Numbers 17-20 New Living Translation (NLT)
The Budding of Aaron’s Staff
17 [a]Then the Lord said to Moses, 2 “Tell the people of Israel to bring you twelve wooden staffs, one from each leader of Israel’s ancestral tribes, and inscribe each leader’s name on his staff. 3 Inscribe Aaron’s name on the staff of the tribe of Levi, for there must be one staff for the leader of each ancestral tribe. 4 Place these staffs in the Tabernacle in front of the Ark containing the tablets of the Covenant,[b] where I meet with you. 5 Buds will sprout on the staff belonging to the man I choose. Then I will finally put an end to the people’s murmuring and complaining against you.”
6 So Moses gave the instructions to the people of Israel, and each of the twelve tribal leaders, including Aaron, brought Moses a staff. 7 Moses placed the staffs in the Lord’s presence in the Tabernacle of the Covenant.[c] 8 When he went into the Tabernacle of the Covenant the next day, he found that Aaron’s staff, representing the tribe of Levi, had sprouted, budded, blossomed, and produced ripe almonds!
9 When Moses brought all the staffs out from the Lord’s presence, he showed them to the people. Each man claimed his own staff. 10 And the Lord said to Moses: “Place Aaron’s staff permanently before the Ark of the Covenant[d] to serve as a warning to rebels. This should put an end to their complaints against me and prevent any further deaths.” 11 So Moses did as the Lord commanded him.
12 Then the people of Israel said to Moses, “Look, we are doomed! We are dead! We are ruined! 13 Everyone who even comes close to the Tabernacle of the Lord dies. Are we all doomed to die?”
Duties of Priests and Levites
18 Then the Lord said to Aaron: “You, your sons, and your relatives from the tribe of Levi will be held responsible for any offenses related to the sanctuary. But you and your sons alone will be held responsible for violations connected with the priesthood.
2 “Bring your relatives of the tribe of Levi—your ancestral tribe—to assist you and your sons as you perform the sacred duties in front of the Tabernacle of the Covenant.[e] 3 But as the Levites go about all their assigned duties at the Tabernacle, they must be careful not to go near any of the sacred objects or the altar. If they do, both you and they will die. 4 The Levites must join you in fulfilling their responsibilities for the care and maintenance of the Tabernacle,[f] but no unauthorized person may assist you.
5 “You yourselves must perform the sacred duties inside the sanctuary and at the altar. If you follow these instructions, the Lord’s anger will never again blaze against the people of Israel. 6 I myself have chosen your fellow Levites from among the Israelites to be your special assistants. They are a gift to you, dedicated to the Lord for service in the Tabernacle. 7 But you and your sons, the priests, must personally handle all the priestly rituals associated with the altar and with everything behind the inner curtain. I am giving you the priesthood as your special privilege of service. Any unauthorized person who comes too near the sanctuary will be put to death.”
Support for the Priests and Levites
8 The Lord gave these further instructions to Aaron: “I myself have put you in charge of all the holy offerings that are brought to me by the people of Israel. I have given all these consecrated offerings to you and your sons as your permanent share. 9 You are allotted the portion of the most holy offerings that is not burned on the fire. This portion of all the most holy offerings—including the grain offerings, sin offerings, and guilt offerings—will be most holy, and it belongs to you and your sons. 10 You must eat it as a most holy offering. All the males may eat of it, and you must treat it as most holy.
11 “All the sacred offerings and special offerings presented to me when the Israelites lift them up before the altar also belong to you. I have given them to you and to your sons and daughters as your permanent share. Any member of your family who is ceremonially clean may eat of these offerings.
12 “I also give you the harvest gifts brought by the people as offerings to the Lord—the best of the olive oil, new wine, and grain. 13 All the first crops of their land that the people present to the Lord belong to you. Any member of your family who is ceremonially clean may eat this food.
14 “Everything in Israel that is specially set apart for the Lord[g] also belongs to you.
15 “The firstborn of every mother, whether human or animal, that is offered to the Lord will be yours. But you must always redeem your firstborn sons and the firstborn of ceremonially unclean animals. 16 Redeem them when they are one month old. The redemption price is five pieces of silver[h] (as measured by the weight of the sanctuary shekel, which equals twenty gerahs).
17 “However, you may not redeem the firstborn of cattle, sheep, or goats. They are holy and have been set apart for the Lord. Sprinkle their blood on the altar, and burn their fat as a special gift, a pleasing aroma to the Lord. 18 The meat of these animals will be yours, just like the breast and right thigh that are presented by lifting them up as a special offering before the altar. 19 Yes, I am giving you all these holy offerings that the people of Israel bring to the Lord. They are for you and your sons and daughters, to be eaten as your permanent share. This is an eternal and unbreakable covenant[i] between the Lord and you, and it also applies to your descendants.”
