Matters of Worship

15 1-5 God spoke to Moses: “Speak to the People of Israel. Tell them, When you enter your homeland that I am giving to you and sacrifice a Fire-Gift to God, a Whole-Burnt-Offering or any sacrifice from the herd or flock for a Vow-Offering or Freewill-Offering at one of the appointed feasts, as a pleasing fragrance for God, the one bringing the offering shall present to God a Grain-Offering of two quarts of fine flour mixed with a quart of oil. With each lamb for the Whole-Burnt-Offering or other sacrifice, prepare a quart of oil and a quart of wine as a Drink-Offering.

6-7 “For a ram prepare a Grain-Offering of four quarts of fine flour mixed with one and a quarter quarts of oil and one and a quarter quarts of wine as a Drink-Offering. Present it as a pleasing fragrance to God.

8-10 “When you prepare a young bull as a Whole-Burnt-Offering or sacrifice for a special vow or a Peace-Offering to God, bring with the bull a Grain-Offering of six quarts of fine flour and two quarts of oil. Also bring two quarts of wine as a Drink-Offering. It will be a Fire-Gift, a pleasing fragrance to God.

11-12 “Each bull or ram, each lamb or young goat, is to be prepared in this same way. Carry out this procedure for each one, no matter how many you have to prepare.

13-16 “Every native-born Israelite is to follow this procedure when he brings a Fire-Gift as a pleasing fragrance to God. In future generations, when a foreigner or visitor living at length among you presents a Fire-Gift as a pleasing fragrance to God, the same procedures must be followed. The community has the same rules for you and the foreigner living among you. This is the regular rule for future generations. You and the foreigner are the same before God. The same laws and regulations apply to both you and the foreigner who lives with you.”

17-21 God spoke to Moses: “Speak to the People of Israel. Tell them, When you enter the land into which I’m bringing you, and you eat the food of that country, set some aside as an offering for God. From the first batch of bread dough make a round loaf for an offering—an offering from the threshing floor. Down through the future generations make this offering to God from each first batch of dough.

* * *

22-26 “But if you should get off the beaten track and not keep the commands which God spoke to Moses, any of the things that God commanded you under the authority of Moses from the time that God first commanded you right up to this present time, and if it happened more or less by mistake, with the congregation unaware of it, then the whole congregation is to sacrifice one young bull as a Whole-Burnt-Offering, a pleasing fragrance to God, accompanied by its Grain-Offering and Drink-Offering as stipulated in the rules, and a he-goat as an Absolution-Offering. The priest is to atone for the entire community of the People of Israel and they will stand forgiven. The sin was not deliberate, and they offered to God the Fire-Gift and Absolution-Offering for their inadvertence. The whole community of Israel including the foreigners living there will be absolved, because everyone was involved in the error.

27-28 “But if it’s just one person who sins by mistake, not realizing what he’s doing, he is to bring a yearling she-goat as an Absolution-Offering. The priest then is to atone for the person who accidentally sinned, to make atonement before God so that it won’t be held against him.

29 “The same standard holds for everyone who sins by mistake; the native-born Israelites and the foreigners go by the same rules.

30-31 “But the person, native or foreigner, who sins defiantly, deliberately blaspheming God, must be cut off from his people: He has despised God’s word, he has violated God’s command; that person must be kicked out of the community, ostracized, left alone in his wrongdoing.”

* * *

32-35 Once, during those wilderness years of the People of Israel, a man was caught gathering wood on the Sabbath. The ones who caught him hauled him before Moses and Aaron and the entire congregation. They put him in custody until it became clear what to do with him. Then God spoke to Moses: “Give the man the death penalty. Yes, kill him, the whole community hurling stones at him outside the camp.”

36 So the whole community took him outside the camp and threw stones at him, an execution commanded by God and given through Moses.

