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17 (to Moses) 18 Tell the Israelites this as well: “After you’ve entered the land that I’m taking you to, 19 whenever you enjoy the land’s bread, give a contribution to Me by raising up your offering to Me. 20-21 Just as you set aside a little grain on the threshing floor, so you and your descendants should set aside a little cake loaf from the first batch, as an offering to Me.
22 “If, somehow, someone overlooked or otherwise accidentally failed to do what I spelled out through Moses for the congregation 23 (all those commandments from the first day I gave them to you and throughout coming generations), 24-26 and it only came to the attention of the community after the fact, then the whole congregation should offer a bull together. Offer all of it by fire so that it smells good to Me along with the requisite grain and drink offerings, and sacrifice a male goat since it was a sin of sorts. In the process, the priest will cover all the Israelites, and they’ll be forgiven, for it was an unintentional offense. So, if they do all the right things to rectify the situation, then everyone (and not just native Israelites but even all the other people who happen to be living with them at the time) will be forgiven.
A constant theme as God instructs His people is to remember or to have a memorial: the family of Abraham builds monuments of stacked stones almost everywhere they go, and these people will do the same as they enter the land. Each child is given a name with clear meaning about either the character of the child or about the faithfulness of God. Each town is given a name that recalls something of significance, maybe the founder or a great war. Likewise, the foods they eat in their feasts have meaning or help them recall a shared memory. The offerings of the Israelites and the later sacraments of the church all serve as memorials or remembrances.
Here God instructs the people to alter their garments as a reminder of His commands and their own responsibilities to obey. Since the punishment for unbelief or disobedience is severe, God in His grace builds reminders into everyday life so the people do not have to struggle to remember these critical rules or truths.
27 “If an individual sins by accident (and the congregation catches it in time), he should offer a female yearling goat as the sin offering. 28 Thereby the priest shall cover that individual who sins accidentally in front of Me. Now that the mistake is covered, that person shall be forgiven. 29 This is the way it should be for Israelites and outsiders alike—for anyone who accidentally errs. 30-31 If it’s not an accident—the guilty person simply didn’t care about abiding by the instructions I gave to the Israelites through Moses and knowingly disregarded them—that’s different. Such a person, whether an Israelite or a stranger, has essentially rejected God. The community will ostracize him, and he’ll have to bear the burden of his guilt.”
32 One time, when the Israelites were wandering in the wilderness, it was discovered that somebody had broken the Sabbath rest commandment by gathering firewood. 33 The people who saw the man brought him to Moses and Aaron and the gathered congregation. 34 They weren’t sure what to do with him because nothing had been declared yet, so they kept him confined. 35 The Eternal One told Moses the man should be killed, that the whole congregation should take him outside the camp and stone him to death. 36 So they did just as the Eternal told them to do and executed him.
37 Once again the Eternal One spoke to Moses.
Eternal One: 38 Tell the Israelites to make fringes on each corner of their clothes and include a blue thread in each fringe. They should do this forever, 39 as it will bring to mind all My commandments and remind them not to wander off to do whatever their eyes see or hearts desire, and pursue them without restraint. 40 Instead, they will remember and do all of My commandments and be holy to your God.
41 I, the Eternal One, am your True God, the One who brought you out of Egypt to be your God. I am the Eternal One, your True God.
16 Sometime later, a discontented contingent challenged Moses. Korah (Izhar’s son, Kohath’s grandson, and Levi’s great-grandson) together with the Reubenites Dathan and Abiram (Eliab’s sons) and On (Peleth’s son) 2 gathered another 250 Israelite men, all of them respectable members of the community, some even chosen leaders, and confronted Moses.
Korah and His Men (to Moses and Aaron): 3 You’ve taken this leadership way too far. We are all holy; indeed each individual is holy to our God. The Eternal One is present among the entire congregation. How can you presume to be better than any of us, the Eternal’s chosen community?
4 When Moses heard their complaint, he collapsed to the ground, again hoping to divert God’s anger.
Moses (to Korah and his men): 5 In the morning, the Eternal One will demonstrate exactly who is who among us—who belongs to the Eternal[a] as a holy servant whom He allows into His presence. He will indicate whom He chooses to approach Him. 6 All of you, take censers: Korah and your company. 7 Light them, put incense on the flame, and set them down in front of the Eternal tomorrow. The person whom He chooses will be the holy one. O Levites, you have taken this too far!