20 And the Lord said to Aaron, “You priests will receive no allotment of land or share of property among the people of Israel. I am your share and your allotment. 21 As for the tribe of Levi, your relatives, I will compensate them for their service in the Tabernacle. Instead of an allotment of land, I will give them the tithes from the entire land of Israel.
22 “From now on, no Israelites except priests or Levites may approach the Tabernacle. If they come too near, they will be judged guilty and will die. 23 Only the Levites may serve at the Tabernacle, and they will be held responsible for any offenses against it. This is a permanent law for you, to be observed from generation to generation. The Levites will receive no allotment of land among the Israelites, 24 because I have given them the Israelites’ tithes, which have been presented as sacred offerings to the Lord. This will be the Levites’ share. That is why I said they would receive no allotment of land among the Israelites.”
25 The Lord also told Moses, 26 “Give these instructions to the Levites: When you receive from the people of Israel the tithes I have assigned as your allotment, give a tenth of the tithes you receive—a tithe of the tithe—to the Lord as a sacred offering. 27 The Lord will consider this offering to be your harvest offering, as though it were the first grain from your own threshing floor or wine from your own winepress. 28 You must present one-tenth of the tithe received from the Israelites as a sacred offering to the Lord. This is the Lord’s sacred portion, and you must present it to Aaron the priest. 29 Be sure to give to the Lord the best portions of the gifts given to you.
30 “Also, give these instructions to the Levites: When you present the best part as your offering, it will be considered as though it came from your own threshing floor or winepress. 31 You Levites and your families may eat this food anywhere you wish, for it is your compensation for serving in the Tabernacle. 32 You will not be considered guilty for accepting the Lord’s tithes if you give the best portion to the priests. But be careful not to treat the holy gifts of the people of Israel as though they were common. If you do, you will die.”
The Water of Purification
19 The Lord said to Moses and Aaron, 2 “Here is another legal requirement commanded by the Lord: Tell the people of Israel to bring you a red heifer, a perfect animal that has no defects and has never been yoked to a plow. 3 Give it to Eleazar the priest, and it will be taken outside the camp and slaughtered in his presence. 4 Eleazar will take some of its blood on his finger and sprinkle it seven times toward the front of the Tabernacle.[j] 5 As Eleazar watches, the heifer must be burned—its hide, meat, blood, and dung. 6 Eleazar the priest must then take a stick of cedar,[k] a hyssop branch, and some scarlet yarn and throw them into the fire where the heifer is burning.
7 “Then the priest must wash his clothes and bathe himself in water. Afterward he may return to the camp, though he will remain ceremonially unclean until evening. 8 The man who burns the animal must also wash his clothes and bathe himself in water, and he, too, will remain unclean until evening. 9 Then someone who is ceremonially clean will gather up the ashes of the heifer and deposit them in a purified place outside the camp. They will be kept there for the community of Israel to use in the water for the purification ceremony. This ceremony is performed for the removal of sin. 10 The man who gathers up the ashes of the heifer must also wash his clothes, and he will remain ceremonially unclean until evening. This is a permanent law for the people of Israel and any foreigners who live among them.
11 “All those who touch a dead human body will be ceremonially unclean for seven days. 12 They must purify themselves on the third and seventh days with the water of purification; then they will be purified. But if they do not do this on the third and seventh days, they will continue to be unclean even after the seventh day. 13 All those who touch a dead body and do not purify themselves in the proper way defile the Lord’s Tabernacle, and they will be cut off from the community of Israel. Since the water of purification was not sprinkled on them, their defilement continues.
14 “This is the ritual law that applies when someone dies inside a tent: All those who enter that tent and those who were inside when the death occurred will be ceremonially unclean for seven days. 15 Any open container in the tent that was not covered with a lid is also defiled. 16 And if someone in an open field touches the corpse of someone who was killed with a sword or who died a natural death, or if someone touches a human bone or a grave, that person will be defiled for seven days.
17 “To remove the defilement, put some of the ashes from the burnt purification offering in a jar, and pour fresh water over them. 18 Then someone who is ceremonially clean must take a hyssop branch and dip it into the water. That person must sprinkle the water on the tent, on all the furnishings in the tent, and on the people who were in the tent; also on the person who touched a human bone, or touched someone who was killed or who died naturally, or touched a grave. 19 On the third and seventh days the person who is ceremonially clean must sprinkle the water on those who are defiled. Then on the seventh day the people being cleansed must wash their clothes and bathe themselves, and that evening they will be cleansed of their defilement.
