Death Penalty for Picking up Sticks?!

[Draft: Nov 6/2010]

I got this question from a tender-hearted believer:

Hi, Glenn, I have a troubling question weighing on my mind about the OT. In the New Testament Jesus says the Sabbath was made for man and not the other way around. Yet when one reads the Old Testament God tells Moses to execute a man for picking up "sticks" on the Sabbath. This has always troubled me throughout my life, all the other tuff questions are relatively small potatoes compared to this (at least in my opinion). I know many people who have read the Ot and didn't become believers because of this passage, they could get "over" the Caananites and Midianites tuff qs, but not this one. To them this proved that this was made up to tell the Early Jews how the Sabbath came about, rather than historical and supernatural fact. To me why would God, Who is Infinite, Just, Merciful, Who allowed the Amelakites to harass the Israelites for hundreds of years hoping they would repent ask Moses to kill a man for getting (firewood? or was he making weapons to rebel?)"sticks". Please help me, is the traslation wrong or is the explanation been lost in the history of time? I need guidance on this ASAP! Thanks!

The passage he was referring to is in Numbers 15:32-36:

While the people of Israel were in the wilderness, they found a man gathering sticks on the Sabbath day. 33 And those who found him gathering sticks brought him to Moses and Aaron and to all the congregation. 34 They put him in custody, because it had not been made clear what should be done to him. 35 And the LORD said to Moses, “The man shall be put to death; all the congregation shall stone him with stones outside the camp.” 36 And all the congregation brought him outside the camp and stoned him to death with stones, as the LORD commanded Moses.

Let's make some quick historical observations about this event:

One. This occurs during the 40 years in which Israel was living and moving around in the wilderness. All of the regulations about the importance of the Sabbath had been given. There was no lack of clarity on the part of anyone about this:

The Sabbath was one of the Ten Commandments -- a mandatory day of rest for every living thing in the nation: Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. 11 For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy. (Ex 20:8–11).

No work was to be done: Moses assembled all the congregation of the people of Israel and said to them, “These are the things that the LORD has commanded you to do. 2 Six days work shall be done, but on the seventh day you shall have a Sabbath of solemn rest, holy to the LORD. Whoever does any work on it shall be put to death. (Ex 35:1–2).

No fires were to be kindled in the home: You shall kindle no fire in all your dwelling places on the Sabbath day.” (Ex 35:3).

No cooking was allowed from evening to evening--the family had to prepare the day before, for everyone to be able to remember God's goodness and to enjoy the creative fruits of the week before (as God did on the original Sabbath): On the sixth day they gathered twice as much bread, two omers each. And when all the leaders of the congregation came and told Moses, 23 he said to them, “This is what the LORD has commanded: ‘Tomorrow is a day of solemn rest, a holy Sabbath to the LORD; bake what you will bake and boil what you will boil, and all that is left over lay aside to be kept till the morning.’ ” 24 So they laid it aside till the morning, as Moses commanded them, and it did not stink, and there were no worms in it. 25 Moses said, “Eat it today, for today is a Sabbath to the LORD; today you will not find it in the field. 26 Six days you shall gather it, but on the seventh day, which is a Sabbath, there will be none.” (Ex 16:22–26).

No food gathering was allowed and no one was supposed to be outside their dwelling (for work): The LORD has given you the Sabbath; therefore on the sixth day he gives you bread for two days. Remain each of you in his place; let no one go out of his place on the seventh day.” 30 So the people rested on the seventh day. (Ex 16:29–30).

This was the central ("above all else") sign of the Covenant with God and sign of Israel's redemption and creation as an independent community/nation: And the LORD said to Moses, 13 “You are to speak to the people of Israel and say, ‘Above all you shall keep my Sabbaths, for this is a sign between me and you throughout your generations, that you may know that I, the LORD, sanctify you. (Ex 31:12–13; cf Ezek 20.12: Moreover, I gave them my Sabbaths, as a sign between me and them, that they might know that I am the LORD who sanctifies them. )

To violate this central of a mandate was a capital offense (stated over and over and over): You shall keep the Sabbath, because it is holy for you. Everyone who profanes it shall be put to death. Whoever does any work on it, that soul shall be cut off from among his people. 15 Six days shall work be done, but the seventh day is a Sabbath of solemn rest, holy to the LORD. Whoever does any work on the Sabbath day shall be put to death. 16 Therefore the people of Israel shall keep the Sabbath, observing the Sabbath throughout their generations, as a covenant forever. (Ex 31:14–16).

