Reading 44/341, Numbers 19-21

[A] Moses and Aaron are punished today. Whether it was because of the words Moses spoke or because he hit the rock twice instead of once is not clear, probably both. Their punishment is to die before entering the Promised Land. Aaron dies today, Moses will die at the border and never enter.
[B] The bronze serpent is a type of Jesus. Just as looking at the serpent cured the illness caused by serpents, so when we look upon the death of Jesus on the Cross, it cures death. This bronze serpent is why a serpent on a pole is a symbol of medicine. For more on this, see today's homily.
[C] Israel wins two major battles today and begins to live in the cities of the people whom they killed, yet they are still wandering in the wilderness because they have not entered the Promised Land.
[D] Remember that Edom is another name for Esau, so the people of Edom are the descendants of Esau, the brother of Jacob, who was renamed Israel. This is why, even though Edom will not welcome them, they do not destroy them. The relationship between Israel and Edom will always be complicated. In 1400 years, an Edomite will become king of Israel: King Herod.

...Numbers...

The Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron, saying, “This is the statute of the law which the Lord has commanded, saying, ‘Tell the children of Israel to bring you a red heifer without spot, which has no blemish, and on which there has never been a yoke. You shall give her to Eleazar the priest, and he shall bring her forth outside of the camp, and someone shall kill her before his face, and Eleazar the priest shall take some of her blood with his finger, and sprinkle her blood toward the front of the tent of meeting seven times. Someone shall burn the heifer in his sight; her skin, and her flesh, and her blood, with her dung, shall he burn, and the priest shall take cedar wood, and hyssop, and scarlet, and cast it into the midst of the burning of the heifer. Then the priest shall wash his clothes, and he shall bathe his flesh in water, and afterward he shall come into the camp, and the priest shall be unclean until the evening. He who burns her shall wash his clothes in water, and bathe his flesh in water, and shall be unclean until the evening. A man who is clean shall gather up the ashes of the heifer, and put them outside of the camp in a clean place, and it shall be kept for the congregation of the children of Israel for a water for impurity, it is a sin offering. He who gathers the ashes of the heifer shall wash his clothes, and be unclean until the evening, and it shall be to the children of Israel, and to the stranger who lives as a foreigner among them, a statute forever.

He who touches the dead body of any human shall be unclean seven days, the same shall purify himself therewith on the third day, and on the seventh day he shall be clean, but if he does not purify himself the third day, then the seventh day he shall not be clean. Whoever touches a dead person, the body of a man who has died, and does not purify himself, defiles the tent of the Lord, and that soul shall be cut off from Israel, because the water for impurity was not sprinkled on him, he shall be unclean; his uncleanness is yet on him. This is the law when a human dies in a tent, everyone who comes into the tent, and everyone who is in the tent, shall be unclean seven days. Every open vessel, which has no covering bound on it, is unclean. Whoever in the open field touches one who is slain with a sword, or a dead body, or the bone of a man, or a grave, shall be unclean seven days. For the unclean they shall take of the ashes of the burning of the sin offering, and running water shall be added in a vessel, and a clean person shall take hyssop, and dip it in the water, and sprinkle it on the tent, and on all the vessels, and on the people who were there, and on him who touched the bone, or the slain, or the dead, or the grave, and the clean person shall sprinkle it on the unclean on the third day and on the seventh day. Thus on the seventh day he shall purify him, and he shall wash his clothes, and bathe himself in water, and shall be clean at evening. But the man who is unclean and does not purify himself, that soul shall be cut off from the midst of the assembly, because he has defiled the sanctuary of the Lord, the water for impurity has not been sprinkled on him: he is unclean. It shall be a perpetual statute to them, and he who sprinkles the water for impurity shall wash his clothes, and he who touches the water for impurity shall be unclean until evening. Whatever the unclean person touches shall be unclean, and the soul that touches it shall be unclean until evening.’”

