BSF Study Questions The Life of Moses Lesson 23, Day 5: Numbers 21:10-35

Summary of passage:  We follow the Israelites on their journey to the Promised Land.  They reached the land of the Amorites and their king, Sihon, would not let Israel pass through.  They fought and Israel occupied the land of the Amorites.  Another king, Og, marched out against the Israelites as well but God said to Moses do not be afraid for I have already handed them over to you.  So the Israelites conquered them and took their land as well.


9a)  The Israelites turned away from the Edomites.  Here, Israel chose to fight and they were victorious.

[In Deuteronomy 2:30 we discover another reason for the engagement:  The Lord made Sihon’s spirit stubborn and his heart obstinate.  We also see in Deuteronomy 2 that God told the Israelites to engage Sihon in battle in order for other nations to begin to fear you and tremble before you.  God wanted the Israelites to possess the land and plunder the town.]

b)  It gave them a place to stay and rest on their way to the Promised Land.  The news of the defeat of the Amorites would spread to other nations and they would begin to fear the Israelites.  And it boosted their morale–what the Israelites desperately needed.  It also was a useful distraction that would leave them no time to grumble.

9c)  Personal Question.  My answer:  I haven’t had a spiritual victory in my life this week.

10a)  They may not have wanted 2 million people traipsing through their backyards.  They may be warring peoples who saw an opportunity to take riches and slaves from the Israelites.  They may have been afraid of being conquered so they struck first.  And in Deuteronomy 2 we see God’s hand as he hardened the heart of Sihon in order to hand him over to Israel.  Hence, God was the one deciding who Israel would fight and not fight.

b)  In my humble opinion, this is an extrapolation that does not make much sense especially in light of Deuteronomy 2 where we see God’s hand in these wars.  Comparing 2 million refugees if you will to individuals is completely different.  We see stubbornness in Deuteronomy 2 and an unwillingness to be magnanimous in life.  We see selfishness.  We see greed.  We see man’s nature and man’s sin.  Nothing has changed today as much as we tell ourselves it has.  Every war has evil and sin behind it as does every evil deed.  And there is no other way around it.

11a)  “Do not be afraid of him, for I have handed him over to you, with his whole army and his land.  Do to him what you did to Sihon king of the Amorites.”

b)  Personal Question.  My answer:  Again, another poor extrapolation.  In Numbers, the Israelites are facing death and so must defend themselves in a life and death situation.  So God says to kill them all.  The only thing I can think of here is to pray first and see what God says.  If you are facing a physical attack, obviously fight back.  If your character is being attacked, I would say the same–with God’s guidance.  Again, too open-ended and vague here to get a proper response.

In response to what we learn in Deuteronomy 2, I’d ask God, “God, what are you trying to teach me here through this person’s attack?  How are you looking to grow me?”  It seems God had a mighty hand in Sihon’s heart as he does in all believers’ and unbelievers’ hearts.  Everything is for a reason–one we normally cannot see.  So ask Him for guidance.  To see.  To learn.  To grow.

Conclusions:  Questions such as 9c make me wonder:  am I supposed to have a spiritual victory in my life?  What if I haven’t?  Is there something wrong with me?  Am I not doing enough for God if I haven’t had a spiritual battle this week?  Again, another open-ended question with no answer for me.  Too big to narrow it down to anything of substance and in this case a question that makes me feel inadequate–which I don’t like nor appreciate.  It’s a small part, but it’s there.

This lesson is driving me nuts and I’m sure you all will comment on how I shouldn’t say anything negative about BSF or their questions.  But that’s not me.  I tell it how I feel and to me this lesson was horrible–the worst in recent memory.  I almost want to skip lecture because of it!  5 out of 21 questions are of a personal nature (that’s 24%!) all of which I thought unnecessary and too broad.  A waste of time, effort, and space.

Yet, at the same time, I feel bad for saying how horrible this lesson was in my opinion because I’m not supposed to say such things and feel like I’m complaining.

