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40 That was also when the Canaanite king of Arad, from the Negev region, caught wind of the Israelites’ arrival and attacked them.
One battle between the Amorites (a people of Canaan) and the Israelites seems to be mentioned in four different passages (14:45; 21:1; 33:40; Deuteronomy 1:44). In this chapter, Moses is looking back at what has brought them to this place, ready to enter the land. He rehearses the death of Aaron (20:27–29) and the battle that followed. Initially, the Amorites overcome the Israelites at Hormah (14:45; 33:40; Deuteronomy 1:44) and take prisoners (21:1). Then with the Lord’s help, the Israelites rebound to defeat the king of Arad and rescue the people who have been captured (21:2–4). For some reason, this battle is mentioned in different contexts three times and with two different outcomes.
41-47 After Mount Hor, their next camp site was Zalmonah, then Punon, Oboth, Iye-abarim (on Moab’s border), Dibon-gad, Almon-diblathaim, and Nebo’s foothills of Abarim. 48 From Abarim, they set up camp on the flatlands of Moab, on the western banks of the Jordan River, east of Jericho. 49 Their camp stretched from Beth-jeshimoth on the riverbank to Abel-shittim in the flatlands.
50 In that Moabite flatland, next to the Jordan, east of Jericho, the Eternal One told Moses to speak to the people.
Moses is instructed to remind the people of their mission to take the land and utterly decimate the peoples who are presently living there.
Eternal One: 51 Tell this new generation of Israelites that as soon as they cross the Jordan into Canaan, 52 they must make its inhabitants flee. They must obliterate any carved or molded images of other gods and goddesses and the high places where they’re worshiped. 53 Tell them they must take that land. I promised it to them and have determined they should live in it as their own. 54 Divide it up among the people by clan, and make decisions about who gets what partly based on the size of the groups. But once you’ve made that rough distinction, draw lots for the specific territories. Whatever you draw, that’s how the land shall be allotted. Each of the tribes from Jacob’s extended families shall have their own land. 55 If they do not fully conquer and take the land from its native inhabitants, those remaining people will be a constant irritation, causing trouble and annoyance like thorns in their eyes and barbs in their sides 56 because if they don’t fully dispossess the present occupants, I will do to the Israelites what I would have done to the Canaanites.
Aaron is now dead, and Moses is given the final instructions about the division of the land. Even knowing he will not enter the land, Moses doesn’t whine or step back from leadership. He continues following God until the nation is about to cross through the waters of the Jordan and begin their new adventure, realizing God’s destiny for themselves, because he is the faithful servant of God even when he knows there will be no reward.
34 The Eternal One spoke to Moses.
Eternal One (to Moses): 2 Command the Israelites, “This is the exact territory you should take, as promised to you by Me for an inheritance throughout the succeeding generations—the entire land of Canaan. 3 The southern part runs from the Zin Wilderness along the border with Edom. The southern boundary begins at the end of the Dead Sea[a] on the east, 4 turns south of the Akrabbim highlands, and crosses over to Zin. Its far end is south of Kadesh-barnea, over to Hazar-addar, across to Azmon, 5 and from there to the Egyptian Wadi straight out to the great Mediterranean Sea. 6 This great sea will be your western boundary. 7 At the northern end, make a line from the great Mediterranean Sea to Mount Hor, 8 then to Lebo-hamath, and up to Zedad. 9 Your territory will be south of Ziphron and Hazar-enan. All that makes up your northern boundary. 10 As for the east, mark your boundary from Hazar-enan to Shepham, 11 down to Riblah (east of Ain), follow the eastern slope of the Sea of Chinnereth, 12 and down the Jordan River all the way to the Dead Sea.[b] That’s it. Those are the boundaries of your promised land.”
Moses (to the Israelites): 13 Exactly which parts of it go to which family shall be determined finally by lot. That is, at least, for the nine remaining tribes and for Ephraim, the other half of the Joseph tribe. 14-15 The extended families of Gadites, Reubenites, and Manassehites (from Joseph’s line) have already gotten their land on this eastern side of the Jordan River.
16 Again the Eternal One spoke to Moses.
Eternal One: 17 The priest Eleazar and Joshua (Nun’s son) shall have the honor of assigning the territories that will henceforth be each one’s ancestral land. 18 One from each of the tribes will then execute these directions. 19 Those men are: for Judah—Caleb (Jephunneh’s son); 20 for Simeon—Shemuel (Ammihud’s son); 21 for Benjamin—Elidad (Chislon’s son); 22 for the Danites—Bukki (Jogli’s son); 23 out of the greater Joseph family, for the Manassehites—Hanniel (Ephod’s son), 24 and for the Ephraimites—Kemuel (Shiphtan’s son); 25 for Zebulun—Elizaphan (Parnach’s son); 26 for Issachar—Paltiel (Azzan’s son); 27 for Asher—Ahihud (Shelomi’s son); 28 and for Naphtali—Pedahel (Ammihud’s son).
