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.

Questions:

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:  https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/originals/8a/c2/3a/8ac23af79414cbac4a8b64ded9c6bf3f.jpg

Another Version showing Iye Abarim:  http://www.bibleornot.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/exodus-route-map.jpg

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.

Questions:

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.

Questions:

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.

Questions:

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:  http://fgcp.org/system/files/images/Promise-Land-Era.jpg

Map of Hormah and the Route in Edom:  http://www.biblenews1.com/maps/Exodus.jpg

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 The Life of Moses Lesson 22, Day 5: Psalm 90

Summary of passage:  A prayer by Moses to God.  Moses praises God’s majesty and His power and anger.  He says life is quick to man but not to God.  He asks for a heart of wisdom and asks God to relent His wrath and have compassion on His servants.  Show love and favor upon them.  Make His work the work of their hands.

Questions:

12a)  In this passage, Moses is praising God and has a healthy fear of God.  He is also afraid.  He is yearning for God to show him a heart of wisdom and for God’s favor.  He is pleading with God to have compassion and love on them.

b)  Omnipotence, omniscience, compassion, love, goodness, God’s wrath, God’s power, God’s judgment, God’s unchangingness

c)  Personal Question.  My answer:  Anytime I think on God it helps me be a better person, inspires me, and gives me purpose in life.

d)  Personal Question.  My answer:  Well, I had underlined in my bible verse 12.  It’s a great, short prayer for us to use each day wisely and grow in Him.  It’s a good prayer model all around as it speaks to God’s greatness, God’s favor, God’s compassion, and God’s will for our lives.

Conclusions:  No one is sure when Moses wrote this.  It could have been at any time so to correlate it to Numbers 20 is a stretch.  I believe our time would have better been spent in Deuteronomy 3:23-27  where Moses pleads with God to undo His judgment upon Him.  Perhaps we will study this later but now would be a good time while all these events are swirling around in our heads.

Questions such as part d are becoming more and more frequent it seems and are just filler to me. I’m not sure how I feel about them as of yet.  They are so broad that it’s hard to truly get anything out of them.

End Notes:  If indeed Moses wrote this (scholars are not 100% sure but believe most likely only Moses could have written this), it’s about God’s eternal character and man’s limited time and ability to connect with God while on earth.  Therefore, we see Moses’s appeal for wisdom to not waste his life (or our lives) in such little time and do His will.  For living our way leads only to “trouble and sorrow”.

Moses speaks of being satisfied in the morning with God’s unfailing love.  This is the gathering of manna and for us the Word of God.

We see man’s frailness in the dust, a brief watch, and grass which ultimately dies.

Great verse 14 that shows Moses asking for joy and gladness and to know that their afflictions are for their own good.

Only when we do God’s work for our hands will we grow our hearts, souls, and minds. Not our will but His be done.

BSF Study Questions The Life of Moses Lesson 22, Day 4: Numbers 20:14-29

Summary of passage:  Moses sent a message to the King of Edom, requesting to pass through his territory.  The Israelites promised to not drink nor eat nor take anything from them–merely to stay on the road through their country onto the Promised Land.  Edom refused.  Moses asked again, this time offering to pay for any water used.  Again, they were refused.  Edom marched their army against the Israelites and the Israelites backed down.

At Mount Hor, near Edom’s border, the Lord told Moses and Aaron that it was Aaron’s time to die.  Aaron and his son, Eleazar, were to go up on Mount Hor, where Eleazar would put on Aaron’s garments and take over as High Priest.  Moses did as commanded and when Aaron died he was mourned 30 days.

Questions:

9a)  Possibly because the Israelites were related to the Edomites as descendants of Jacob’s brother, Esau, and they didn’t want to fight their relatives.  Also because the Lord had not told Moses to go that way.  I’m assuming the Israelites are still being led by the cloud.

b)  Take a long, hard detour and go around through more desert .

c)  When God tells you to resist.  When God tells you to yield.  There are no hard, fast rules here and every situation is different.  It’s all on what God wants, not the individual.