The children of Israel, the whole congregation, came into the desert of Zin in the first month, and the people dwelt in Kadesh, and Miriam died there and was buried there. There was no water for the congregation, and they assembled themselves together against Moses and Aaron. The people strove with Moses, and spoke, saying, “Would that we had died when our brothers died before the Lord! Why have you brought the assembly of the Lord into this desert, that we should die here, we and our animals? Why have you made us to come up out of Egypt, to bring us in to this evil place? It is no place of seed, or of figs, or of vines, or of pomegranates; nor is there any water to drink. Moses and Aaron went from the presence of the assembly to the entrance of the tent of meeting, and fell on their faces, and the glory of the Lord appeared to them. The Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Take the rod, and assemble the congregation, you, and Aaron your brother, and speak you to the rock before their eyes, that it give forth its water, and you shall bring forth for them water out of the rock; so you shall give the congregation and their livestock water to drink.” Moses took the rod from before the Lord, as he commanded him. Moses and Aaron gathered the assembly together before the rock, and he said to them, “Hear now, you rebels; shall we bring you forth water out of this rock?” Moses lifted up his hand, and struck the rock with his rod twice, and water came forth abundantly, and the congregation drank, and their livestock. The Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “Because you did not believe in me, to sanctify me in the eyes of the children of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land which I have given them.” These are the waters of Meribah, because the children of Israel strove with the Lord, and he was sanctified among them.

Moses sent messengers from Kadesh to the king of Edom, “Thus says your brother Israel, ‘You know all the travail that has happened to us, how our fathers went down into Egypt, and we lived in Egypt a long time, and the Egyptians dealt ill with us, and our fathers, and when we cried to the Lord, he heard our voice, and sent an angel, and brought us forth out of Egypt, and behold, we are in Kadesh, a city on the edge of your border. Please let us pass through your land. We will not pass through field or through vineyard, nor will we drink of the water of the wells. We will go along the king's highway. We will not turn aside to the right hand nor to the left, until we have passed your border.’” Edom said to him, “You shall not pass through me, lest I come out with the sword against you.” The children of Israel said to him, “We will go up by the highway, and if we drink of your water, I and my livestock, then I will give the price of it, let me just, without doing anything else, pass through on my feet.” He said, “You shall not pass through.” Edom came out against him with many people, and with a strong hand. Thus Edom refused to give Israel passage through his border, and Israel turned away from him.

They traveled from Kadesh, and the children of Israel, the whole congregation, came to Mount Hor. The Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron on Mount Hor, by the border of the land of Edom, saying, “Aaron shall be gathered to his people, for he shall not enter into the land which I have given to the children of Israel, because you rebelled against my word at the waters of Meribah. Take Aaron and Eleazar his son, and bring them up to Mount Hor, and strip Aaron of his garments, and put them on Eleazar his son, and Aaron shall be gathered to his people and shall die there.” Moses did as the Lord commanded, and they went up onto Mount Hor in the sight of all the congregation. Moses stripped Aaron of his garments, and put them on Eleazar his son, and Aaron died there on top of the mountain, and Moses and Eleazar came down from the mountain. When all the congregation saw that Aaron was dead, they wept for Aaron thirty days, all the house of Israel. The Canaanite, the king of Arad, who lived in the South, heard that Israel came by the way of Atharim, and he fought against Israel, and took some of them captive. Israel vowed a vow to the Lord, and said, “If you will indeed deliver this people into my hand, then I will utterly destroy their cities.” The Lord listened to the voice of Israel, and delivered up the Canaanites, and they utterly destroyed them and their cities, and the name of the place was called Hormah.

They traveled from Mount Hor by the way to the Red Sea, to go around the land of Edom, and the soul of the people was greatly discouraged because of the way. The people spoke against God, and against Moses, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the desert? For there is no bread, and there is no water, and our soul loathes this worthless food.” The Lord sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people, and many people of Israel died. The people came to Moses, and said, “We have sinned, because we have spoken against the Lord, and against you; pray to the Lord, that he will take away the serpents from us.” Moses prayed for the people. The Lord said to Moses, “Make a fiery serpent, and set it on a pole, and it shall happen, that everyone who is bitten, when he sees it, shall live.” Moses made a serpent of bronze, and set it on the standard, and it happened, that if a serpent had bitten any man, when he looked at the serpent of bronze, he lived.

The children of Israel traveled, and encamped in Oboth. They traveled from Oboth, and encamped at Iye-abarim, in the desert which is before Moab, toward the sunrise. From there they traveled, and encamped in the valley of Zered. From there they traveled, and encamped on the other side of the Arnon, which is in the desert, that comes out of the border of the Amorites, for the Arnon is the border of Moab, between Moab and the Amorites. Therefore it is said in the book of the Wars of the Lord, “Vaheb in Suphah, the valleys of the Arnon, the slope of the valleys that incline toward the dwelling of Ar, leans on the border of Moab.” From there they traveled to Beer, that is the well of which the Lord said to Moses, “Gather the people together, and I will give them water.” Then Israel sang this song: “Spring up, O Well; sing to it, The Well, which the princes dug, which the nobles of the people dug, with the scepter, and with their poles.” From the desert they traveled to Mattanah, and from Mattanah to Nahaliel, and from Nahaliel to Bamoth, and from Bamoth to the valley that is in the field of Moab, to the top of Pisgah, which looks down on the desert.