For me, I would much rather have spent only a day or two on this chapter and moved on so I can digest the last 10 chapters of Numbers and the 1st 26 chapters of Deuteronomy in a few short weeks.  Furthermore, I wish the parallel chapters in Deuteronomy would have been assigned for us to read instead of re-reading them in the next few weeks.  This added much to my understanding here as more details are recorded.

Maybe I’m just missing the whole point here so enlightenment by you all would be most welcome.

End Notes:  The Book of the Wars is lost to us as are several other books mentioned in the Bible.

We see God strengthening the Israelites here, giving them opponents to bolster their faith and belief.  What a merciful God we have!

Scholars say the poetry quoted here is to show how cultured the peoples were who were conquered, adding to Israel’s victory.

This land conquered later becomes part of Israel, land given to Gad and Manasseh.

We end Chapter 21 on a positive note for once.  However, as we shall see, the Israelites still have an uphill battle in their quest for the Promised Land.

Cute Map of Exodus:

Another Version showing Iye Abarim:

BSF Study Questions The Life of Moses Lesson 23, Day 4: Numbers 21:8-9

Summary of passage:  The Lord tells Moses to make a snake and put it up on the pole and if the people looked at it, they would live.  Moses obeyed.


7a)  “Make a snake and put it up on a pole; anyone who is bitten can look at it and live.”

b)  We are not told that Moses did think the instructions were strange.  This is extrapolation.  I did not see this snake as an idol.  An idol is something worshipped as God by people.  This snake is not being worshipped.  I see this snake as not a representation of God.  I see it like a pill we’d take today.  The doctor prescribes a pill to cure you; you take it.  Here, God says look at this snake; it will cure you.  I in no way see this as an idol, and I don’t think Moses did either.  This is pure speculation.

8a)  The snake is a test of faith as Jesus is/was.  God said merely believe this snake will cure you and it will.  Jesus said merely believe I am the Son of God and you will be saved.

b)  Personal Question.  My answer:  Complete.

Conclusions:  I like how this lesson brings out Jesus’s reference.  It is a great analogy of how faith alone is all God requires to be with Him.  What I didn’t like was the interpretation of what Moses thought of being told to make a snake.  It doesn’t matter what Moses thought about it.  If God tells you to do something, you do it.  Period.

BSF could be referring to 2 Kings 18:4 and how the people perverted the snake later into an idol (Nehushtan). But since they didn’t reference the passage or ask a question on it, this to me is out of place.

Maybe I’m just in a sour mood this week.  Whatever the case, too many personal and opinion questions that don’t make a lot of sense.  Our time would be better spent on more meat.

Not sure why we are spending one whole week on one chapter in Numbers.  I see this as nothing we haven’t studied already:  belief followed by unbelief so why spend so much time on it?  Coming up, we will be covering the last 10 chapters of Numbers in one lesson and then the first 26 chapters of Deuteronomy in one lesson/week!  Wish the readings could be spread out more.  Reading big clumps of the Bible is an undertaking and one that is hard to absorb much learning under time constraints.  This can be overwhelming and discouraging to many and keep them from coming to BSF when they can’t complete their lessons on time.  Reading the Bible period is overwhelming and BSF helps to break it into manageable parts.  But for me I’d rather not read so much and get something out of it then hurry up and complete the books and Moses’s life.

End Notes:  The symbolism here is immense.  Serpents are often associated with the devil and evil in the Bible (after all, the devil appeared as a serpent to Eve (Genesis 3:1-5; Revelation 12:9). However, bronze is a symbol of judgment as bronze is made through fire.

Thus, here we have an evil (snake) being judged (bronze).  Thus Jesus became sin and was judged. A picture of sin overcome.

We don’t know how the serpent was positioned on the pole.  If horizontal, we’d have the symbol of the cross.  However, traditionally, the serpent is showed being wrapped around the pole.  Here, we have the ancient symbol of a healer (see picture HERE).  Now, upon further research, this is also an ancient Greek myth and a Roman myth (the Romans are infamous for stealing Greek ideas and claiming them as their own) surrounding this symbol.