20 “But those who become defiled and do not purify themselves will be cut off from the community, for they have defiled the sanctuary of the Lord. Since the water of purification has not been sprinkled on them, they remain defiled. 21 This is a permanent law for the people. Those who sprinkle the water of purification must afterward wash their clothes, and anyone who then touches the water used for purification will remain defiled until evening. 22 Anything and anyone that a defiled person touches will be ceremonially unclean until evening.”
Moses Strikes the Rock
20 In the first month of the year,[l] the whole community of Israel arrived in the wilderness of Zin and camped at Kadesh. While they were there, Miriam died and was buried.
2 There was no water for the people to drink at that place, so they rebelled against Moses and Aaron. 3 The people blamed Moses and said, “If only we had died in the Lord’s presence with our brothers! 4 Why have you brought the congregation of the Lord’s people into this wilderness to die, along with all our livestock? 5 Why did you make us leave Egypt and bring us here to this terrible place? This land has no grain, no figs, no grapes, no pomegranates, and no water to drink!”
6 Moses and Aaron turned away from the people and went to the entrance of the Tabernacle,[m] where they fell face down on the ground. Then the glorious presence of the Lord appeared to them, 7 and the Lord said to Moses, 8 “You and Aaron must take the staff and assemble the entire community. As the people watch, speak to the rock over there, and it will pour out its water. You will provide enough water from the rock to satisfy the whole community and their livestock.”
9 So Moses did as he was told. He took the staff from the place where it was kept before the Lord. 10 Then he and Aaron summoned the people to come and gather at the rock. “Listen, you rebels!” he shouted. “Must we bring you water from this rock?” 11 Then Moses raised his hand and struck the rock twice with the staff, and water gushed out. So the entire community and their livestock drank their fill.
12 But the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “Because you did not trust me enough to demonstrate my holiness to the people of Israel, you will not lead them into the land I am giving them!” 13 This place was known as the waters of Meribah (which means “arguing”) because there the people of Israel argued with the Lord, and there he demonstrated his holiness among them.
Edom Refuses Israel Passage
14 While Moses was at Kadesh, he sent ambassadors to the king of Edom with this message:
“This is what your relatives, the people of Israel, say: You know all the hardships we have been through. 15 Our ancestors went down to Egypt, and we lived there a long time, and we and our ancestors were brutally mistreated by the Egyptians. 16 But when we cried out to the Lord, he heard us and sent an angel who brought us out of Egypt. Now we are camped at Kadesh, a town on the border of your land. 17 Please let us travel through your land. We will be careful not to go through your fields and vineyards. We won’t even drink water from your wells. We will stay on the king’s road and never leave it until we have passed through your territory.”
18 But the king of Edom said, “Stay out of my land, or I will meet you with an army!”
19 The Israelites answered, “We will stay on the main road. If our livestock drink your water, we will pay for it. Just let us pass through your country. That’s all we ask.”
20 But the king of Edom replied, “Stay out! You may not pass through our land.” With that he mobilized his army and marched out against them with an imposing force. 21 Because Edom refused to allow Israel to pass through their country, Israel was forced to turn around.
The Death of Aaron
22 The whole community of Israel left Kadesh and arrived at Mount Hor. 23 There, on the border of the land of Edom, the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, 24 “The time has come for Aaron to join his ancestors in death. He will not enter the land I am giving the people of Israel, because the two of you rebelled against my instructions concerning the water at Meribah. 25 Now take Aaron and his son Eleazar up Mount Hor. 26 There you will remove Aaron’s priestly garments and put them on Eleazar, his son. Aaron will die there and join his ancestors.”
27 So Moses did as the Lord commanded. The three of them went up Mount Hor together as the whole community watched. 28 At the summit, Moses removed the priestly garments from Aaron and put them on Eleazar, Aaron’s son. Then Aaron died there on top of the mountain, and Moses and Eleazar went back down. 29 When the people realized that Aaron had died, all Israel mourned for him thirty days.
Starting your free trial of Bible Gateway Plus is easy. You’re already logged in with your Bible Gateway account. The next step is to enter your payment information. Your credit card won’t be charged until the trial period is over. You can cancel anytime during the trial period.
Click the button below to continue.
You’ve already claimed your free trial of Bible Gateway Plus. To subscribe at our regular subscription rate of $3.99/month, click the button below.
It looks like you’re already subscribed to Bible Gateway Plus! To manage your subscription, visit your Bible Gateway account settings.
Upgrade, and get the most out of your new account. An integrated digital Bible study library - including complete notes from the NIV Study Bible and the NKJV MacArthur Study Bible - is just a step away! Try it free for 30 days.
Three easy steps to start your free trial subscription to Bible Gateway Plus.