The Books of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy in the Torah cover a span of 40 years, but the vast majority of the events described in these books occur within the first year or so of the exodus from Egypt during the time of Moses.
In remembrance of the 10th plague, the destruction of the firstborn of Egypt (both of man and beast), and the deliverance of the children of Israel out of bondage, the first-born males of the Israelites were consecrated or set apart for the LORD. “Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, Consecrate to Me all the firstborn, whatever opens the womb among the children of Israel, both of man and beast; it is Mine” (Exodus 13:1).
Moses told the people to remember the day in which they went out of Egypt (in the month of Abib) by the LORD’s strong hand. This occurred on Nisan 15, 1446 BC. The LORD also told the people to keep the commandment that no leavened bread should be eaten for seven days. Leaven wasn’t even to be seen or kept in their quarters. They were to keep this practice when they entered the land of Canaan as a memorial and to keep this ordinance in its season from year to year.
Moses told the children of Israel to “set apart to the Lord all that open the womb, that is, every firstborn that comes from an animal which you have; the males shall be the LORD’s. But every firstborn of a donkey you shall redeem with a lamb; and if you will not redeem it,
then you shall break its neck. And all the firstborn of man among your sons you shall redeem” (Exodus 13:12-13).
God claimed the firstborn males of Israel, and also the firstborn of their beasts, as His own, for having saved them during the Passover plague in Egypt. The clean beasts became His by sacrifice, but the unclean ones could not be treated similarly. They had to be "redeemed" by the sacrifice of clean animals in their place. The firstborn of all Israelite men were initially claimed for the sacred ministrations of the priestly office to come.
THE CHILDREN OF ISRAEL AT MOUNT SINAI
Exodus 19:1 says, “In the third month after the children of Israel had gone out of the land of Egypt, on the same day, they came to the Wilderness of Sinai. So Israel camped there before the mountain.” The Israelites came to Mt. Sinai either on the 1st day of Sivan or the 15th day of Sivan, depending on how you interpret verse 1. The Hebrew word for month is “chodesh.” The KJV translation of this Hebrew word “chodesh” is either “new moon” or “month.” If it is “new moon” then the date would be Sivan 1. If the translation is “month” then the date would be Sivan 15, in the year 1446 BC.
After the LORD gave Moses the Ten Commandments and the statutes of the Law at Mount Sinai (no specific date is given), the tribes of Israel rebelled against the LORD and made a golden idol in the form of a molded calf. Moses and Joshua were up on the mountain at the time and God told Moses to get down to the camp for the people had corrupted themselves.
When Moses saw what was going on, “his anger became hot, and he cast the tablets out of his hands and broke them at the foot of the mountain. Then he took the calf which they had made, burned it in the fire, and ground it to powder; and he scattered it on the water and made the children of Israel drink it” (Exodus 32:19-20).
Then Moses stood in the entrance of the camp, and said, “Whoever is on the Lord’s side—come to me!” And all the sons of Levi gathered themselves together to him. And he said to them, Thus says the Lord God of Israel: Let every man put his sword on his side, and go in and out from entrance to entrance throughout the camp, and let every man kill his brother, every man his companion, and every man his neighbor. So the sons of Levi did according to the word of Moses. And about three thousand men of the people fell that day” (Exodus 32:26-28).
THE WAVE OFFERING
In the Torah, God gave His people the Law – a set of commands, statutes, and rituals – to set them apart and help them understand His holiness. One unique ritual was the “wave offering” (Hebrew: tenufah). This was a special sacrificial offering, either of animals or grain, in which a portion of the sacrifice was waved or elevated before the Lord, then released by God for the use of those involved in the sacrifice. The meat and grain fed the families of the priests. It was used on several sacred occasions, including consecrations, purification rituals, peace offerings, and trespass offerings. This wave action represented a presentation of the sacrificial offerings to Jehovah.
The wave offering is first seen in Exodus 29:19-28 in the description of the consecration ceremony of Aaron and his four sons. The actual consecration and anointing of Aaron and his sons (and the Tabernacle and all that was in it) doesn’t occur until Leviticus 8. “And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying: Take Aaron and his sons with him, and the garments, the anointing oil, a bull as the sin offering, two rams, and a basket of unleavened bread; and gather all the congregation together at the door of the tabernacle of meeting” (Leviticus 8:2-3). The bull was used as a sin offering and one of the rams was used as a burnt offering.
The blood of the other sacrificial ram was used for consecrating Aaron and his sons. It took three sacrificial animals for the consecration ceremony. Moses then took pieces of the ram (including the right thigh) and one unleavened cake anointed with oil, “and he put all these in Aaron’s hands and in his sons’ hands, and waved them as a wave offering before the Lord. Moses himself took the breast and waved it as a wave offering before the Lord.