8 (to Korah) Listen, you Levites. 9 Isn’t it enough that the God of Israel has selected you specially, out of the entire Israelite congregation, to allow you to come close to the Eternal in the process of taking care of His very congregation tent and place of revelation? To be so distinguished before all of the other Israelites in your service? 10 The Eternal has granted you this privilege, Korah, you and all your fraternity of Levites. Yet you want the whole priesthood too? You should be ashamed. 11 This has led you to band together against the Eternal. But why should you be so hard and gripe against Aaron?
12 Bring the brothers Dathan and Abiram (Eliab’s sons) to me.
Dathan and Abiram: Forget it. We are not going to come running at your bidding. 13 You took us out of a place that was so rich—Egypt, flowing with milk and honey—in order to let us die in this desert wasteland, and now you’re actually trying to assert yourself as our ruler. 14 You haven’t brought us to a land flowing with milk and honey or delivered on your promise of fields and vineyards to call our own. What else will you do? Are you going to pluck out the eyes of these 250 men now? There’s no way we’re coming to you.
15 Now, Moses was furious.
Moses (to the Lord): Whatever You do, do not even look at the offerings from these people. I’ve never taken anything that belonged to them or hurt them in any way.
Moses responds with a justified and righteous anger. He demands that they be ignored because they’re full of themselves, and they are liars too.
16 (to Korah) You, get your unruly mob over here tomorrow. Assemble in this spot—before the Eternal One Himself—you and your people. Aaron will be there too. 17 Then let each person (all 250) take his censer, put the incense into it, and present it to the Eternal. You, too, Korah; and Aaron will do the same.
18 They all did this. They ignited the censers, put their incense inside, and stood with Moses and Aaron at the opening of the congregation tent where God would meet with them. 19 But Korah stirred up the people standing there against Moses and Aaron. The glory of the Eternal One was visible to all, 20 and then the Eternal spoke to Moses and Aaron.
Suddenly the brilliance of God’s glory overtakes the place. The people are used to the glory of God being reserved for Moses. But now all could experience it. This rare occurrence is again related to open rebellion against Moses. God makes it clear: His conduit to the people is Moses. They must have thought back on the experience at Hazeroth, when Miriam and Aaron chastised Moses for marrying a Cushite, and God also appeared (chapter 12).
Eternal One: 21 You two, break away from this crowd. Step aside so that I can devour them in a moment.
22 But Moses and Aaron fell down, bowing low before the glory of God.
Moses and Aaron: O God, God of the spirit of all human beings, will You really take out Your anger for one person’s wrongdoing on this large group?
23 The Eternal One told Moses,
Eternal One: 24 Well, then, tell the innocent people to step aside, to distance themselves from the places where Korah, Dathan, and Abiram live.
25 So Moses picked himself up and went over to Dathan and Abiram, with all Israel’s elders closely behind.
Moses (to the greater congregation): 26 Get away from the houses of these presumptuous people who have made the Lord so angry. Get away from them and from all their possessions so that you’re not destroyed along with them for their wrongdoing.
27 The people hurried to distance themselves from Korah, Dathan, and Abiram and from their tents. Then Dathan and Abiram, along with their wives and children, stepped out of their tents and stood in the openings.
Moses: 28 Watch now, and you’ll have proof that I’m not acting out of self-interest but was truly sent by the Eternal One to do everything I’ve done so far. 29 If these instigators die normally, of natural causes, then I am not sent by Him. 30 But if He does something completely extraordinary, if the ground underneath them opens up and swallows them whole along with everything they have (so that they go straight down into the land of death even while they’re still alive); then you can be absolutely sure that these men have willfully turned their backs on the Eternal One.
31 No sooner had Moses finished speaking than the earth split underneath them. 32 The earth opened its mouth and swallowed them down—them and everything and everyone associated with Korah. 33 Then, just as suddenly, the ground closed up over them again, and so they perished, taken alive to the land of the dead. 34 Those who remained ran away, terrified.