Everybody in Israel at this point KNEW THIS--!

Two. The response of the rest of Israel (who brings the offender to Moses and the elders) indicates that everybody else KNEW this was wrong:

"Although the outcome is clear, the crux of the incident reported here is not self-evident. Working on the sabbath was prohibited by the Decalogue (Exod. 20:10). Exodus 31:14 prescribes the death penalty for breaking the sabbath; Exod. 35:2–3 reiterates this penalty and specifies kindling a fire on the sabbath as an instance of working on the sabbath. Why did the leaders not know what to do about the man gathering sticks on the sabbath, so that they had to wait for instruction from God? Were they unsure whether the person had violated the sabbath, whether gathering sticks was permitted or not? Or were they unsure of the proper penalty for violation of the sabbath? Or were they unsure of how the death penalty should be carried out? … In the canonical form of the Pentateuch, the death penalty for violation of the sabbath by lighting a fire is already established in Exod. 35:2–3. One might suppose, therefore, that the story is intended to show that gathering sticks is work, just like making a fire. On the other hand, the immediately preceding paragraph has provided for expiation for unintentional violations of the commandments. If the community did not know whether gathering sticks violated the sabbath, then one would expect the divine response to clarify the law rather than simply pronounce the death penalty. The phrase “what should be done to him” and the focus of God’s words upon the penalty suggest that the offense was clear but the correct penalty was unknown. In the canonical form of the Pentateuch, the specification of death by stoning outside the camp is thus the new information offered by God’s reply. [Sakenfeld, K. D. (1995). Journeying with God : A commentary on the book of Numbers. International theological commentary (95–96). Grand Rapids, Mich.; Edinburgh: Wm. B. Eerdmans Pub. Co.; Handsel Press Ltd.]

"This record is placed here as an example of defiant sin. It does not state that the offender broke the Sabbath deliberately, but it is impossible to think otherwise as the whole community was resting. He must have known the Sabbath law, and the behaviour of every other person was surely witness enough. [Carson, D. A. (1994). New Bible commentary : 21st century edition (4th ed.) (Nu 15:32–36). Leicester, England; Downers Grove, Ill., USA: Inter-Varsity Press.]

Three. The word used for 'gathering' (mekoshesh) is only used here, in Exodus 5:7 (gathering straw for the work of making bricks), in 1 Kings 17 (of the widow gathering sticks to make a fire), and metaphorically as gathering people together 'in a heap' (Zeph 2.1). This is a 'work' word--the activity would have been illegal under the fundamental Sabbath covenant law. The only real question would have been HOW the death penalty should be administered (e.g., by God, by the community, by the elders, by community stoning, execution by sword by the leadership, execution by Levites, etc):

"gathering. The Hebrew meqôšēš, probably a denominative of qaš ‘straw’, means “to assemble, gather” into a bunch or bale. In Exod 5:7 and 12 it is said of gathering straw for making bricks, and in 1 Kgs 17:10–12 of gathering sticks to make a fire. It can also be said of assembling people (Zeph 2:1). One assumes that, in this instance, wood was being gathered in order to make a fire for cooking, which is expressly forbidden on the Sabbath, according to Exod 35:3, also a priestly law. [Levine, B. A. (2008). Numbers 1-20: A new translation with introduction and commentary (398–400). New Haven; London: Yale University Press.]

"Such is the predicament of the man gathering sticks on Shabbat. Binding, cutting, and carrying, all instances of m’lachah (assigned tasks), are prohibited on Shabbat. If the individual is suitably warned yet persists, sinning b’yad ramah ('defiantly' Num. 15:32–36), the offense demands karet ('cutting off from the community'). But no one knows which action to take [Sifri, Rashi in Sanh. 78b], so the man is brought before Moshe who consults the LORD. [Feinberg, J. E., Ph. D., & Moudy, K. A. (2002). Walk Numbers!: In the wilderness (76). Clarksville, MD: Lederer Books/Messianic Jewish Publishers.]

