The five main offerings
The Israelites have now been at Sinai for about a year. Israel is to be the earthly representation of God’s kingdom and as
such must be holy (set apart) in all that she does. From the newly constructed Tabernacle of the Congregation, God gives
Moses His laws governing the administration of their lives, which are to be so regulated as to establish Israel as God’s holy
people and to instruct her in holiness.
As part of their religious ritual, there are to be five main offerings. These are specified and regulations concerning them
given. They are:
Burnt Offering -
Voluntary, atonement for unintentional sin in general
Grain Offering -
Voluntary, recognition of God’s goodness and provision
Fellowship Offering -
Voluntary, thanksgiving and fellowship
Sin Offering -
Mandatory, atonement for specific unintentional sin
Guilt Offering -
Mandatory, atonement for unintentional sin requiring restitution
As instructed by God, Moses ordains Aaron and his sons as priests. The ordination process involves a sin offering, a burnt
offering and a ram offering for ordination, followed by a period of seven days in which they are to stay at the entrance of
the tabernacle. After seven days their ministry begins with a sin offering and a burnt offering to make atonement for
themselves and for all the people.
The rules concerning priesthood are very strict, and when two of Aaron’s sons break the rules they are executed by God.
They are taken outside the camp to be mourned by their relatives, but Aaron and his remaining two sons are not permitted
to leave the tabernacle. A stark lesson for the priests.
To keep Israel pure as the representation of God’s kingdom, laws for cleanliness are given. They are concerning: clean and
unclean food; purification after childbirth; regulations about infectious skin diseases and mildew; cleansing from infectious
skin diseases and mildew; and discharges causing uncleanness.
Aaron is instructed in the procedure for the Day of Atonement, which is to become an annual holy day for the Jews – Yom
Kippur. This involves a bull offering for himself, the priest and his household, and two goats, one as a sin offering for all the
people and the other as a scapegoat. Aaron is to lay his hands on the head of the scapegoat, representing the transfer of
all the sins of Israel to the goat; then the goat is led out of the camp and released into the wilderness, taking Israel’s sins
Moses is instructed to give the law concerning blood to Aaron, his sons and all the people. No one other than a priest is
permitted to make a blood sacrifice in the tabernacle, and no one is permitted to consume blood. Blood of any animal is to
be drained before the animal is eaten.
Laws are given concerning all manner of sexual relations (Ch 18) as well as a few various moral laws (Ch 19) and
punishments for sin (Ch 20).
Regulations for priests, offerings and feasts
Rules are given that are applicable only to priests, as well as rules concerning unacceptable sacrifices.
Rules are also given concerning observance of appointed feasts: Sabbath, Passover and Unleavened Bread, Firstfruits,
Feast of Weeks, Feast of Trumpets, Day of Atonement, and the Feast of Tabernacles.
The rules are then given for the continual burning of the lampstand and the continual provision of shewbread. (The
shewbread is twelve cakes of unleavened bread, which are a perpetual representation of the twelve tribes of Israel before
More civil laws
Punishments are given for blasphemy, murder, and killing of a neighbour’s animal. The level of punishments in general is to
be appropriate for the offence: “an eye for an eye”.
Sabbath and Jubilee years
The laws concerning the Sabbath and Jubilee years are given.
The Sabbath year is every seventh year when the land is to be rested from farming, but the Israelites can feed from crops
that naturally grow on the land.
The Jubilee year is every fiftieth year when all land is returned to its owner and all Israelite slaves freed. Consequently,
land is bought and sold on the basis of how many years are left before the Jubilee year. God says, ‘The land shall not be
sold for ever: for the land is mine; for ye are strangers and sojourners with me.’
Provision is also to be made for redemption of the land when an owner has had to sell but later has the means to redeem
it, either of himself or by a kinsman redeemer.
Blessings and curses
The people are told that if they observe God’s Sabbaths, respect His sanctuary and obey His commandments, then their
crops will be abundant and they will live without fear and in peace. But if they do not do these things, then the
consequences will be terrible and increase all the time they do not repent, until they are eventually taken captive by their
enemies. Yet He will not forget them in the land of their enemies, and will wait for their repentance to honour His covenant
with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
Offerings vowed to the Lord
Rules are given for things vowed to the Lord in kind. A value is put on them, whether they be people, animals or houses,
and provision is made for their redemption should circumstances deem it necessary.