“And Moses said to Aaron and his sons, “And you shall not go outside the door of the tabernacle of meeting for seven days until the days of your consecration are ended. For seven days he shall consecrate you. As he has done this day, so the Lord has commanded to do, to make atonement for you. Therefore you shall stay at the door of the tabernacle of meeting day and night for seven days, and keep the charge of the Lord, so that you may not die; for so I have been commanded. So Aaron and his sons did all the things that the Lord had commanded by the hand of Moses.
The priestly ministry of Aaron as high priest and his sons as priests of the Tabernacle occurs on the eighth day in Leviticus 9. The seven sacrificial animals (and a grain offering mixed with oil) and the types of offerings involved are discussed in Leviticus 9:2-4. A bull and a ram were sacrificed as a peace offering (burnt offering) for the people and the breasts and the right thigh Aaron waved as a wave offering before the Lord.
“Then Aaron lifted his hand toward the people, blessed them, and came down from offering the sin offering, the burnt offering, and peace offerings. And Moses and Aaron went into the Tabernacle of meeting and came out and blessed the people. Then the glory of the LORD appeared to all the people, and fire came out from before the Lord and consumed the burnt offering and the fat on the altar. When all the people saw it, they shouted and fell on their faces” (Leviticus 9:22-24).
The very next incident that occurred is recorded in Leviticus 10, when Nadab and Abihu, the two eldest sons of Aaron, were killed by God for not obeying every word of God’s sacrificial system. “Then Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, each took his censer and put fire in it, put incense on it, and offered profane fire before the Lord, which He had not commanded them. So fire went out from the Lord and devoured them, and they died before the Lord” (Leviticus 10:1-2). What was this “profane” fire? it could be that Nadab and Abihu were burning the incense with fire of their own making rather than taking fire from the altar, as specified in Leviticus 16:12.
Other views of this deadly disobedience include: (1) They each took their own censer, and not the sacred utensil of the sanctuary. (2) They both offered it together, whereas the incense was only to be offered by one priest. (3) They presumptuously encroached upon the functions of the high priest; for according to the Law the high priest alone burnt incense in a censer. (4) They offered the incense at an unauthorized time since it was apart from the morning and evening sacrifice.
Moses told Aaron and his remaining two sons, “Do not uncover your heads nor tear your clothes, lest you die, and wrath come upon all the people. But let your brethren, the whole house of Israel, bewail the burning which the Lord has kindled. You shall not go out from the door of the tabernacle of meeting, lest you die, for the anointing oil of the Lord is upon you.” And they did according to the word of Moses” (Leviticus 10:6-7).
The reason why they are not to join in the funeral rites is that they had been devoted by this holy unction to the service of God. Earthly relations were, therefore, not to interfere with the duties to God. Therefore, it was a sin for priests to mourn when they ministered before the Lord.
THE FIRST FEAST OF TRUMPETS AND DAY OF ATONEMENT
The next event in chronological order, according to Leviticus 16:1, is the very first Yom Kippur or Day of Atonement. “Now the Lord spoke to Moses after the death of the two sons of Aaron, when they offered profane fire before the Lord, and died; and the Lord said to Moses: Tell Aaron your brother not to come at just any time into the Holy Place inside the veil, before the mercy seat which is on the ark, lest he die; for I will appear in the cloud above the mercy seat” (Leviticus 16:1-2).
I believe this was the third day after the Nadab and Abihu incident and the 10th day from the consecration of Aaron and his sons in Leviticus 8. Nadab and Abihu died and were buried on the 8th day of consecration. They were mourned by the people for that day and the next (9th day), and the Day of Atonement occurred on the 10th day from the consecration of the high priest and his sons. If this is true, then the first day of the Holy consecration was the original Feast of Trumpets, on Tishri 1, 1446 BC. Ten days later on Tishri 10, 1446 BC was the first Day of Atonement.
The Feast of Trumpets marked the beginning of ten days of consecration and repentance before God. In time, the blowing of the trumpets would mark the first day of the month of fall, Tishri, which heralded a solemn time of preparation for the Day of Atonement. This preparation time would later be called the “Ten Days of Repentance” or the “Days of Awe.”
Nearly six months later on Nisan 1 (1405 BC), the Tabernacle of the tent of meeting was erected according to Exodus 40:2. Fourteen days later, it was anointed and consecrated, and all its furnishings and the altar and its utensils. Then the leaders of the 12 tribes of Israel made an offering to the Lord for sacrificial use for the Levites to use in the Tabernacle. Each day, for 12 days, a leader would present his tribe’s offering to the Lord, according to Numbers 7.