Israel sent messengers to Sihon king of the Amorites, saying, “Let me pass through your land, we will not turn aside into field, or into vineyard; we will not drink of the water of the wells, we will go by the king's highway, until we have passed your border.” Sihon would not allow Israel to pass through his border, but Sihon gathered all his people together, and went out against Israel in the desert, and came to Jahaz, and he fought against Israel. Israel struck him with the edge of the sword, and possessed his land from the Arnon to the Jabbok, to the children of Ammon; for the border of the children of Ammon was strong. Israel took all these cities, and Israel lived in all the cities of the Amorites, in Heshbon, and in all the towns of it. For Heshbon was the city of Sihon the king of the Amorites, who had fought against the former king of Moab, and taken all his land out of his hand, to the Arnon. Therefore the ballad singers say, “Come to Heshbon. Let the city of Sihon be built and established; for a fire has gone out of Heshbon, a flame from the city of Sihon. It has devoured Ar of Moab, The lords of the high places of the Arnon. Woe to you, Moab! You are undone, people of Chemosh! He has given his sons as fugitives, and his daughters into captivity, to Sihon king of the Amorites. We have shot at them. Heshbon has perished to Dibon. We have laid waste to Nophah, Which reaches to Medeba.” Thus Israel lived in the land of the Amorites. Moses sent to spy out Jazer, and they took the towns of it, and drove out the Amorites who were there. They turned and went up by the way of Bashan, and Og the king of Bashan went out against them, he and all his people, to battle at Edrei. The Lord said to Moses, “Do not fear him, for I have delivered him into your hand, and all his people, and his land, and you shall do to him as you did to Sihon king of the Amorites, who lived at Heshbon.” So they struck him, and his sons and all his people, until there was no one remaining, and they possessed his land.

Reading 43/341, Numbers 16-18

Having promised to kill off all the people of Israel older than 20 years old at the time that the people rejected the Promised Land, God kills some of them sooner and more violently than others. The people rebel today as Moses turns away from the land they rejected and begins to wander in the desert for 40 years.

...Numbers...

Now Korah, the son of Izhar, the son of Kohath, the son of Levi, with Dathan and Abiram, the sons of Eliab, and On, the son of Peleth, sons of Reuben, took men, and they rose up before Moses, with certain of the children of Israel, two hundred fifty princes of the congregation, chosen from the assembly, men of renown, and they assembled themselves together against Moses and against Aaron, and said to them, “You have gone too far! All in the congregation are holy, every one of them, and the Lord is among them. Why then lift yourselves up above the assembly of the Lord?” When Moses heard it, he fell on his face, and he spoke to Korah and to all his company, saying, “In the morning the Lord will show who are his, and who is holy, and will allow him to come near: him whom he shall choose he will allow to come near to him. Do this, take thuribles, Korah and all his company, and put fire in them, and put incense on them before the Lord tomorrow, and it shall be that the man whom the Lord chooses shall be holy. You have gone too far, you sons of Levi!” Moses said to Korah, “Hear now, you sons of Levi, Does it seem but a small thing to you, that the God of Israel has separated you from the congregation of Israel, to bring you near to himself, to do the service of the tent of the Lord, and to stand before the congregation to minister to them, and that he has brought you near, and all your brothers, the sons of Levi with you? Do you seek the priesthood also? Therefore you and all your company are gathered together against the Lord. What is Aaron that you murmur against him?”

Moses sent and called Dathan and Abiram, the sons of Eliab, and they said, “We will not come up. Is it a small thing that you have brought us up out of a land flowing with milk and honey, to kill us in the desert, but you need to make yourself also a prince over us? Moreover you have not brought us into a land flowing with milk and honey, nor given us inheritance of fields and vineyards. Will you put out the eyes of these men? We will not come up.” Moses was very angry, and said to the Lord, “Do not respect their offering, I have not taken one donkey from them, nor have I hurt one of them.” Moses said to Korah, “You and all your company go before the Lord, you, and they, and Aaron, tomorrow, and every man will take his thurible, and put incense on them. Let every man bring before the Lord a thurible, two hundred fifty thuribles; you also, and Aaron, each with his thurible. Every man took his thurible, and put fire in them, and laid incense thereon, and stood at the entrance to the tent of meeting with Moses and Aaron. Korah assembled all the congregation against them at the entrance to the tent of meeting, and the glory of the Lord appeared to all the congregation.