* * *

37-41 God spoke to Moses: “Speak to the People of Israel. Tell them that from now on they are to make tassels on the corners of their garments and to mark each corner tassel with a blue thread. When you look at these tassels you’ll remember and keep all the commandments of God, and not get distracted by everything you feel or see that seduces you into infidelities. The tassels will signal remembrance and observance of all my commandments, to live a holy life to God. I am your God who rescued you from the land of Egypt to be your personal God. Yes, I am God, your God.”

The Rebels

16 1-3 Getting on his high horse one day, Korah son of Izhar, the son of Kohath, the son of Levi, along with a few Reubenites—Dathan and Abiram sons of Eliab, and On son of Peleth—rebelled against Moses. He had with him 250 leaders of the congregation of Israel, prominent men with positions in the Council. They came as a group and confronted Moses and Aaron, saying, “You’ve overstepped yourself. This entire community is holy and God is in their midst. So why do you act like you’re running the whole show?”

On hearing this, Moses threw himself facedown on the ground.

Then he addressed Korah and his gang: “In the morning God will make clear who is on his side, who is holy. God will take his stand with the one he chooses.

6-7 “Now, Korah, here’s what I want you, you and your gang, to do: Tomorrow, take censers. In the presence of God, put fire in them and then incense. Then we’ll see who is holy, see whom God chooses. Sons of Levi, you’ve overstepped yourselves!”

8-11 Moses continued with Korah, “Listen well now, sons of Levi. Isn’t it enough for you that the God of Israel has selected you out of the congregation of Israel to bring you near him to serve in the ministries of The Dwelling of God, and to stand before the congregation to minister to them? He has brought you and all your brother Levites into his inner circle, and now you’re grasping for the priesthood, too. It’s God you’ve ganged up against, not us. What do you have against Aaron that you’re bad-mouthing him?”

12-14 Moses then ordered Dathan and Abiram, sons of Eliab, to appear, but they said, “We’re not coming. Isn’t it enough that you yanked us out of a land flowing with milk and honey to kill us in the wilderness? And now you keep trying to boss us around! Face it, you haven’t produced: You haven’t brought us into a land flowing with milk and honey, you haven’t given us the promised inheritance of fields and vineyards. You’d have to poke our eyes out to keep us from seeing what’s going on. Forget it, we’re not coming.”

15 Moses’ temper blazed white-hot. He said to God, “Don’t accept their Grain-Offering. I haven’t taken so much as a single donkey from them; I haven’t hurt a single hair of their heads.”

16-17 Moses said to Korah, “Bring your people before God tomorrow. Appear there with them and Aaron. Have each man bring his censer filled with incense and present it to God—all 250 censers. And you and Aaron do the same, bring your censers.”

18 So they all did it. They brought their censers filled with fire and incense and stood at the entrance of the Tent of Meeting. Moses and Aaron did the same.

19 It was Korah and his gang against Moses and Aaron at the entrance of the Tent of Meeting. The entire community could see the Glory of God.

20-21 God said to Moses and Aaron, “Separate yourselves from this congregation so that I can finish them off and be done with them.”

22 They threw themselves on their faces and said, “O God, God of everything living, when one man sins are you going to take it out on the whole community?”

23-24 God spoke to Moses: “Speak to the community. Tell them, Back off from the tents of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram.”

25-26 Moses got up and went to Dathan and Abiram. The leaders of Israel followed him. He then spoke to the community: “Back off from the tents of these bad men; don’t touch a thing that belongs to them lest you be carried off on the flood of their sins.”

27 So they all backed away from the tents of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram. Dathan and Abiram by now had come out and were standing at the entrance to their tents with their wives, children, and babies.

28-30 Moses continued to address the community: “This is how you’ll know that it was God who sent me to do all these things and that it wasn’t anything I cooked up on my own. If these men die a natural death like all the rest of us, you’ll know that it wasn’t God who sent me. But if God does something unprecedented—if the ground opens up and swallows the lot of them and they are pitched alive into Sheol—then you’ll know that these men have been insolent with God.”