If you click HERE, I have found a side-by-side comparison of the myths. Below is the Biblical version.  Which is first?  Who knows.  It reminds me of how in many cultures around the world, the creation myth of a flood appears.  It makes me wonder if man has any original ideas or they are just recycled.

I did not know this and find this fascinating where the imagery came from. Wish we spent some time on this in BSF.

We must remember this bronze snake was sanctioned by God and was not an idol.  It was a test of faith only.  It is man who perverts God’s will.

Bonus Read:  Lengthy article HERE on serpents in the Bible, including analysis of this passage. Great explanation of serpents and the Egyptians.

Fun Fact:  Michelangelo painted this IMAGE on the Sistine Chapel.  Way cool!

BSF Study Questions The Life of Moses Lesson 23, Day 3: Numbers 21:4-7

Summary of passage:  The Israelites are now traveling around Edom to the Promised Land.  Again, they are grumbling against God and Moses.  So the Lord sent poisonous snakes to punish the people for their sin.  They bit the people and many died.  They went to their intercessor, Moses, to pray for God to take the snakes away.


4)  Because the Edomites refused them passage.

5a)  Opinion question.  My answer:  Not sure.  One would think they would be elated after their victory but taking the long way around through desert does take its toll.  They are probably travel weary.  Yet this shouldn’t surprise us.  The Israelites have been grumbling for years now about God’s provision.

b)  God

c)  God sent venomous snakes to kill them.

6a)  They recognized their sin, confessed it, and asked for God to relent and forgive them.

b)  Acknowledge your sin, confess it, and the Lord will forgive you.

c)  Personal Question.  My answer:  I dislike these questions that are so open-ended that I have trouble pin-pointing a specific time.  I would say too many to recollect as this occurs to me almost on a daily basis. I sin, I confess, I experience God’s grace and mercy.  This helps me in incalculable ways in terms of relieving my guilt, allowing me to be a better person, and be more like Jesus.

Conclusions:  Like Day 2, this lesson did nothing for me.  The questions were ones we’ve already seen in previous lessons [ Question 4 was Question 9b in Lesson 22.  Question 5b is numerous questions from previous lessons: Question 7a in Lesson 20, 6a in Lesson 21 ].  The ray of hope is God.  I just wish the people would see this–and I would as well.

End Notes:  Old habits die hard.  Here we see victory and then grumbling by the people.  This scares me as I would like to think I’d be different in these situations but what makes me better than the Israelites?  Nothing.  Very scary, impactful, and convicting when we read of God’s people rejecting Him over and over again.

If you look at my map links carefully (here’s ONE that shows a wide loop), you will see that the Israelites actually had to turn around and go back and away from Canaan to go around the Edomites.  Discouraging?  Yes.  An excuse to complain?  No.

Here we witness the new generation doing the same sins as the previous generation except upped a notch:  they grumble against God Himself as well as Moses.  Not good.  Not good at all.

Some translations say fiery serpents.  Mine says venomous.  This could refer to the color of the snakes as being red or their bite that may have burned like fire.

Scholars believe the victims were mostly of the older generation who died in fulfillment of God’s promise to not allow them into the Promised Land.

Note how the younger generation complained against God but how they also immediately repented and recognized God as their sovereign leader and the only one to save them.  Their hearts are His despite their missteps.

BSF Study Questions The Life of Moses Lesson 23, Day 2: Numbers 21:1-3

Summary of passage:  The Canaanite king of Arad attacked the Israelites and captured some.  The Israelites prayed for God to help them destroy these people, which the Lord granted, and the place was named Hormah.


3a)  Personal Question.  My answer:  I expected them to do just this:  pray first and then do the Lord’s will because I think they would have learned their lesson from Numbers 14:41-45.

b)  The Lord listened and granted their request.

c)  Personal Question.  My answer:  Not sure.  I like to think I am depending on Him.  And I’m not for sure what if any situation in my life needs to be reversed at the moment.

Conclusions:  Sorely disappointed in this lesson.  I got nothing out of these 3 verses and the questions were lackluster.  I’m pretty sure BSF is looking for an answer to 3a to be:  Well, I expected them to just fight back without the Lord’s guidance.  Yet we have seen over and over again here the people’s turnarounds from sin to Him.  Thus, I expect the people to go to God first as I expect all Christians to do.