The Lord spoke to Moses and to Aaron, saying, “Separate yourselves from among this congregation, that I may consume them in a moment.” They fell on their faces, and said, “God, the God of the spirits of all flesh, shall one man sin, and will you be angry with all the congregation?” The Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the congregation, saying, ‘Get away from around the tent of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram.’” Moses rose up and went to Dathan and Abiram, and the elders of Israel followed him. He spoke to the congregation, saying, “Depart, I pray you, from the tents of these wicked men, and touch nothing of theirs, lest you be consumed in all their sins.” So they got up from the tent of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram, on every side, and Dathan and Abiram came out, and stood at the door of their tents, and their wives, and their sons, and their little ones. Moses said, “Hereby you shall know that the Lord has sent me to do all these works; for I have not done them of my own mind. If these men die the common death of all men, or if they be visited after the visitation of all men; then the Lord has not sent me. But if the Lord make a new thing, and the ground open its mouth, and swallows them up, with all that belongs to them, and they go down alive into Sheol, then you shall understand that these men have despised the Lord.” It happened, as he made an end of speaking all these words, that the ground split apart under them, and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them up, and their households, and all the men who belonged to Korah and all their goods. So they, and all that belonged to them, went down alive into Sheol, and the earth closed on them, and they perished from among the assembly. All Israel that were round about them fled at their cry; for they said, “Lest the earth swallow us up.” Fire came forth from the Lord, and devoured the two hundred fifty men who offered the incense. The Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to Eleazar the son of Aaron the priest, that he take the thuribles out of the burning, and scatter the fire yonder, for they are holy. The thuribles of these sinners against their own lives: let them be made into beaten plates for a covering of the altar, for they offered them before the Lord, therefore they are holy, and they shall be a sign to the children of Israel. Eleazar the priest took the bronze thuribles, which those who were burnt had offered, and they beat them out for a covering of the altar, to be a memorial to the children of Israel, to the end that no stranger, who is not of the seed of Aaron, comes near to burn incense before the Lord, lest he be as Korah and as his company. He did as the Lord told him through Moses.

But on the next day all the congregation of the children of Israel murmured against Moses and against Aaron, saying, “You have killed the people of the Lord.” It happened, when the congregation was assembled against Moses and against Aaron, that they looked toward the tent of meeting, and behold, the cloud covered it, and the glory of the Lord appeared. Moses and Aaron came to the front of the tent of meeting. The Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Get away from among this congregation, that I may consume them in a moment.” They fell on their faces. Moses said to Aaron, “Take your thurible, and put fire in it from off the altar, and lay incense on it, and carry it quickly to the congregation, and make atonement for them, for there is wrath gone out from the Lord: the disease has begun.” Aaron took as Moses spoke, and ran into the midst of the assembly, and behold, the disease had begun among the people, and he put on the incense, and made atonement for the people. He stood between the dead and the living, and the disease was stopped. Now those who died by the disease were fourteen thousand and seven hundred, besides those who died in the matter of Korah. Aaron returned to Moses to the entrance to the tent of meeting, and the disease was stopped.

The Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the children of Israel, and take from them rods, one for each house of the fathers, of all their princes according to their fathers' houses, twelve rods. Write every man's name on his rod. You shall write Aaron's name on the rod of Levi, for there shall be one rod for each head of their fathers' house. You shall lay them up in the tent of meeting before the covenant, where I meet with you. It shall happen, that the rod of the man whom I shall choose shall bud, and I will make to cease from me the murmurings of the children of Israel, which they murmur against you.” Moses spoke to the children of Israel, and all their princes gave him rods, one for each prince, according to their fathers' houses, twelve rods, and the rod of Aaron was among their rods. Moses laid up the rods before the Lord in the tent of the covenant. It happened on the next day, that Moses went into the tent of the covenant, and behold, the rod of Aaron for the house of Levi had budded, put forth buds and produced blossoms, and bore ripe almonds. Moses brought out all the rods from before the Lord to all the children of Israel, and they looked, and every man took his rod. The Lord said to Moses, “Put back the rod of Aaron before the covenant, to be kept for a token against the children of rebellion, that you may make an end of their murmurings against me, that they not die.” Thus did Moses, as the Lord commanded him, so he did.