Four. God had already shown mercy once about this issue (working on the Sabbath), at the very beginning of that period--before this stick-gathering event happened. Some Israelites (probably very many--as implied by Ezek 20) violated the ban but God spared their lives, and repeated His warning. All Israel knew that subsequent infractions would be judged according to God's repeated instructions.

After this the people gathered the food morning by morning, each family according to its need. And as the sun became hot, the flakes they had not picked up melted and disappeared. 22 On the sixth day, they gathered twice as much as usual—four quarts for each person instead of two. Then all the leaders of the community came and asked Moses for an explanation. 23 He told them, “This is what the LORD commanded: Tomorrow will be a day of complete rest, a holy Sabbath day set apart for the LORD. So bake or boil as much as you want today, and set aside what is left for tomorrow.” 24 So they put some aside until morning, just as Moses had commanded. And in the morning the leftover food was wholesome and good, without maggots or odor. 25 Moses said, “Eat this food today, for today is a Sabbath day dedicated to the LORD. There will be no food on the ground today. 26 You may gather the food for six days, but the seventh day is the Sabbath. There will be no food on the ground that day.” 27 Some of the people went out anyway on the seventh day, but they found no food. 28 The LORD asked Moses, “How long will these people refuse to obey my commands and instructions? 29 They must realize that the Sabbath is the LORD’s gift to you. That is why he gives you a two-day supply on the sixth day, so there will be enough for two days. On the Sabbath day you must each stay in your place. Do not go out to pick up food on the seventh day.” 30 So the people did not gather any food on the seventh day. (Ex 16:21–30).

"Some people were skeptical of Moses’ prediction that no manna would fall on the Sabbath (cf. v. 20), and they went out to test it. Ezekiel (20:10–13) most likely refers to this incident when he recounts that Israel had already violated the Sabbath laws in the wilderness. If so, it suggests that the number involved was far greater than the text might indicate." [Sarna, N. M. (1991). Exodus. The JPS Torah commentary (90–91). Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society.]

"The extra collection of the sixth day, and Moses’ explanation of it to the anxious chief men gives place to a more detailed account of the provision of Yahweh’s sabbath. There is no manna to collect on that day, and those who go out to collect it despite Moses’ instruction and assurance of course find none. Their disobedience gives rise to a complaint of Yahweh about laxity in the keeping of his commands. Yahweh’s sabbath is his gift to Israel; he provides them on the sixth day with two days’ supply of manna, to allow for the seventh day, and so each one is commanded not to stir forth from his place on the seventh day. This time, the instruction is heeded. … Here again, the patterns of belief-disbelief and obedience-disobedience recurrent in the mighty act sequence and indeed in the narrative sequence of the entire Book of Exodus stand out in bold relief. Yahweh proves his Presence by a miraculous provision for a people who then fail to believe and who disregard his clear instruction. Yahweh provides for physical needs each day, only to have some of his people attempt to hoard for the next day. Yahweh provides for the spiritual growth of his people by setting one day apart as special, only to have some lose the benefit by ignoring the day. [Durham, J. I. (2002). Vol. 3: Word Biblical Commentary : Exodus. Word Biblical Commentary (225–226). Dallas: Word, Incorporated.]

This historical background noted above already reveals that this incident is more than just a minor or harmless infraction of the law. And when we now look at the literary context of the passage, the extremity of this man's act becomes obvious.

The immediate literary context is the description of the 'high-handed' (defiant) sin:

But the person who does anything with a high hand, whether he is native or a sojourner, reviles the LORD, and that person shall be cut off from among his people. 31 Because he has despised the word of the LORD and has broken his commandment, that person shall be utterly cut off; his iniquity shall be on him.” (versus 30-31)

And the JPS Torah commentary explains the image:

"acts defiantly Literally, “with upraised hand.” The original setting of this metaphor is seen in the statues of ancient Near Eastern deities who were sculpted with an uplifted or outstretched right hand, bearing a spear, war ax, or lightning bolt. Similarly, the mighty acts of the God of Israel are described as being performed “by a mighty hand and an outstretched arm” (Deut. 4:34; 5:15; 26:8) or by this very expression, “with an upraised hand” (33:3; Exod. 14:8). The upraised hand is therefore poised to strike; it is a threatening gesture of the Deity against His enemies or of man against God Himself. Thus, this literary image is most apposite for the brazen sinner who commits his acts in open defiance of the Lord (cf. Job 38:15). The essence of this sin is that it is committed flauntingly [footnote here points out that the phrase was translated as 'publicly' in Targum Onkelos and Targum Neofit]." [Milgrom, J. (1990). Numbers. The JPS Torah commentary (125). Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society.]

