New European Commentary


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Deeper Commentary


Num 15:1 Yahweh spoke to Moses, saying,

Num 15:2 Speak to the children of Israel, and tell them, ‘When you have come into the land of your habitations, which I give to you,
Num 15:3 and will make an offering by fire to Yahweh, a burnt offering, or a sacrifice, to accomplish a vow, or as a freewill offering, or in your set feasts, to make a pleasant aroma to Yahweh, of the herd, or of the flock-

“A pleasant aroma” is a very common phrase. This concept is important to God. It first occurs in Gen. 8:21 where it means that God accepted Noah's sacrifice and vowed that the pole of saving mercy in His character was going to triumph over that of necessary judgment. Under the new covenant, it is persons and not sacrifices or incense which are accepted as a "pleasant aroma" (Ez. 20:41). The word for "pleasant" means strong delight; this is how God's heart can be touched by genuine sacrifice. Those pleasing offerings represented us, the living sacrifices (Rom. 12:1). And so it is applied to us in 2 Cor. 2:15- if we are in Christ, we are counted as a pleasant aroma to God. The offering of ourselves to Him is nothing of itself, but because we are in Christ and counted as Him, we are a delight to God. Hence the colossal importance of being “in Christ”. "Aroma" or "smell" is a form of the Hebrew word ruach, the word for spirit or breath. God discerns the spirit of sacrifices, that was what pleased Him rather than the burning flesh of animals. Our attitude of mind in sacrifice can touch Him. Sacrifice is therefore accepted, Paul says, according to what a person has to give, but the essence is the attitude of mind behind it. We think of the two coins sacrificed by the widow.

Num 15:4 then he who offers his offering shall offer to Yahweh a grain offering of a tenth part of an ephah of fine flour mixed with the fourth part of a hin of oil-
This section seems to be reminding Israel of the need not to forget to offer a grain offering at the same time as a major sacrifice; as if to underline that God is magnified in the little things of life, and these shouldn’t be left outside the sphere of His influence just because we consider we have made a major sacrifice to Him.


Num 15:5 and wine for the drink offering, the fourth part of a hin, you shall prepare with the burnt offering, or for the sacrifice, for each lamb.
Num 15:6 Or for a ram, you shall prepare for a grain offering two tenth parts of an ephah of fine flour mixed with the third part of a hin of oil;
Num 15:7 and for the drink offering you shall offer the third part of a hin of wine, for a pleasant aroma to Yahweh.
Num 15:8 When you prepare a bull for a burnt offering, or for a sacrifice, to accomplish a vow, or for peace offerings to Yahweh,
Num 15:9 then shall he offer with the bull a grain offering of three tenth parts of an ephah of fine flour mixed with half a hin of oil;
Num 15:10 and you shall offer for the drink offering half a hin of wine, for an offering made by fire, for a pleasant aroma to Yahweh.
Num 15:11 Thus shall it be done for each bull, or for each ram, or for each of the male lambs, or of the young goats.
Num 15:12 According to the number that you shall prepare, so you shall do to each one according to their number.
Num 15:13 All who are native-born shall do these things in this way, in offering an offering made by fire, for a pleasant aroma to Yahweh.
Num 15:14 If a stranger lives as a foreigner with you, or whoever may be among you throughout your generations, and will offer an offering made by fire, for a pleasant aroma to Yahweh; as you do, so he shall do.
Num 15:15 For the assembly, there shall be one statute for you and for the stranger who lives as a foreigner, a statute forever throughout your generations: as you are, so shall the foreigner be before Yahweh.
Num 15:16 One law and one ordinance shall be for you, and for the stranger who lives as a foreigner with you’.

Num 15:17 Yahweh spoke to Moses, saying-
The Law of Moses, like the whole of God’s word, is studded with incidental reminders that truly we shall enter the promised land.

Num 15:18 Speak to the children of Israel, and tell them, ‘When you come into the land to which I bring you,
Num 15:19 then it shall be that when you eat of the bread of the land, you shall offer up a wave offering to Yahweh.
Num 15:20 Of the first of your dough you shall offer up a cake for a wave offering: as the wave offering of the threshing floor, so you shall heave it.
Num 15:21 Of the first of your dough you shall give to Yahweh a wave offering throughout your generations.

Num 15:22 When you shall err, and not observe all these commandments which Yahweh has spoken to Moses,-
At times Moses lost the sense of his own personality, so strong was his inspiration by God: “All these commandments, which the Lord has spoken unto Moses” (Num. 15:22,23); these words were actually said by Moses (v. 17). Jeremiah spoke “from the mouth of the Lord” and yet the Lord spoke “by the mouth of Jeremiah” (2 Chron. 36:12,22) - this is how close was the relationship between God and the men He spoke through. Their mouth was His mouth.