End Notes:  This was the exact same place I referenced in 3a–Hormah.  First, the Israelites were defeated there and now the Lord grants them victory when He is with them this time.  This would have been a much better question here for this section.

Map of Arad:

Map of Hormah and the Route in Edom:

By totally destroying a city, the Israelites are turning it completely over to God.  This would ensure no one else could use this land; hence, dedicating it to the Lord.  This was one of the most sacrificial offerings to God because the land become His once again.

Expect to see more of the same once again of the Israelites to God as they proceed to the Promised Land:  faith and unfaith.

BSF Study Questions Matthew Lesson 23, Day 5: Matthew 23:13-39

Summary of passage:  Jesus lists 7 woes to the Pharisees and the teachers of the law.  He says they do not let those enter who are trying to enter the kingdom of heaven.  They corrupt converts.  They put gold and gifts above the temple itself; instead of swearing upon God, they swear upon material goods.  They tithe and do the little things but ignore the important matters such as justice, mercy, and faithfulness.

They have clean outward appearances but inside their souls are dirty.  On the outside they appear righteous but on the inside they are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.  They say they are better than their forefathers and wouldn’t have persecuted the prophets when Jesus says otherwise.  Jesus says he will send prophets and wise men to cleanse them but they will be killed and crucified.


11)  Woes:  1)  The Pharisees do not let those enter who are trying to enter the kingdom of God (verse 13).  Positive application:  Invite others to know God.

2)  They devour (stole) widows’ houses and make showy lengthy prayers (verse 14).  Positive application:  Help widows, do not take advantage of those less capable than yourself or more vulnerable, and pray with a God heart.

3)  They corrupt converts (verse 15).  Personal application:  Do not do anything to allow others to fall.

4)  They put gold and gifts above the temple itself; instead of swearing upon God, they swear upon material goods (verses 16-22).  Personal application:  Remember God gives all and is greater than the physical structure of the church or any material gifts given to you.  Remember the source.

5)  They fixate on trivial matters and ignore the more important issues of justice, mercy, and faithfulness (verses 23-24).  Personal application:  Don’t nit-pick.  What matters to God is the heart and how you treat others.

6)  They focus on cleaning up their outside image instead of cleaning the inside soul (verses 25-26).  Personal application:  Your heart matters more than outward appearances.  Your heart must be right for your actions to be right.

7)  On the outside they appear righteous but on the inside they are hypocrites and wicked (verses 27-28).  Personal application:  God knows your heart.  You must be genuine and not pretend to be righteous.  Be transformed from the inside out.

8)  They say they are better than their forefathers and wouldn’t have persecuted the prophets when Jesus says otherwise.  Jesus says he will send prophets and wise men to cleanse them but they will be killed and crucified (verses 29-39). Personal application:  We are no better than anyone, not even murderers.  We are all sinners.  We are only cleansed by Jesus’ blood.  Be humble and loving.

12a)  Jesus was speaking to the Pharisees and the teachers of the law still about the disciples, Stephen, the early Christians, and us as well.

b)  Jesus’ death.

c)  Personal Question.  My answer:  We are all murderers and deserve death but Jesus’ love saves us and makes us righteous and whole once again.

d)  We will not see Jesus again until either our physical death or the Second Coming.

Conclusions:  Jesus saves, undeservingly, no matter how Godly we think we are, we actually are, or we pretend to be.  I’m burnt out to be honest (see post HERE).  That’s all I got.

End Notes:  Jesus echoes the Old Testament prophets here in terms of warnings and condemnations.  They kept people from Jesus with all of the human prohibitions they placed for others.

Verse 14 that is omitted in some Bibles or is placed in a footnote (like mine) should belong here based on the fact it appears in Mark and Luke’s re-telling of this scene.  Thus, it would be 8 woes instead of 7.

Stealing houses from widows results in greater condemnation.  There are indeed varying degrees of punishment in God’s kingdom.