The Desert Wanderings
The first census
It has now been thirteen months since the Israelites left Egypt.
A census is taken of all the men of twenty years or older who are able to serve in an army, and the numbers recorded by
tribe. The Levites are excluded from the census as they are to be responsible for the tabernacle and its furnishings, for the
erection and disassembly of it, and for carrying it from camp to camp. The order of which the tribes are to camp around
the tabernacle, and the order for marching, is given, with the twelve tribes assembled in four groups of three headed by
Judah, Reuben, Ephraim and Dan.
Before leaving Sinai, offerings from each tribe are given for the dedication of the tabernacle.
The journey from Sinai to Kadesh
After nearly fourteen months since leaving Egypt, the cloud lifts from above the tabernacle and the Israelites prepare to
leave Sinai, breaking camp and forming their marching order according to God’s instructions.
After just three days of travelling, some of the Israelites start to complain about the manna, perhaps now becoming
somewhat monotonous, and crave after the fine foods they remember from Egypt. In response, God provides them with
quail, but so much of it they will eventually become sick of meat and again be satisfied with manna. But before they have
finished their first meal of quail, the people are struck with a severe plague, their complaining having kindled God’s wrath.
After this episode they then travel on to Hazeroth and camp there.
Miriam and Aaron speak to Moses, apparently envious of Moses’ relationship with God. God summons all three to the
tabernacle and speaks directly to Aaron and Miriam, confirming the special relationship in which it is only Moses with whom
God speaks face to face. As punishment for the complaint, Miriam is made leprous and has to remain outside the camp for
They then travel on to the Desert of Paran, in the region of Kadesh.
In the Kadesh region
The Israelites are now approaching the land God is to give them. God instructs Moses to send twelve men, one from each
tribe, to explore the land and return with a full report. They pass through the Wilderness of Zin and explore as far north as
Hebron. After forty days they return with some pomegranates, figs, and a cluster of grapes so large that it has to be
carried on a pole between two people. However, ten of them report that the people are very powerful and their cities large
and fortified. They also mention the Nephilim, to whom they seemed like grasshoppers. The report is soon known to all the
people and they become fearful they will be killed. It’s even suggested that they should choose another leader and return
to Egypt. Moses, Aaron, Joshua and Caleb try to persuade them that God will deliver the land and its people into their
hands, and they should not rebel against Him. Yet the crowd now begins to talk of stoning them. God, tiring of the people’s
rebellious attitude, suggests He will disinherit them and raise a new nation through Moses. However, Moses intercedes on
their behalf and God pardons them, but declares that none of the people aged twenty or more will see the promised land.
They will continue to sojourn in the desert for a total of forty years, one year for each day of the exploration. Of the twelve
spies, only Joshua and Caleb would see the promised land. The other ten were smitten with a plague.
The next morning, some men attempt to enter the promised land to somehow make up for their mistrust, but do so
without God’s approval and are defeated at Hormah by the Amalekites and Canaanites.
Various laws are now given to Moses for when they eventually enter the promised land.
A man is found gathering sticks on the Sabbath, and under instruction from God is stoned, effectively demonstrating the
seriousness of Sabbath-breaking. The people are then required to make fringes in the border of their garments as a
constant reminder to keep God’s commandments.
Korah, a Levite, along with Dathan and Abiram, rebels against Moses and Aaron, leading two hundred and fifty ‘princes’.
Korah’s grievance is Aaron’s position over them in the priesthood, and Dathan and Abiram’s concerning Moses’ leadership
over them all and his failure to take them into the promised land. Their rebellion is punished by God who causes the
leaders and all their tents to be swallowed up by the ground, and the two hundred and fifty to be consumed by fire.
To confirm Aaron’s leadership, God instructs that Aaron’s staff and twelve from the tribes of Israel are all to be placed in
the tabernacle. The one that blossoms will identify the leader. In the morning it is Aaron’s staff that has bud and
blossomed, demonstrating with certainty that Aaron is the head of the priesthood.
The priesthood now confirmed, instructions for their duties are given and for the support they are to receive from the
Levites. As the Levites will not have any inheritance from the land, they will have what’s left over from sacrificial offerings
and receive the nation’s tithes. They will then, in turn, give tithes to the priests.
Instructions are now given for the elaborate ceremonial preparation of cleansing water, using the ashes of a red heifer. The
cleansing water is used for purification rituals following contact with a dead body.