31-33 The words were hardly out of his mouth when the Earth split open. Earth opened its mouth and in one gulp swallowed them down, the men and their families, all the human beings connected with Korah, along with everything they owned. And that was the end of them, pitched alive into Sheol. The Earth closed up over them and that was the last the community heard of them.

34 At the sound of their cries everyone around ran for dear life, shouting, “We’re about to be swallowed up alive!”

35 Then God sent lightning. The fire cremated the 250 men who were offering the incense.

36-38 God spoke to Moses: “Tell Eleazar son of Aaron the priest, Gather up the censers from the smoldering cinders and scatter the coals a distance away for these censers have become holy. Take the censers of the men who have sinned and are now dead and hammer them into thin sheets for covering the Altar. They have been offered to God and are holy to God. Let them serve as a sign to Israel, evidence of what happened this day.”

39-40 So Eleazar gathered all the bronze censers that belonged to those who had been burned up and had them hammered flat and used to overlay the Altar, just as God had instructed him by Moses. This was to serve as a sign to Israel that only descendants of Aaron were allowed to burn incense before God; anyone else trying it would end up like Korah and his gang.

41 Grumbling broke out the next day in the community of Israel, grumbling against Moses and Aaron: “You have killed God’s people!”

42 But it so happened that when the community got together against Moses and Aaron, they looked over at the Tent of Meeting and there was the Cloud—the Glory of God for all to see.

43-45 Moses and Aaron stood at the front of the Tent of Meeting. God spoke to Moses: “Back away from this congregation so that I can do away with them this very minute.”

They threw themselves facedown on the ground.

46 Moses said to Aaron, “Take your censer and fill it with incense, along with fire from the Altar. Get to the congregation as fast as you can: make atonement for them. Anger is pouring out from God—the plague has started!”

47-48 Aaron grabbed the censer, as directed by Moses, and ran into the midst of the congregation. The plague had already begun. He put burning incense into the censer and atoned for the people. He stood there between the living and the dead and stopped the plague.

49-50 Fourteen thousand seven hundred people died from the plague, not counting those who died in the affair of Korah. Aaron then went back to join Moses at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting. The plague was stopped.

Aaron’s Staff

17 1-5 God spoke to Moses: “Speak to the People of Israel. Get staffs from them—twelve staffs in all, one from the leader of each of their ancestral tribes. Write each man’s name on his staff. Start with Aaron; write Aaron’s name on the staff of Levi and then proceed with the rest, a staff for the leader of each ancestral tribe. Now lay them out in the Tent of Meeting in front of The Testimony where I keep appointments with you. What will happen next is this: The staff of the man I choose will sprout. I’m going to put a stop to this endless grumbling by the People of Israel against you.”

6-7 Moses spoke to the People of Israel. Their leaders handed over twelve staffs, one for the leader of each tribe. And Aaron’s staff was one of them. Moses laid out the staffs before God in the Tent of Testimony.

8-9 Moses walked into the Tent of Testimony the next day and saw that Aaron’s staff, the staff of the tribe of Levi, had in fact sprouted—buds, blossoms, and even ripe almonds! Moses brought out all the staffs from God’s presence and presented them to the People of Israel. They took a good look. Each leader took the staff with his name on it.

10 God said to Moses, “Return Aaron’s staff to the front of The Testimony. Keep it there as a sign to rebels. This will put a stop to the grumbling against me and save their lives.”

11 Moses did just as God commanded him.

12-13 The People of Israel said to Moses, “We’re as good as dead. This is our death sentence. Anyone who even gets close to The Dwelling of God is as good as dead. Are we all doomed?”

Duties in the Tent of Testimony

18 1-4 God said to Aaron, “You and your sons, along with your father’s family, are responsible for taking care of sins having to do with the Sanctuary; you and your sons are also responsible for sins involving the priesthood. So enlist your brothers of the tribe of Levi to join you and assist you and your sons in your duties in the Tent of Testimony. They will report to you as they go about their duties related to the Tent, but they must not have anything to do with the holy things of the Altar under penalty of death—both they and you will die! They are to work with you in taking care of the Tent of Meeting, whatever work is involved in the Tent. Outsiders are not allowed to help you.