Surviving Israelites: What if the earth swallows us up too?
35 A fire shot out from the Eternal One and incinerated the 250 men who were offering the incense on Korah’s behalf.
36 The Eternal One continued speaking to Moses.
Eternal One: 37-40 Tell Priest Aaron’s son, Eleazar, to pull the censers out of the smoldering pile and scatter the burning coals all around, as far as he can. Take the censers used by these men, at the cost of their lives, and hammer them down into sheets that can cover the altar. After all, the objects are now holy, having been presented to Me. They’ll also serve as a cautionary reminder for the Israelites that anyone who isn’t related to Aaron shouldn’t presume to approach Me with incense—or else he’ll end up like Korah and his men, just as I told you to warn would happen.
So Eleazar the priest hammered the bronze censers down into a covering for the altar.
15 When morning came, the chief priests met in council with all the Jewish leaders. They bound Jesus, led Him away, and turned Him over to the Roman governor, Pilate.
Pilate (after hearing them): 2 Are You the King of the Jews?
Jesus: You have said so.
3 The chief priests went on to accuse Jesus of many things, but Jesus simply stood quietly.
Pilate: 4 Do You have anything to say? How do You respond to all these charges that have been made against You?
5 But Jesus said nothing more, and Pilate was astonished.
6 Now it was his custom at that feast that Pilate should release one prisoner from custody, whomever the people most desired. 7 There was one rebel from those imprisoned for insurrection against the Roman occupation. He had committed murder during an uprising. His name was Barabbas. 8 A crowd had gathered in front of Pilate’s judgment seat to request that Pilate follow his usual custom.
9 Pilate turned to them.
Pilate: Why don’t I release to you the King of the Jews?
10 He knew that the chief priests had delivered Jesus because they were threatened by Him, not because Jesus was a criminal.
11 But priests moved among the crowd and persuaded them to call for Barabbas instead.
Pilate: 12 Then what do you want me to do with the King of the Jews?
Crowd: 13 Crucify Him, crucify Him!
14 But now he called to them.
Pilate: Why? What has He done to deserve such a sentence?
Crowd (crying all the louder): Crucify Him, crucify Him!
Barabbas is an active and a militant Jewish leader. In one sense, the choice that the crowd is offered—to have either Jesus or Barabbas released—can be seen as a choice between two types of revolutions. Do they want a revolution of power, a revolution that is easily visible, a revolution that will conquer their enemies in a way they can understand? Or do they want a revolution of healing, a revolution of love, a revolution that will bring the kingdom of God to earth in a mystical, transcendental way? It’s no wonder they make the choice they do. Who wants a gentle revolution in a time of war?
15 When Pilate saw that he could not persuade the crowd to change its mind, he released Barabbas to them and had Jesus publicly whipped, which was the normal prelude to crucifixion. Then he had Jesus led away to be crucified. 16 The soldiers took Him into the headquarters of the governor; and the rest of the soldiers in the detachment gathered there, hundreds of them. 17 They put a purple robe on Him and made a crown of thorns that they forced onto His head, 18 and they began to cry out in mock salute.
Soldiers: Hail to the King of the Jews!
19 For a long while they beat Him on the head with a reed, spat upon Him, and knelt down as if to honor Him. 20 When they had finished mocking Him, they stripped off His purple robe and put His own clothes back on Him. Then they took Him away to be executed.
21 Along the way, they met a man from Cyrene, Simon (the father of Rufus and Alexander), who was coming in from the fields; and they ordered him to carry the heavy crossbar of the cross. 22 And so they came at last to the execution site, a hill called Golgotha, which means the “Place of a Skull.”
23 The soldiers offered Jesus wine mixed with myrrh to dull His pain, but He refused it. 24 And so they crucified Him, divided up His clothes, and cast lots (an ancient equivalent of rolling dice) to see who would keep the clothes they had stripped from Him.
25 His crucifixion began about nine o’clock in the morning. 26 Over His head hung a sign that indicated the charge for which He was being crucified. It read, “THE KING OF THE JEWS.” 27 On either side of Him were two insurgents who also had received the death penalty. [28 And the Hebrew Scripture was completed that said, “He was considered just another criminal.”][a]
29 Those passing by on their way into or out of Jerusalem insulted and ridiculed Him.
Some in the Crowd: So You’re the One who was going to destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days? 30 Well, if You’re so powerful, then why don’t You rescue Yourself? Come on down from the cross!