The children of Israel spoke to Moses, saying, “Behold, we perish, we are undone, we are all undone. Everyone who comes near, who comes near to the tent of the Lord, dies, shall we perish, all of us?” The Lord said to Aaron, “You and your sons and your fathers' house with you shall bear the iniquity of the sanctuary, and you and your sons with you shall bear the iniquity of your priesthood. Your brothers also, the tribe of Levi, the tribe of your father, bring near with you, that they may be joined to you, and minister to you, but you and your sons with you shall be before the tent of the covenant. They shall keep your charge, and the charge of all the Tent, only they shall not come near to the vessels of the sanctuary and to the altar, lest they die, they and you. They shall be joined to you and keep the charge of the tent of meeting, for all the service of the Tent, and a stranger shall not come near to you. You shall keep the charge of the sanctuary, and the charge of the altar; that there be wrath no more on the children of Israel. I, behold, I have taken your brothers the Levites from among the children of Israel, to you they are a gift, given to the Lord, to do the service of the tent of meeting. You and your sons with you shall guard your priesthood as concerns everything of the altar and that within the veil, and you shall serve: I give you the priesthood as a service of gift, and the stranger who comes near shall be put to death.”

The Lord spoke to Aaron, “I, behold, I have given you the charge of my wave offerings, all the holy things of the children of Israel. To you have I given them by reason of the anointing, and to your sons, as a portion forever. This shall be yours of the Most Holy things, reserved from the fire, every offering of theirs, every grain offering of theirs, and every sin offering of theirs, and every guilt offering of theirs, which they shall render to me, shall be Most Holy for you and for your sons. As the Most Holy things shall you eat of it; every male shall eat of it, it shall be holy to you. This is yours, the wave offering of their gift, all the wave offerings of the children of Israel; I have given them to you, and to your sons and to your daughters with you, as a portion forever; everyone who is clean in your house shall eat of it. All the best of the oil, and all the best of the vintage, and of the grain, their first fruits which they give to the Lord, to you have I given them. The first-ripe fruits of all that is in their land, which they bring to the Lord, shall be yours; everyone who is clean in your house shall eat of it. Everything devoted in Israel shall be yours. Everything that opens the womb, of all flesh which they offer to the Lord, both of man and animal shall be yours, nevertheless the firstborn of man you shall surely redeem, and the firstborn of unclean animals you shall redeem. You shall redeem those who are to be redeemed of them from a month old, according to your estimation, for the money of five shekels, after the shekel of the sanctuary (this is twenty gerahs). But the firstborn of a cow, or the firstborn of a sheep, or the firstborn of a goat, you shall not redeem; they are holy, you shall sprinkle their blood on the altar, and shall burn their fat for an offering made by fire, for a sweet savor to the Lord. The flesh of them shall be yours, as the wave offering breast and as the right thigh, it shall be yours. All the wave offerings of the holy things, which the children of Israel offer to the Lord, have I given you, and your sons and your daughters with you, as a portion forever, it is a covenant of salt forever before the Lord to you and to your seed with you.”

The Lord said to Aaron, “You shall have no inheritance in their land, nor shall you have any portion among them, I am your portion and your inheritance among the children of Israel. To the children of Levi, behold, I have given all the tithe in Israel for an inheritance, in return for their service which they serve, the service of the tent of meeting. Henceforth the children of Israel shall not come near the tent of meeting, lest they bear sin, and die. But the Levites shall do the service of the tent of meeting, and they shall bear their iniquity, it shall be a statute forever throughout your generations, and among the children of Israel they shall have no inheritance. For the tithe of the children of Israel, which they offer as a wave offering to the Lord, I have given to the Levites for an inheritance, therefore I have said to them, Among the children of Israel they shall have no inheritance.” The Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Moreover you shall speak to the Levites, and tell them, ‘When you take of the children of Israel the tithe which I have given you from them for your inheritance, then you shall offer up a wave offering of it for the Lord, a tithe of the tithe. Your wave offering shall be reckoned to you, as though it were the grain of the threshing floor, and as the fullness of the winepress. Thus you also shall offer a wave offering to the Lord of all your tithes, which you receive of the children of Israel, and of it you shall give the Lord's wave offering to Aaron the priest. Out of all your gifts you shall offer every wave offering of the Lord, of all the best of it, the holy part of it.’ Therefore you shall tell them, ‘When you have offered the best of it, then it shall be reckoned to the Levites as the profit of the threshing floor, and as the profit of the winepress. You shall eat it in every place, you and your households, for it is your reward in return for your service in the tent of meeting. You shall bear no sin by reason of it, when you have gifted from it the best of it, and you shall not profane the holy things of the children of Israel, lest you die.’”