Num 15:23 even all that Yahweh has commanded you by Moses, from the day that Yahweh gave commandment, and onward throughout your generations;
Num 15:24 then it shall be, if it be done unknowingly, without the knowledge of the congregation, that all the congregation shall offer one young bull for a burnt offering, for a pleasant aroma to Yahweh, with the grain offering of it, and the drink offering of it, according to the ordinance, and one male goat for a sin offering-
Sins of ignorance still required atonement. The passage of time doesn’t work a quasi-atonement for our sins; confession of sin and earnest searching of our lives, both past and present, is one of the disciplines which characterize the spiritually healthy believer. It’s likely we will come to the day of judgment with sins of ignorance still counted to us, and yet we believe God will forgive them- hence we ask to be forgiven for such sins which aren’t perceived by us (Ps. 19:12). This means we will be forgiven without repentance. If we look forward to such forgiveness, we should show it to our brethren today, forgiving without demanding their repentance, hoping that they will later on in their journey perceive things more maturely.

Num 15:25 The priest shall make atonement for all the congregation of the children of Israel, and they shall be forgiven; for it was an error, and they have brought their offering, an offering made by fire to Yahweh, and their sin offering before Yahweh, for their error.
Num 15:26 And all the congregation of the children of Israel shall be forgiven, and the stranger who lives as a foreigner among them; for in respect of all the people it was done unknowingly.
Num 15:27 If one person sins unknowingly, then he shall offer a female goat of a year old for a sin offering.
Num 15:28 The priest shall make atonement for the soul who errs when he sins unknowingly, to make atonement for him before Yahweh; and he shall be forgiven.
Num 15:29 You shall have one law for him who does anything unknowingly, for him who is native-born among the children of Israel, and for the stranger who lives as a foreigner among them’.

Num 15:30 ’But the soul who does anything in presumption, whether he is native-born or a foreigner, the same blasphemes Yahweh; and that soul shall be cut off from among his people-
Num 15:31 Because he has despised the word of Yahweh, and has broken His commandment, that soul shall utterly be cut off; his iniquity shall be on him’-

Being "cut off from Israel" may not mean that the person must be slain. For then the phrase "cut off from the earth" would have been used (as in Prov. 2:22 and often). The idea is that the person who ate leaven (Ex. 12:15) or was not circumcised (Gen. 17:14) was excluded from the community of God's people because they had broken or despised the covenant which made them His people. But there is no record of Israel keeping a list of 'cut off from Israel' Israelites and excluding them from keeping the feasts. So we conclude this means that God would consider such persons as cut off from His people. He would do the cutting off, and not men. In His book, they were "cut off". But there was no legal nor practical mechanism provided to Israel to manage the 'cutting off from Israel' of those who despised the covenant. The cutting off was done in God's eyes, in Heaven's record, and the Israelites were intended to continue to fellowship with such persons at the feasts. This is a strong argument for an open table, and for not seeking to make church excommunication the equivalent of this cutting off of the disobedient from the people of Israel. This explains why being "cut off from Israel" is the punishment stated for doing things which man could not see and judge- secretly breaking the Sabbath (Ex. 31:14), eating peace offerings whilst being unclean (Lev. 7:20- for how were others to know whether someone had touched the unclean, or was experiencing an unclean bodily emission), eating meat with blood still in it (Lev. 17:10,14), not adequately humbling the soul (Lev. 23:29), not keeping Passover (Num. 9:13), being presumptuous (Num. 15:30,31- only God can judge that), not washing after touching a dead body (Num. 19:13,20). This is why Lev. 20:6 makes it explicit that "I [Yahweh personally] will set My face against that person, and will cut him off from among his people". It is Yahweh who does the cutting off and not men (also 1 Sam. 2:33).

"Despised the word" is the term used about David’s sin with Bathsheba (2 Sam. 12:9,10). But God’s grace is such that even in this case, when David deserved to die for knowingly doing wrong, still a way was found for David to live. We are all in essence in the same situation, for our sins are often knowingly done.

Num 15:32 While the children of Israel were in the wilderness, they found a man gathering sticks on the Sabbath day.
Num 15:33 Those who found him gathering sticks brought him to Moses and Aaron, and to all the congregation.
Num 15:34 They put him in custody, because it had not been declared what should be done to him.
Num 15:35 Yahweh said to Moses, The man shall surely be put to death. All the congregation shall stone him with stones outside the camp-
Heb. 13:12 stresses that the Lord Jesus died in the same place, outside the camp of God’s people. Although Jesus never sinned, in His time of dying He so closely identified with condemned sinners that even in our moments of sin He can still identify with us (Gal. 3:13).

Num 15:36 All the congregation brought him outside of the camp, and stoned him to death with stones, as Yahweh commanded Moses.

Num 15:37 Yahweh spoke to Moses, saying,
Num 15:38 Speak to the children of Israel, and tell them that they should make themselves fringes in the borders of their garments throughout their generations, and that they put on the fringe of each border a cord of blue-
People touched the hem of Jesus’ garment, the fringes mentioned here, in search of healing (Mt. 9:20; 14:36). By doing so, they were recognizing that their healing was possible because of His righteous obedience to the Father’s commandments. His power to heal has a basis- not merely that He is powerful of Himself, but because of His moral obedience.

Num 15:39 and it shall be to you for a fringe, that you may look on it, and remember all the commandments of Yahweh, and do them; and that you do not follow after your own heart and your own eyes, after which you use to play the prostitute;
Num 15:40 that you may remember and do all My commandments, and be holy to your God.
Num 15:41 I am Yahweh your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, to be your God. I am Yahweh your God.