Most commentators understand our passage to be an example of the high-handed, arrogant act of defiance, but even more extreme than the 'normal' defiance! 'Normal defiance' was met with removal from the community ('cut off from the assembly', karet) which could mean either exile/banishment or execution [either of these effectively removed the offender from the community]. In the case of violation of the very sign of the covenant (the Sabbath), however, God specified that exile was not an acceptable form of 'cutting off'.

"30–31 Quite another case is presented by defiant sin. The Hebrew idiom is “sins with a high hand,” a posture of arrogance, blasphemy, and revolt. Unlike the unintentional sins, for which there are provisions of God’s mercy, one who sets his hand defiantly to despise the word of God and to blaspheme his name must be punished. The punishment is one of death, not just banishment or exile. Such a person is gone! … This verse should not be understood to include all manner of evil actions; for most were subject to forgiveness. The verse deals with outrageous behavior of blasphemy, not mild infractions." [Allen, R. B. (1990). Numbers. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor's Bible Commentary, Volume 2: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers (F. E. Gaebelein, Ed.) (830). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.]

"32–36 The introductory phrasing of this pericope suggests that this narrative was inserted into the text of Numbers at a later time, but the experience it relates is from the time of the desert experience of Israel. It is not likely that a story that begins with the phrasing “While the Israelites were in the desert” was an original part of the narrative that has its primary setting in the desert. The phrasing is quite similar to the opening words of the Book of Ruth, also a later reflection of events from long ago. … Whatever its history and origin, this story is something of a cause celebre of the very thing vv.30–31 describe. The breaking of the Sabbath was not akin to using one-third hin of oil rather than one-quarter or a two-year-old goat instead of a yearling. The point of the story is that Sabbath breaking is the act of a raised fist in defiance of the Lord; the offense strikes at the very center of Israel’s responsibility before the Lord. By his action (v.32) this man was thumbing his nose at God. … The brief account is presented in fine narrative style. The ones who discovered the man in Sabbath violation did not know quite what to do. Perhaps they were stunned by his brazenness. They presented him to Moses, Aaron, and the elders to see what must be done (v.33). The answer came from the Lord: “The man must die” (v.35, see Notes). And the sentence was to be carried out by the people, outside the camp. The public participation in his death sentence must have been a chilling event, deeply impressed on the psyche of the nation: “For this thing, I too might die.” … The penalty for breaking the Sabbath was death (Exod 31:15; 35:2). As in the case of the willful blasphemer (Lev 24:10–16), the Sabbath breaker was guilty of high-handed rebellion and was judged with death." [Allen, R. B. (1990). Numbers. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor's Bible Commentary, Volume 2: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers (F. E. Gaebelein, Ed.) (830–831). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.]

"These brief verses form the climax of the passage and, indeed, point back to the sin of the community in chs. 13–14. The sins hitherto discussed have all been inadvertent and are expiable by the appropriate sacrifice. All this is in sharp contrast to the sins that are said to be with a high hand (beyaḏ rāmâ). The same phrase describes the attitude of the Israelites to Pharaoh and the Egyptians at the time of the Exodus (e.g., Exod. 14:8; Num. 33:3, usually translated as “boldly,” or even “defiantly”). The Israelites thought themselves quite beyond the sphere of interference by Pharaoh, and they were confident that he was irrelevant for their future. While the passages in Exod. 14 and Num. 33 provide a positive evaluation of such an attitude, and the context here clearly calls for a negative evaluation, there are parallels in the attitude: the sinner with a high hand considers Yahweh irrelevant for the future; this one sins in an open-eyed and rebellious way, knowing full well what he or she is doing. This kind of rebellion therefore differs from the intentional sin described in Lev. 5:20–26 (Eng. 6:1–7) for which a reparation offering may be made, “when the offender feels guilty” (5:23, 26). The sinner with a high hand feels no guilt; therefore the offense is not sacrificially expiable." [Ashley, T. R. (1993). The Book of Numbers. The New International Commentary on the Old Testament (288–289). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.]