10)  Aaron knew he was dying so he had time to say good-bye to his family and friends.  To make amends if he had to.  Presumably to offer sacrifices and die a cleansed man.  And he was honored by being taken away to Mount Hor ceremoniously.  Furthermore, Aaron was mourned by the people for 30 days.  Although we can’t say for certain Miriam didn’t have any of this, we know Aaron did.  And that is full of grace.

11a)  Aaron died a physical death.  Jesus’ priesthood is forever and perfect and ever-lasting.  Only through him can we have eternal life.  And on a chronological note:  Aaron’s passing tells us where we are at in history and just how much time has passed.  Important in the march towards Jesus.

b)  Personal question.  My answer:  The power of the cross and what happens next sustains me when this life becomes seemingly impossible.  My home is not here.  I need not depend on man.  Only Jesus.

Conclusions:  Great chapter in the Bible.  I love how we see the death of Miriam, the condemnation of Moses and Aaron, the hard hearts of the Edomites, and the death of Aaron all together.  For here we see God’s amazing grace and mercy and will.  And I believe most of us would say it’s not our will but God’s for I’m not for sure any of us would have condemned Moses nor rejected Moses at the footsteps of Edom.  God’s ways, not ours.

Despite my belief that Aaron is nothing but a follower, God honors him here.  God honors followers as well as leaders.  Everyone matters to Him despite his or her sins.  Not everyone has the strength of character to be a leader.  And that’s okay.  Look at Aaron.  He was second in command to Moses, a man above all men in terms of closeness to God.  He was second in command to God.  God spoke to Aaron and appeared to him.  That’s something I can’t say about me.  Even in sadness there is God’s mercy.

End Notes:  We are in the final leg now of the approach to the Promised Land.  Scholars break the journey down into five stages:

Stage One:  The Exodus from Egypt and the journey to Mount Sinai (Exodus 12:31 to 18:27).
Stage Two:  The time at the foot of Mount Sinai (Exodus 19:1 to Numbers 10:10).
Stage Three:  The first attempt to enter the Promised Land, beginning at Mount Sinai, which failed as the people rebelled and refused to enter (Numbers 10:11 to 14:45).
Stage Four:  The 38 years of wandering in the wilderness, waiting for the generation of unbelief to die (Numbers 15:1 to Numbers 20:13).
Stage Five:  The Israelites succeed in their second attempt to enter the Promised Land (Numbers 20:14 to Joshua 2:24).

Why the Edomites refused such a simple request is not recorded (and seemingly unwarranted).  Perhaps out of fear or just because they didn’t want 2 million people traipsing through their backyard.  But there is no retribution on the part of the Israelites and Moses in fact commands the Israelites not to hate them (Deuteronomy 23:7).  Yet for the rest of Biblical history, there is war and strife between the two nations.

Note how 38 years is boiled down to a mere 5 1/2 chapters while the year at Mount Sinai is 50 chapters!  Presumably, nothing of note happened in 38 years.  The people lived out their lives normally, sadly waiting for God’s judgment time to pass.

Lesson to us:  we can exist, but not live.  We can wander around for years and find ourselves right back where we started.

Note how Moses who represented the law, Miriam who represented prophets, and Aaron who represented priests all died before the Promised Land.  Only Joshua (whose name means Jesus) led the way!  How cool is that!

Aaron as the first high priest of Israel deserved to be honored.  His position alone demands it.  The man may fail but the priesthood (and the path to God through our High Priest, Jesus) will not.

Map of Mount Hor:  http://bibleatlas.org/full/mount_hor.htm

Another Map of Mount Hor showing entire Exodus Route:  http://www.keyway.ca/gif/wildjour.gif

BSF Study Questions The Life of Moses Lesson 22, Day 3: Numbers 20:1-13

Introductory Note:  Since Day 2 and Day 3 are the same passage, my summary and end notes are exactly the same as well.

Summary of passage: After 38 years of wandering, Miriam died (scholars date this as the first month of the 40th year of wandering). Again, grumbling by the Israelites against Moses and Aaron because there is no water. Same complaints about food, etc. Moses and Aaron feel down at the Tent of Meeting. The glory of the Lord appeared and told Moses to speak to a rock with his staff and water would appear. Moses struck the rock twice with his staff and water rushed out. However, God rebukes Moses and Aaron for his lack of faith and sentences them to die before the Promised Land is reached as well.