The people again complain to Moses about lack of water. God instructs Moses and Aaron to speak in front of all the people
to the rock, which will then bring forth water. But Moses strikes the rock rather than speaking to it. For this disobedience,
which God says was a failure to sanctify Him in the eyes of the people, Moses and Aaron would not be the ones to take
Israel into the promised land.
Moses now sends messengers to Edom (Esau’s descendants) to request passage through their land, but this request is
From Kadesh to the plains of Moab
The Israelites now journey from Kadesh to Mount Hor where Aaron dies and his position passes to his son Eleazar.
Following an incident with some Canaanites, then subsequent victory over them, the camp heads south to avoid Edom, in
the opposite direction to the promised land and passing near the Red Sea. This iscourages the people and they again
complain about the lack of water and food, expressing their loathing of manna. God punishes them by sending serpents
with fatal bites, then instructs Moses to make a fiery serpent on a pole. Anyone who is bitten and then looks at the serpent
on the pole is saved from death.
They continue on their way, stopping at various places, and come to the top of Pisgah where messengers are sent to Sihon,
the king of the Amorites, requesting passage through his land. This is denied and the king goes to war with the Israelites,
but is defeated and they are able to stay in the land of the Amorites for a time.
On the Plains of Moab
Balak, son of a Moabite king, having seen Israel’s defeat of the Amorites, is terrified of them and assumes they have plans
against Moab. Since Balak believes there is no military way to defeat Israel, he colludes with the Midianites to pay for the
services of a diviner, Balaam, to put a curse on them. Balaam is told by God not to curse the Israelites, and uses the voice
of his donkey and an angel of the Lord as a means of encouraging Balaam to do as He wishes. This is presumably intended
to be more persuasive than any financial incentives from his hirers. Three times Balak asks Balaam to curse Israel, but
three times he blesses them, as instructed by God, before returning home.
Many of the Israelites have now been seduced by Moabite women and enticed into worshipping their gods. God’s wrath is
kindled and a plague is brought on the people until a priest, a grandson of Aaron, deals with two of the offenders.
A second census is now taken in preparation for invading the promised land.
Following a petition from the daughters of Zelophehad, God provides the law concerning inheritance when a man dies
From Mount Abarim God shows Moses the land the Israelites are to inherit, but Moses will not be permitted to enter it. This
is because of his disobedience in the Desert of Zin when he struck the rock to provide water for the people. Joshua is then
formally proclaimed as Moses’ successor.
Required offerings and feasts are restated and the law concerning vows is given. A man’s vow is binding, but a woman’s is
binding only if a father or husband does not nullify it at the time the vow is made.
God instructs Moses to take vengeance on the Midianites as his last act before his death. After this battle, Moses is angry
with the commanders for sparing the women and children. They were instructed to kill all the women who were not virgins,
as they were those who were guilty of corrupting the Israelites, and all the boys, presumably because they would endanger
the inheritance rights of Israelite men. The spoils of this war are divided according to God’s instructions to Moses.
The tribes of Reuben and Gad and the half-tribe of Manasseh request to have the land east of the Jordan as their
inheritance. This is reluctantly granted by Moses on the condition the men take part in the conquest of Canaan before
returning to their new land and homes.
Moses had been instructed by God to record the stages in their journey. These are given here (chapter 33).
The boundaries of their inheritance west of Jordan, the towns and pastures for the Levites, and the six cities of refuge for
those who cause death by accident are all allotted. Safeguards for the inheritance for Zelophehad’s daughters are put in
place, completing all the commands and regulations given by God through Moses on the east side of the Jordan.
Preparing to enter the Promised Land
Moses reviews the wilderness wanderings
Moses recounts the wilderness wanderings, how, when approaching the promised land, twelve men were sent to spy out
the land and the people rebelled after hearing the report from ten of the men. As a consequence of this they were to
wander in the desert for another thirty-eight years. After all this time they approached the plains of Moab and defeated
Sihon, king of Heshbon, and Og, king of Bashan. Reuben, Gad and the half-tribe of Manasseh requested possession of this
land on the east side of the Jordan River. It was granted to them providing the men took part in the battles to possess
Moses recalls how, from the top of Pisgah, he was shown the land to be possessed, but would not be permitted to enter it.