Chief Priests and Scribes (mocking Jesus among themselves): 31 He rescued others, but He can’t rescue Himself. 32 Let the Anointed—the King of Israel—come down from the cross now, and we will see it and believe.
Even the insurgents who were being crucified next to Him taunted Him and reviled Him.
33 At noon, the day suddenly darkened for three hours across the entire land. 34 Sometime around three o’clock Jesus called out in a loud voice.
Jesus: Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?
Jesus was speaking, as in the psalms, “My God, My God, why have You turned Your back on Me?”[b]
35 Some of those standing nearby misunderstood Him.
Bystanders: Hey, He’s calling for Elijah.
36 One of them filled a sponge with wine that had turned to vinegar and lifted it to Jesus’ lips on a stick so He could drink.
Bystander: Let’s see if Elijah will come to take Him down.
37 Then Jesus cried out with a loud voice, and He took His last breath.
38 At that moment, the curtain in the temple was torn in two from top to bottom.
The tearing of the temple veil is a picture of what Jesus’ death has accomplished. The temple sanctuary is divided into two sections: the holy place and the most holy place. The most holy place is a chamber so sanctified that only the high priest can enter—and then only once a year. There God’s presence is manifest on earth.
A long curtain divides the two areas, and at the moment of Jesus’ death it is torn in two. The veil that serves as a means to protect everyone but the high priest from the power of God’s presence is no longer needed because Jesus, on account of His sacrificial death, gives everyone access to God. Only God Himself can rip the curtain in two “from top to bottom,” opening the way for people to come into His presence.
39 The Roman Centurion, the soldier in charge of the executions, stood in front of Jesus, [heard His words,][c] and saw the manner of His death.
Centurion: Surely this man was the Son of God!
40 Off in the distance, away from the crowds, stood some women who knew and had followed Jesus, including Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of the younger James, Joses, and Salome. 41 These were women who used to care for Him when He was in Galilee, and many other women who had followed Jesus to Jerusalem joined them.
42 Evening came. The crucifixion had taken place on preparation day, Friday, before the Jewish Sabbath began at sundown. 43 Joseph of Arimathea, a member of the ruling council who was also a believer anxiously waiting for the kingdom of God, went to Pilate and boldly asked for the body of Jesus.
44 Pilate could not believe Jesus was already dead, so he sent for the Centurion, 45 who confirmed it. Then Pilate gave Joseph permission to take the body.
46 Joseph had the body wrapped in a linen burial cloth he had purchased and laid Him in a tomb that had been carved out of rock. Then he had a stone rolled over the opening to seal it. 47 Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses were watching as the body was interred.
This is a lament reflecting the time when David was betrayed to Saul (1 Samuel 23:6–29). It expresses hope that God will save by His name. The name refers to the covenant name given to Moses at Mount Sinai (Exodus 3). We have translated it “the Eternal One.” For the ancients the name of God has power precisely because it embodies the presence of God. To call upon the name was to call upon God to remember His covenant promises and be present in power in order to rescue His people.
1 Liberate me, O God, by the authority of Your name.
Vindicate me through Your legendary power.
2 Hear my prayer, O God;
let the words of my mouth reach Your sympathetic ear.
3 The truth is, these strangers are rallying against me;
cold-blooded men seek to slay me;
they have no respect for You.
4 But see now! God comes to rescue me;
the Lord is my valiant supporter.
5 He will repay my enemies for the harm they have done; they are doomed!
According to Your faithful promises, silence them.
6 I will sacrifice to You willingly;
I will lift Your name by shouts of thanksgiving, O Eternal One, for Your name is good.
7 God has pulled me out from every one of the troubles that encompass me,
and I have seen what it means to stand over my enemies in triumph.
5 The good deeds of the blameless pave a peaceful, productive path,
but wrongdoers trip over their own faults.
6 The good deeds of the upright will rescue them,
but the faithless will be conquered by their shallow desires.