5-7 “Your job is to take care of the Sanctuary and the Altar so that there will be no more outbreaks of anger on the People of Israel. I personally have picked your brothers, the Levites, from Israel as a whole. I’m giving them to you as a gift, a gift of God, to help with the work of the Tent of Meeting. But only you and your sons may serve as priests, working around the Altar and inside the curtain. The work of the priesthood is my exclusive gift to you; it cannot be delegated—anyone else who invades the Sanctuary will be executed.”

8-10 God spoke to Aaron, “I am personally putting you in charge of my contributions, all the holy gifts I get from the People of Israel. I am turning them over to you and your children for your personal use. This is the standing rule. You and your sons get what’s left from the offerings, whatever hasn’t been totally burned up on the Altar—the leftovers from Grain-Offerings, Absolution-Offerings, and Compensation-Offerings. Eat it reverently; it is most holy; every male may eat it. Treat it as holy.

11-13 “You also get the Wave-Offerings from the People of Israel. I present them to you and your sons and daughters as a gift. This is the standing rule. Anyone in your household who is ritually clean may eat it. I also give you all the best olive oil, the best new wine, and the grain that is offered to God as the firstfruits of their harvest—all the firstfruits they offer to God are yours. Anyone in your household who is ritually clean may eat it.

14-16 “You get every Totally-Devoted gift. Every firstborn that is offered to God, whether animal or person, is yours. Except you don’t get the firstborn itself, but its redemption price; firstborn humans and ritually unclean animals are bought back and you get the redemption price. When the firstborn is a month old it must be redeemed at the redemption price of five shekels of silver, using the standard of the Sanctuary shekel, which weighs twenty gerahs.

17-19 “On the other hand, you don’t redeem a firstborn ox, sheep, or goat—they are holy. Instead splash their blood on the Altar and burn their fat as a Fire-Gift, a pleasing fragrance to God. But you get the meat, just as you get the breast from the Wave-Offering and the right thigh. All the holy offerings that the People of Israel set aside for God, I’m turning over to you and your children. That’s the standard rule and includes both you and your children—a Covenant-of-Salt, eternal and unchangeable before God.”

20 God said to Aaron, “You won’t get any inheritance in land, not so much as a small plot of ground: I am your plot of ground, I am your inheritance among the People of Israel.

21-24 “I’m giving the Levites all the tithes of Israel as their pay for the work they do in the Tent of Meeting. Starting now, the rest of the People of Israel cannot wander in and out of the Tent of Meeting; they’ll be penalized for their sin and the penalty is death. It’s the Levites and only the Levites who are to work in the Tent of Meeting and they are responsible for anything that goes wrong. This is the regular rule for all time. They get no inheritance among the People of Israel; instead I turn over to them the tithes that the People of Israel present as an offering to God. That’s why I give the ruling: They are to receive no land-inheritance among the People of Israel.”

* * *

25-29 God spoke to Moses: “Speak to the Levites. Tell them, When you get the tithe from the People of Israel, the inheritance that I have assigned to you, you must tithe that tithe and present it as an offering to God. Your offerings will be treated the same as other people’s gifts of grain from the threshing floor or wine from the wine vat. This is your procedure for making offerings to God from all the tithes you get from the People of Israel: give God’s portion from these tithes to Aaron the priest. Make sure that God’s portion is the best and holiest of everything you get.

30-32 “Tell the Levites, When you offer the best part, the rest will be treated the same as grain from the threshing floor or wine from the wine vat that others give. You and your households are free to eat the rest of it anytime and anyplace—it’s your wages for your work at the Tent of Meeting. By offering the best part, you’ll avoid guilt, you won’t desecrate the holy offerings of the People of Israel, and you won’t die.”

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