A call to obedience
Moses reminds the people of the incidents with Moabite women and followers of Baalpeor, then calls them to obedience as
they take possession of the promised land. They are to teach their children the laws given at Horeb, and they are not to
make any form of idols for worship. Moses gives them a prophetic warning that if they become corrupt in future
generations, they will be scattered amongst other peoples and only a remnant will survive and return in later days.
Then Moses sets aside three cities of refuge on the east side of Jordan, one for each tribe, to which a person could flee if
he had unintentionally killed another.
Commandments, statutes and judgements
Moses summons all Israel to hear the laws given by God at Horeb. He first repeats the Ten Commandments, then gives
further instruction before repeating the rest of the laws, which Moses calls commandments, statutes and judgements. They
are to continually recall them to their children, and have them written in places where they will always be seen. Obedience
is to be a condition of their prosperity and righteousness. Moses tells them that they are to possess the land, not because
of their righteousness, but because of God’s covenant with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, for they are a stiff- necked people
who have continually provoked God. Their need for obedience will be stated again when they possess the land, at which
time they will be required to proclaim the blessings of obedience from Mount Gerizim, and the curses of disobedience from
Their offerings are to be made only in a place God will choose and declare once they have settled in the land. Their love for
God will be tested by some people who will tell of a sign or wonder that then comes true, suggesting that they should
worship other gods. Even if this person is one they love, they are to be exposed and put to death. If they hear rumours of
idolatry in another town, it is to be investigated and, if found to be true, all its inhabitants are to be executed and the town
completely destroyed and burned, never to be rebuilt.
Moses then recalls the laws concerning clean and unclean food, tithing and the feasts they are to keep.
They are to appoint judges and set up courts, but anything too difficult for their courts is to be taken to the priests, whose
decisions are to be binding.
Kings and prophets will be raised and guidance is given concerning them.
Instructions are given for: Cities of Refuge; the need for two or more witnesses; going to war; atonement for an unsolved
murder; marrying a captive woman; the right of the firstborn; dealing with a rebellious son; cross-dressing; marriage
violations and more.
Blessings and curses
Moses instructs the people to build an altar on Mount Ebal when they have crossed the Jordan. This altar is to be finished in
plaster and all the laws Moses has given them are to be clearly written on it. The tribes of Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar,
Joseph and Benjamin are to stand on Mount Gerizim to bless the people; the tribes of Reuben, Gad, Asher, Zebulun, Dan
and Naphtali are to stand on Mount Ebal to pronounce curses. The Levites are then to recite twelve curses, all with the
response of ‘Amen!’ from the people.
Moses then tells them all the ways in which they will be blessed by God if they obey His commandments. He then gives
them a lengthy list of terrible curses that will come upon them if they are disobedient.
The people are about to receive another covenant. Moses prepares them by reminding them of the things they have seen
God do, and that their obedience is equired to avoid His wrath. The covenant entered is a promise from God that they will
be restored from any dispersion and will again prosper, but with their hearts circumcised. Yet Moses emphasises the choice
is theirs, and they will remain in the promised land and prosper all the time they are obedient.
The succession and Moses’ last days
At the age of 120 years, Moses announces Joshua as his successor to lead the people across the Jordan and take
possession of the land.
He tells them the law is to be read to all Israel every seven years during the Feast of Tabernacles, emphasising that their
children, who do not know the law, must hear it and learn to fear God.
God summons Moses and Joshua and speaks to them in the tabernacle. Moses is told that the people will rebel and is
given a song to teach the Israelites, a song that will testify against them and be remembered by their descendants. God
tells Joshua to be strong and courageous, as it is he who will lead the Israelites into the promised land.
Having finished writing the book of the law, Moses gives it to the Levites (who carry the Ark of the Covenant) to place in
the ark where it is to be kept. Moses then recites the song to the people.
Moses blesses all Israel by tribe, then climbs Mount Nebo where God shows him the whole of the promised land for the last
time before burying him in Moab, in a place not known by any man.
And there arose not a prophet since in Israel like unto Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face.
30-Day Reading Plan
This is a 30-day reading plan based on an average of 15 minutes per session - a total read time of 7½ hours.
The actual read times vary from 12 to 20 minutes to accommodate for practical read session end points. If the reading
times don’t suit you, then simply go at your own pace and note where you finished.
Please select your reading day below
New Testament History Books -
Old Testament History Books -
New Testament Epistles -
The Prophets -
The Poetry Books -