Questions:

6a)  “Take the staff, and you and your brother Aaron gather the assembly together.  Speak to that rock before their eyes and it will pour out its water.”

b)  Moses did take the staff as commanded and did gather the Israelites together in front of the rock.  However, here Moses did his own thing.  He rebuked the people and took credit for bringing water from the rock.  He struck the rock twice instead of speaking to it.

7a)  They didn’t trust that God’s words were enough.  They thought they needed action so they struck the rock.

b)  They didn’t follow God’s commands.  They took credit for bringing up the water.

c)  Personal Question.  My answer:  Not sure.  This is one of those questions I’ll have an answer to when I get to heaven.

8a)  They will not live to see the Promised Land as well.

b)  Yes.  As leaders they are held to a higher standard than the other Israelites (James 3:1).  Their lack of faith can influence countless others.  Aaron is to be expected.  He’s a follower, period.  Moses, however, was so close to God–closer than anyone before or after–that God must have been heartbroken at Moses’s lack of faith.  It would be similar to a betrayal by your best friend–only infinitely more so.

Conclusions:  The personal question was again in my opinion questionable.  I see it as a reminder that our actions do affect those around us and it’s something we need to be cognizant of.

I’m seeing the overall pattern here:  Trust in God.  Never doubt Him.  He will reward you if you do.  Punish you when you don’t.  Either on this side of heaven or the other.  Trust, trust, trust.  He will never let you down.

End Notes: The Israelites are back at Kadesh (see MAP and MAP) where they first told God “no” about entering the Promised Land (Numbers 13:26-28).

Miriam’s death here is important; it showed the Israelites He was serious about everyone dying before entering the Promised Land. She’s the first of Moses’s family to suffer for their collective sins. Although Miriam had great moments of faith (Exodus 2:4-8; 15:20-21), one major sin marked her for life. We see this today in the downfall of politicians or celebrities. Great lesson for us: no one is exempt from God’s judgment.

Timeline: This is the beginning of the last year of wandering. It appears the Israelites camped at Kadesh here for 3-4 months (based off of Numbers 33:38) perhaps because of Miriam’s death. Aaron will die four months later. The bible doesn’t tell a lot of what happened in this 38 years. Presumably, nothing of consequence as the Israelites merely lived out God’s judgment.

Here we see a new generation of unbelievers as the old generation is dying.

Moses also was not commanded to speak to the nation nor to rebuke there. Here, we see Moses as we’ve never seen him before–utter contempt for the people he has so often saved from destruction. We also see pride when he says “we” as if God were not enough. Moses’s heart had twisted and God obviously didn’t like what He saw.

Moses disobeyed God by striking the rock. I can just imagine his frustration at the people boiling over. However, in his anger, he makes a fatal mistake–literally.

Yet God is so gracious and so good and so loving He provides for His people despite their sins.

Moses did not believe God. He probably remembered back in Exodus 17 where he had to strike the rock.

The punishment was strict. But as we all know, those who know God are called to a higher standard. Can you imagine the standard Moses had to live up to? A lot of pressure. Yet because he was so close to God and a leader, his punishment reflects God’s expectations of those who know Him. Great lesson for us as well.

Moses’s sin was small compared to the Israelites’ sins. Yet not in God’s eyes. God says in Deuteronomy 32:51 that Moses “broke faith” with Him and “did not uphold my [God’s] holiness amongst the Israelites.” A warning to us all–what we consider as a small sin can be huge to God.

Moses pleads with God to let him go over to the Promised Land (Deuteronomy 3:23-27) and when God says no, Moses blames the people. Poor, poor Moses. He has seen time and time again of God reversing His initial punishment, not ridding the land of the Israelites and not giving Miriam leprosy that he thinks for sure God will relent and reverse His position. But God does not. Our hearts bleed for him; yet, God remains good and gracious and kind and judging. His ways, not ours.

The picture of Moses reflecting Jesus here is now tainted. Moses struck twice; Jesus only once.