29 These are the men whom the Eternal One determined should head up the process of dividing the Canaanite land among the Israelites.
35 In that area, on the Moabite flatlands across the Jordan River, east of Jericho, the Eternal One issued more directions mediated by Moses to the Israelites.
God ensures that an allowance is made for the Levites, who will not have any territory of their own.
Eternal One: 2 Tell the Israelite families that once they’ve received the land that will be undeniably theirs and theirs alone, they must each set aside some cities and those cities’ surrounding fields within their particular territory for the Levites. 3-4 The Levites can then live in those cities and use the surrounding fields, 1,500 feet from the wall all around, to keep and raise their animals. 5 In other words, with the city at the center, the fields designated for the Levites should encompass a territory with a radius of 3,000 feet.
6-8 Make sure they are allocated according to the size of the territory that each group has. The biggest families will give the greatest number of towns; the smaller tribes only a few. Included among the Levites’ towns, 48 in total, shall be the six cities of refuge to where a person who killed someone by accident can run for safety from revenge, along with 42 other cities.
9 (continuing to Moses) 10 Tell the Israelites that once they’ve crossed the Jordan into Canaan and can see the land for themselves, 11-12 they should pick out which cities they want to make safe havens for persons accused of manslaughter. If someone kills another person by accident, the guilty party should be able to live in one of those cities without fear that he’ll be killed in revenge before he’s had a fair trial in front of his peers. 13-15 It’s up to the people exactly which six cities they designate for this purpose, but be sure three are beyond the Jordan and three are in Canaan. These are to be safe places for anyone who unintentionally caused another person’s death whether he is an Israelite or a foreigner.
16-21 If someone picks up an instrument—iron, stone, wood, whatever—and batters somebody else so badly that the victim dies, or if he otherwise kills with intent (fatally pushes with hatred or throws an object from some hidden place that kills its target), the perpetrator is guilty of murder. His punishment is death in return, and someone shall be assigned to kill him. The one to carry out this death penalty is called the “blood avenger.” Whenever the avenger has a chance to kill the murderer, he should do so.
22-28 Sometimes it happens, though, that a person pushes his friend or acquaintance, throws an object, or happens to drop a heavy stone on someone else without any intention of hurting (much less killing) the person, but the other person happens to die from it. The guilty person should be able to take refuge in one of the six designated cities, safe from the one who would avenge the death he caused. Then people from among the greater community shall judge whether it was indeed an accident or not. When the congregation determines it was an accident, the person who accidentally killed shall be saved from the blood avenger. He must live within the city of refuge, though. If he leaves it, the blood avenger is allowed to kill him with impunity because the man knew not to leave his sanctuary city. However, once the anointed high priest of Israel dies, that restriction shall be lifted, and the person who unintentionally killed another may return home, free and clear. 29 This is the way it should be, a binding law based on precedents, for this community down through the generations and wherever they happen to be living.
30 The case of intentional murder is different. A person so guilty shall be put to death, but only if there are enough witnesses to render a reliable account. If only one person claims to have seen the crime, you shall not put the accused to death. 31 If someone is indeed guilty, there shall be no alternative of life ransom for the death penalty. This crime cannot be paid off. 32 Neither shall you take money to get a person accused of manslaughter out of his obligation to live in the city of refuge. He simply must stay there till the term is up, when the high priest dies. 33 Failure to honor life in this way contaminates the very land itself. Do not pollute the land where you live by allowing blood guilt to go unpunished. Once the land has been subjected to such violence, it must be purified, so the blood of the one who caused bloodshed must be shed. 34 You won’t pollute the land where you live and where I also have chosen to dwell among you. I, the Eternal One, dwell among the Israelites.
12 Another time in a city nearby, a man covered with skin lesions comes along. As soon as he sees Jesus, he prostrates himself.
Leper: Lord, if You wish to, You can heal me of my disease.
13 Jesus reaches out His hand and touches the man, something no one would normally do for fear of being infected or of becoming ritually unclean.
Jesus: I want to heal you. Be cleansed!
Immediately the man is cured. 14 Jesus tells him firmly not to tell anyone about this.
Jesus: Go, show yourself to the priest, and do what Moses commanded by making an appropriate offering to celebrate your cleansing. This will prove to everyone what has happened.
15 Even though Jesus said not to talk about what happened, soon every conversation was consumed by these events. The crowds swelled even larger as people went to hear Jesus preach and to be healed of their many afflictions. 16 Jesus repeatedly left the crowds, though, stealing away into the wilderness to pray.
17 One day Jesus was teaching in a house, and the healing power of the Lord was with Him. Pharisees and religious scholars were sitting and listening, having come from villages all across the regions of Galilee and Judea and from the holy city of Jerusalem.
18 Some men came to the house, carrying a paralyzed man on his bed pallet. They wanted to bring him in and present him to Jesus, 19 but the house was so packed with people that they couldn’t get in. So they climbed up on the roof and pulled off some roof tiles. Then they lowered the man by ropes so he came to rest right in front of Jesus.