"This incident is evidently narrated as an instance of presumptuous sin. The mere gathering of sticks was not a sinful act and might be necessary for fuel to warm him or to make ready his food. But its being done on the Sabbath altered the entire character of the action. The law of the Sabbath being a plain and positive commandment, this transgression of it was a known and wilful sin, and it was marked by several aggravations. For the deed was done with unblushing boldness in broad daylight, in open defiance of the divine authority—in flagrant inconsistency with His religious connection with Israel, as the covenant-people of God; and it was an application to improper purposes of time, which God had consecrated to Himself and the solemn duties of religion." [Jamieson, R., Fausset, A. R., Fausset, A. R., Brown, D., & Brown, D. (1997). A commentary, critical and explanatory, on the Old and New Testaments (Nu 15:32). Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.]

Indeed, an older sermon pointed out the implication of the 'smallness of the act itself':

"THE SIN APPEARS ALL THE GREATER FROM THE ACT ITSELF BEING SO TRIFLING. The first thought of many on reading the narrative may be, “What severity for such a little offence!” But the more it is looked at the greater the offence appears. There would have been more to say for the man if the temptation had come from some great thing. If a fortune or a kingdom had been in question, then there would have been some plausibly sufficient motive for a great transgression; but to break such a commandment, to run counter to the conduct of the whole camp for a handful of sticks, does it not show how proud-hearted the man was, how utterly careless of all and any of God’s regulations? Such a man would have turned to idolatry and profanity on the one hand, or to theft and even murder on the other, at very slight provocation. It was a little thing for Esau to crave a mess of pottage, but it deservedly lost him his birthright when he valued it so little. Thus have men sinned against their Saviour for the paltriest trifles. Peter moves our sympathy when he denies Jesus, for life is dear when closely threatened, and we consider ourselves lest we also be tempted; but when Judas sells his master, and such a master, for thirty pieces of silver, how abominable the act appears! …This man sinned a great and daring sin against God; he was dragged in shame before the whole congregation, and then stoned outside the camp. And what had he by way of set-off? A few sticks. If it was a little thing to do, it was just as little a thing to be left undone. Small as it was, it showed the state of the man’s heart, that corroding and hopeless leprosy within, which left no other course but to cut him off from the people. [The Pulpit Commentary: Numbers. 2004 (H. D. M. Spence-Jones, Ed.) (192). Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.]

Some scholars also point out that this defiant act also put the entire community at risk, just as the action of Achan in Joshua 7 caused damage to the wider community. The community was responsible --as a whole--for compliance with the Covenant. Defiance against God and repudiation of the Covenant laws was also defiance against the community, repudiation of its value, and disregard for its welfare! The community was at risk whenever individuals within the community were openly or secretly anti-community.

This was illustrated numerous times in the Book of Numbers, but the lesson was not always appropriated by individuals--with consequences for the nation. Israel learned this--again-- with Achan and remembered it. Phinehas' speech in Joshua 22.18-20 points out that rebellion against the LORD is also rebellion against the community of Israel:

that you must turn away this day from following the LORD? If you rebel against the LORD today, He will be angry with the whole congregation of Israel tomorrow. ‘If, however, the land of your possession is unclean, then cross into the land of the possession of the LORD, where the LORD’S tabernacle stands, and take possession among us. Only do not rebel against the LORD, or rebel against us by building an altar for yourselves, besides the altar of the LORD our God. ‘Did not Achan the son of Zerah act unfaithfully in the things under the ban, and wrath fall on all the congregation of Israel? And that man did not perish alone in his iniquity.’ ”)

Indeed, in our context, this action of the stick-gatherer is tantamount to a case of mutiny and potential sabotage:

