, must marry within their own tribe to avoid this legal problem.

This has spiritual implications today as well. Although we do not belong to tribes per se, God has divided all human beings into two camps: believers and unbelievers. And the law we are to obey today is written in 2Corinthians:

2Cor. 6:14-15 Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness? Or what harmony has Christ with Belial, or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever?

We are not to marry outside of our tribe, our distinction, for, like in the days of the daughters of Tsel-of-CHAWD, it creates terrible problems.

36:10-13 Obedience To The Command

Although we've seen much disobedience to God throughout the book of Numbers, it is good to see that the book ends with the obedience of these five women to the Lord's commandment.

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