It does no good to convert people and then lead them down the wrong path.

Since the Pharisees were not allowed to swear by God himself (Exodus 20:7), they swore by other things but they had corrupted this practice to the point their oaths were meaningless.  It didn’t matter what you swore by but it was binding.  Every one.

Our altar is Jesus and his work is the cross.

To be righteous, start with the inside.  Then the outside will follow.

It was custom before Passover for the Jews to whitewash tombs so that if you touched it, you wouldn’t become ceremonially unclean.  Hence, the Pharisees were nice to behold on the outside but dead on the inside.

Paul uses this same analogy in Acts 23:3 against the high priest Ananias of the Sanhedrin:  “God will strike you, you whitewashed wall!  You sit there to judge me according to the law, yet you yourself violate the law by commanding that I be struck!”

They honor dead prophets but then will in the end murder a living one.  Spurgeon calls verse 32, “One of the most terrible sentences that ever fell from Christ’s lips.”

Jesus lists all the righteous martyr’s of the Old Testament.

The image of a hen protecting its chicks is used in the Old Testament for God’s protection of his people (Psalm 17:8; 91:4; Isaiah 31:5).

Scholars say Jesus’ words here “how often I have longed” indicate Jesus visited Jerusalem multiple times before his Triumphal entry.  John indicates this as well.

Jesus constantly wants to save.  It is man who rejects.

Jesus spoke so harshly to these men out of love.  His heart broke for them as it does for us when we sin.  He truly wanted them to repent before it was too late.  Does God ever speak to you so?

Fun Fact:  Jesus wept only twice that is recorded in the Bible.  Once, over the fate of Jerusalem and second at the tomb of Lazarus.  Both were over the sorrow of death.

BSF Study Questions Matthew Lesson 23, Day 4: Matthew 22:41-23:12

Summary of passage:  Jesus, in an effort to silence his critics, asked them a question they could not answer, by pointing out that David called the Son of David “Lord.”  No one could answer so they quit asking questions.

Jesus says the teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat so you must obey them but do not do as they do for they are hypocrites.  Everything they do is for man.  You are to remember you have only one Master, one Father, one Teacher.  Whoever humbles himself will be exalted and  whoever exalts himself will be humbled.


8a)  “What do you think about the Christ?  Whose son is he?”

b)  Jesus answered with a profound question:  “How is it then that David, speaking by the Spirit, calls him ‘Lord’?  If David calls him ‘Lord’, how can he be his son?”  Jesus is pointing out as the Messiah that he is not only the son of David but the Lord of David, which thus makes him the Son of God if he is Lord over David.

c)  Personal Question.  My answer:  That Jesus is my Lord.

9a)  Obey the teachers of the law and the Pharisees and do everything tell you for they were given their positions by God.

b)  Do not do what they do for they do not practice what they preach.  Follow God in your heart, not man.

c)  Pleasing man and for looks only.  They were motivated by pride and earthly status and position, not by the heart or to please God.

d)  Personal Question.  My answer:  Don’t be a hypocrite.  Practice what you preach.  Have God as your motivation and not man.  Have God in your heart and let the Holy Spirit lead you.  Then you will be real.

10)  Personal Question.  My answer:  Be humble and serve God first.  Let Christ be your teacher and God your father.  Treat everyone as brothers for God is your master.  Remember you have been called to your position by God and He is the center, not a title or the men who voted you in.  If God is first, you cannot fail.

Conclusions:  Didn’t get a lot out of this either.  Not sure why.  It’s mainly about God and Jesus being Lord over all and Lord over your heart.  If you have that, then you cannot fail Him.

End Notes:  Before the Pharisees could ask him another question, Jesus asked them a question.  He asked them who he was just like he did with the disciples in Matthew 16:13-15.

Everyone knows the Messiah will be the Son of David.  Jesus is pointing this out to remind him that he is from David’s line.

Saying the Messiah is the Son of David is only partially right.  He is David’s son but he also is David’s Lord.  He is human and God in one.  Later, this idea will be recorded in both Revelation 22:16 and Romans 1:4.