"defiant sin. Providing contrast to inadvertent sin, this offense is committed with full knowledge of one’s actions and premeditated defiance of God and community. For instance, in Sumerian law a son who publicly denounces his father is disinherited and can be sold as a slave. Similarly, according to Israelite law deliberate criminal acts cannot be allowed to go unpunished, since they violate not only God’s laws but the community’s collective covenant to obey these statutes. The sentence “to be cut off from his people,” implies punishment by both human and divine agencies—perhaps capital punishment by the authorities and extinction of his family line by God. 15:30. blasphemy. The verb “to blaspheme” is used only here in the Old Testament and means to taunt or revile God so as to deny the authority of God. Such an act demonstrates total defiance of the law, and, because of its danger to the community, the violator must be “cut off from his people.”" [Matthews, V. H., Chavalas, M. W., & Walton, J. H. (2000). The IVP Bible background commentary : Old Testament (electronic ed.) (Nu 15:31). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.]

Robert Alter (in his commentary on the Five Books of Moses, Norton:2004) perhaps summarizes the criticality of the issues in his commentary on the Numbers passage and at Exodus 31:

"The death sentence for violating the Sabbath offers a grim prospect, which might well make one think of the brutal enforcement of strict theological conformity in certain modern theocracies. Ibn Ezra seeks to provide a palliative by linking this episode with the 'high hand' of the immediately preceding passage, suggesting that the wood gatherer had been duly warned but high-handedly went on with this action. The larger narrative context comprises a series of acts of mutiny, threatening both the authority of Moses and the cohesiveness of the community, and this episode is conceived as a grave instance of such mutiny. Israel as a community is in part defined by its adherence to the Sabbath. In the harsh reality of the Wilderness setting, he who has broken rank is taken outside the camp and executed by the whole community." (at our Numbers passage)

At Exodus 31: "doomed to die … cut off from the midst of his people. The vehemence of this formulation is predicated on the notion that the Sabbath is the ultimate sign of the covenant between god and Israel, so that one who violates the Sabbath violates the Covenant and renounces solidarity with the covenanted people."

One has to realize that the Mosaic law had an immense amount of practical mercy and grace in it. There were constant 'accidental slip-ups' and a steady stream of practical problems (e.g. a second Passover date for those who were accidentally unclean) in which God was gracious and understanding. Anytime a legitimate and genuine need for an exception arose, God was 'first on the scene' to make allowances for it (one thinks of Hezekiah's prayer in 2 Chron 30:18ff; and David's eating of the Shewbread in 1 Samuel 21--referred to by Jesus). If the heart was right, God's good-heart was aggressive in kindness, in the OT/Tanaach as well as in the times of Jesus:

"When the priests and the Levites saw the dedication of the throngs of people they were chagrined and quickly consecrated themselves (by burnt offerings) for the service of Passover (vv. 15-16). Ordinarily the laity could offer their own Passover lambs in sacrifice (cf. Ex. 12:3). But because of the laxity of many of the Israelites in those apostate days, especially in the Northern Kingdom, they were ceremonially unclean and thus could not slaughter their own Passover lambs. Nonetheless they did eat of the Passover even though they were ritually disqualified (2 Chron. 30:17-18a). When Hezekiah realized this, he prayed on their behalf that God might be more impressed with the sincerity of their hearts and motives than with matters of mere ceremonialism (vv. 18b-19). The essence of God’s grace is seen in His favorable response to the king’s prayer (v. 20)." [Walvoord, J. F., Zuck, R. B., & Dallas Theological Seminary. (1983-). The Bible knowledge commentary : An exposition of the scriptures (2 Ch 30:15–20). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.]

"By the time of the life of our Lord, observance of Sabbath keeping had become distorted to the point that the regulations concerning the Sabbath were regarded as more important than the genuine needs of people. Our Lord confronted the Pharisees on this issue on several occasions (e.g., Matt 12:1–14). From their point of view, the regulations in vv.32–36 gave the Pharisees their reasons to seek his death (Matt 12:14). [Allen, R. B. (1990). Numbers. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor's Bible Commentary, Volume 2: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers (F. E. Gaebelein, Ed.) (830–831). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.]

But our case is not like that--it was an open, heartless, arrogant assault on both God and the community, and was recorded in this section of the text as another example of mutiny and extreme rebellion.

I hope this helps put this in perspective for you, friend--


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