Jan 1 – Our Lord Jesus Christ
The Priestly Benediction
Background: The book of Numbers is the fourth book of the Pentateuch and focuses on the life of the Israelites in the wilderness. The book is filled with lists, commands, and stories of the life of Israel during their 40-year trek to the Promise Land. This text is forward looking as opposed to looking at history – the preparation for entrance into the Promise Land is the focus of this text.
Theme: This portion of Numbers lies at the end of a section devoted to establishing the holiness of the people of Israel. Most recently, God has given the Nazarite vow to the people defining the proper and holy relationship between the priestly class and the God.
Questions to Ponder:
* Read Numbers 6:22-27.
* Briefly describe the political, social, and religious situation in Israel for this passage.
* What do you think is the context for God giving this blessing to the Israelites? Why might this passage fall at the end of the section that defines the Nazarite vow and how Israel’s leaders are supposed to be holy and faithful to God?
* The text of the blessing, verses 24-26, has a definitive pattern. The first line is composed of 3 Hebrew words, the second has 5 Hebrew words, and the last has 7 Hebrew words. Additionally, the explicit subject of all three lines is God. How might these facts shape your understanding of the text? How might these facts help the Israelites it was written for comprehend and retain the text?
* In the first line the Lord promises to “bless and keep” the Israelites. What do those two terms mean to you? How might your understanding of those words be different than for the Israelites?
* In the second line the Lord promises to “make his face shine” on the Israelites. What do you think God is promising with having his face shine on the people? Who might God’s shining face bring Israel grace and deliverance from their oppression?
* The last line of the blessing, verse 26, moves from the general blessing promised in verse 24 to a more specific blessing. What do you think it means for God to promise the blessing of “shalom” (wholeness) to the Israelites?
* What do you think it means when God says that “they shall put my name on the Israelites…”? What might naming signify for the Israelites and ultimately for all God’s people?
* Given the context of this passage: the Israelites in the wilderness, essentially to have the present generation pass away so a new generation can enter the Promise Land and receive God’s bounty; the call by God for the people to be holy; and the direct action promised by God for his people. Why do you think this passage is one of the best known and probably the earliest piece of recorded scripture in the Bible?
* What is the message of this passage for our coming generation?