20 In this way, their faith was visible to Jesus.
Jesus (to the man on the pallet): My friend, all your sins are forgiven.
21 The Pharisees and religious scholars were offended at this. They turned to one another and asked questions.
Pharisees and Religious Scholars: Who does He think He is? Wasn’t that blasphemous? Who can pronounce that a person’s sins are forgiven? Who but God alone?
Jesus (responding with His own question): 22 Why are your hearts full of questions? 23 Which is easier to say, “Your sins are forgiven” or “Get up and walk”? 24 Just so you’ll know that the Son of Man is fully authorized to forgive sins on earth (He turned to the paralyzed fellow lying on the pallet), I say, get up, take your mat, and go home.
25 Then, right in front of their eyes, the man stood up, picked up his bed, and left to go home—full of praises for God! 26 Everyone was stunned. They couldn’t help but feel awestruck, and they praised God too.
People: We’ve seen extraordinary things today.
27 Some time later, Jesus walked along the street and saw a tax collector named Levi sitting in his tax office.
Jesus: Follow Me.
28 And Levi did. He got up from his desk, left everything (just as the fishermen had), and followed Jesus.
29 Shortly after this, Levi invited his many friends and associates, including many tax collectors, to his home for a large feast in Jesus’ honor. Everyone sat at a table together.
The Pharisees are back again, and they stay through the rest of the story. Pharisaism is a religious movement, consisting of lay people (not clergy) who share a deep commitment to the Hebrew Scriptures and traditions. They believe the Jewish people have not yet been freed from the Romans because of the Jews’ tolerance of sin. There are too many drunks, prostitutes, and gluttons. “If we could just get these sinners to change their ways,” they feel, “then God would send the One who will free us.” How angry they are at Jesus not just for forgiving sins but also for eating with sinners! After all, to eat with people means to accept them. The kind of Rescuer they expect will judge and destroy sinners, not forgive them and enjoy their company!
30 The Pharisees and their associates, the religious scholars, got the attention of some of Jesus’ disciples.
Pharisees (in low voices): What’s wrong with you? Why are you eating and drinking with tax collectors and other immoral people?
Jesus (answering for the disciples): 31 Healthy people don’t need a doctor, but sick people do. 32 I haven’t come for the pure and upstanding; I’ve come to call notorious sinners to rethink their lives and turn to God.
Pharisees: 33 Explain to us why You and Your disciples are so commonly found partying like this, when our disciples—and even the disciples of John—are known for fasting rather than feasting, and for saying prayers rather than drinking wine.
Jesus: 34 Imagine there’s a wedding going on. Is that the time to tell the guests to ignore the bridegroom and fast? 35 Sure, there’s a time for fasting—when the bridegroom has been taken away. 36 Look, nobody tears up a new garment to make a patch for an old garment. If he did, the new patch would shrink and rip the old, and the old garment would be worse off than before. 37 And nobody takes freshly squeezed juice and puts it into old, stiff wineskins. If he did, the fresh wine would make the old skins burst open, and both the wine and the wineskins would be ruined. 38 New demands new—new wine for new wineskins. 39 Anyway, those who’ve never tasted the new wine won’t know what they’re missing; they’ll always say, “The old wine is good enough for me!”
1 All will stand in awe to praise You.
Praise will sweep through Zion, the Sacred City, O God.
Solemn vows uttered to You will now be performed.
2 You hear us pray in words and silence;
all humanity comes into Your presence.
3 Injustice overwhelms me!
But You forgive our sins, restoring as only You can.
4 You invite us near, drawing us
into Your courts—what an honor and a privilege!
We feast until we’re full on the goodness of Your house,
Your sacred temple made manifest.
5 You leave us breathless when Your awesome works answer us by putting everything right.
God of our liberation—
You are the hope of all creation, from the far corners of the earth
to distant life-giving oceans.
6 With immense power, You erected mountains.
Wrapped in strength, You compelled
7 Choppy seas,
and crowds of people
To sit in astonished silence.
8 Those who inhabit the boundaries of the earth are awed by Your signs,
strong and subtle hints of Your indelible presence.
Even the dawn and dusk respond to You with joy.
9 You spend time on the good earth,
watering and nourishing the networks of the living.
God’s river is full of water!
By preparing the land,
You have provided us grain for nourishment.
10 You are the gentle equalizer: soaking the furrows,
smoothing soil’s ridges,
Softening sun-baked earth with generous showers,
blessing the fruit of the ground.
11 You crown the year with a fruitful harvest;
the paths are worn down by carts overflowing with unstoppable growth.
12 Barren desert pastures yield fruit;
craggy hills are now dressed for celebration.
13 Meadows are clothed with frolicking flocks of lambs;
valleys are covered with a carpet of autumn-harvest grain;
the land shouts and sings in joyous celebration.
23 Those who live right crave what is good,
but the prospect of wrongdoers is wrath.