If David calls him Lord, how is he his Son?  Thus, Jesus must be the Son of God.  The Pharisees did not want to admit that so they said nothing else.

Interestingly, perhaps standing in that very crowd in the heart of Jerusalem a young Pharisee will go on to answer that question in Romans 1:1-4:  Paul himself.

This is a turning point.  The teachers of the law, the Pharisees, and the Sadducees will give up trying to trap Jesus and turn the people against him.  Instead, they will seize him and resort to violence in order to preserve their earthly power and end the threat to their positions.

Synagogues had a stone seat in front where the teacher sat and taught from; hence, sitting in Moses’ seat.

Note the contrast between the heavy loads the Pharisees carry and Jesus’ light load (Matthew 11:30).  Our load is meant to be light, not burdensome like the religious leaders of the day made it.

Do not imitate the scribes.  The heart is what matters both in what you do and in titles.  Titles are not meant to be coveted.

Fun Fact:  Psalm 110 is the most frequently quoted Old Testament chapter in the New Testament.

BSF Study Questions Matthew Lesson 23, Day 3: Matthew 22:34-40

Summary of passage:  Now a Pharisee tries again to trap Jesus by asking him what is the greatest commandment of the Law.  Jesus said, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your soul and with all your mind and Love your neighbor as yourself.”  All the Law boils down to this.


6a)  “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.”  Mark adds that the Lord our God is one.

b)  Not sure because people don’t say the opposite but they live out the opposite which is the fact most people love themselves more than God and live for themselves and not God.  I think this is what BSF is looking for.

c)  Just that.  We love ourselves deeply and usually put ourselves first.  Jesus is saying to love everyone just as deeply and treat them as you would yourself.  Show concern for them and interest in them and their lives.

d)  Because if you don’t have God first in your life then you’ll never be capable of putting others first in your life and loving them as you love yourself.  Only through the love of God can we love others as Jesus commands us to love.  Only through loving God, fearing God, serving God, observing the commandments, and walking in His ways can we produce such love that will fulfill the law.

7a)  All your heart, soul, mind and strength:  Love God with all your heart.  To embed Him in you.  To have the Holy Spirit within to guide you on His path.  You love Him with everything you have, everything you are, everything you will be.  Period.

b)  Personal Question.  My answer:  Put Him first in my life always.  Pray all the time before I do anything.  Wake with Him there and go to bed with Him there.  Have God in the forefront of my mind instead of me.

c)  Personal Question.  My answer:  That we are God’s chosen people out of all the peoples on the earth.  We are His treasured possession.  He will love us and bless us and increase our numbers (verse 13).  He will keep us free from disease (verse 15).

If you realize how much God loves you and truly believe it then it is easy to obey Him and conquer those opposed to Him.

We love because he first loved us (1 John 4:19).  If we are loved, then we can love.

Conclusions:  This lesson was awash for me and should be called the study of Deuteronomy as well.  I blame myself:  I had great expectations of what I’m unsure but none were met.  Number 7a I put together as you cannot separate in my opinion God’s greatest command and for me I found this hard to explain as it is as simple as it is stated.  You love God with everything you have.  Period.  Mark 12:30 did not help so why was it mentioned?

7c I didn’t “learn” anything.  I was reminded that we are God’s people.  But I cannot fathom His love for me and no human words can convey it.

Unsure on 6b.  Not sure people “say” anything.  They do the opposite and probably say God is first, being hypocrites as most people I know (including myself at times).  Very few admit they live for themselves instead of for God.

I think I wanted these commandments to be pressed upon me to the point I’d follow it every moment of my life.  And I realize now BSF can’t do that; only God can.  So I prayed, “God, let me live this out.  That you are number One in my life and that I can love a little bit as you love.”

My take away:  I fall far short of these commands and I need to work on it with God’s help.

End Notes:  In that day there were 613 commandments in Moses’ law and various groups argued over which were the most important.  The trap was for Jesus to pick just one which would surely offend some of these groups.  Once again Jesus outwits them to the point they give up and dare not ask him anything else because then they look stupid.