THE WAVE OFFERING OF LEVITES
The cleansing and dedication of the Levitesoccurred the next day on Nisan 13, 1405 BC, as recorded in Numbers 8:5-26. “And you shall bring the Levites before the tabernacle of meeting, and you shall gather together the whole congregation of the children of Israel. So you shall bring the Levites before the Lord, and the children of Israel shall lay their hands on the Levites; and Aaron shall offer the Levites before the Lord like a wave offering from the children of Israel, that they may perform the work of the Lord” (Numbers 8:9-11).
Four times in Numbers 8, the Levites are said to be “like a wave offering” to the Lord. This is the first time in the Bible that a wave offering would be in the form of people. “And you shall stand the Levites before Aaron and his sons, and then offer them like a wave offering to the Lord. Thus you shall separate the Levites from among the children of Israel, and the Levites shall be Mine. After that, the Levites shall go in to service the tabernacle of meeting. So you shall cleanse them and offer them like a wave offering.
For they are wholly given to Me from among the children of Israel; I have taken them for Myself instead of all who open the womb, the firstborn of all the children of Israel. For all the firstborn among the children of Israel are Mine, both man and beast; on the day that I struck all the firstborn in the land of Egypt I sanctified them to Myself. I have taken the Levites instead of all the firstborn of the children of Israel. And I have given the Levites as a gift to Aaron and his sons from among the children of Israel, to do the work for the children of Israel in the tabernacle of meeting, and to make atonement for the children of Israel, that there be no plague among the children of Israel when the children of Israel come near the sanctuary” (Numbers 8:13-19).
On the next day, Nisan 14, 1405 BC, the 2ndPassover was celebrated (Numbers 9:3). On the first day of the second month, Iyyar 1, 1445 BC, Moses initiated the first census of Israel of every male individual, from twenty years old and above—all who were able to go to war (Numbers 1).
Every tribe was counted except for the Levites, for they would not go to war but would be solely responsible for the Tabernacle of the Testimony as described in Numbers 1:50-53. They would serve the high priest, Aaron, and his sons, and the needs of the children of Israel, to do the work of the Tabernacle. Because of their loyalty during the episode with the golden calf, God accepted the Levites in the service of His tabernacle (and later, the temple in Jerusalem) in place of the firstborn male of each Israelite family (Numbers 3:12).
Later, however, the Levites were counted in Numbers 3:14-39. Every male from a month old and above was counted. The count was 22,000 males. It’s interesting that the LORD also had Moses count all the firstborn from a month old and above among the children of Israel (the other 11 tribes). The count was 22,273 males. This is only a difference of 273 males in favor of the 11 tribes.
For this discrepancy, the LORD told Moses, “For the redemption of the two hundred and seventy-three of the firstborn of the children of Israel, who are more than the number of the Levites, you shall take five shekels for each one individually; you shall take them in the currency of the shekel of the sanctuary, the shekel of twenty gerahs. And you shall give the money, with which the excess number of them is redeemed, to Aaron and his sons” (Numbers 3:44-48). The total amount of redemption money the children of Israel (11 tribes) had to pay was 1365 shekels.
The firstborn of the eleven tribes of Israel had been redeemed from sacrificial service in the
Tabernacle (and later the two Temples of Israel) by the Levites. Then the cloud lifted and the march from Sinai began on the twentieth day of the second month (Nu 10:11). In Numbers 11, we see the people complaining again for lack of meat. In Numbers 12, we see Aaron and Miriam’s dissension against Moses, which did not go well for them, especially Miriam.
REBELLION ON THE BORDER OF CANAAN
Numbers 13 finds the children of Israel near the border of Canaan. The LORD told Moses to send out 12 men from each tribe to spy out the land for 40 days. Ten out of twelve spies gave a bad report of the land and its inhabitants, while only Joshua and Caleb gave a good report. The ten spies said the people of Canaan were stronger than the children of Israel and they had giants in the land as well. They didn’t think the 12 tribes should go in and fight for the land. “Then Caleb quieted the people before Moses, and said, Let us go up at once and take possession, for we are well able to overcome it” (Numbers 13:30). Caleb knew the truth. He knew the children of Israel were stronger than their opponents for the LORD was on their side.
In Numbers 14, we see the children of Israel complaining and crying against Moses and Aaron once again. They refused to enter Canaan. Only Joshua and Caleb spoke in favor of obeying the LORD and taking the land from the Canaanites. “And all the congregation said to stone them with stones. Now the glory of the Lord appeared in the tabernacle of meeting before all the children of Israel” (Numbers 14:10). Can you imagine their fear at this point? “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Hebrews 10:31).
“The LORD then told Moses, How long will these people reject Me? And how long will they not believe Me, with all the signs which I have performed among them? I will strike them with the pestilence and disinherit them, and I will make of you a nation greater and mightier than they” (Numbers 14:11-12).
Moses was able to convince the LORD to not kill the rebellious Israelites on the spot as recorded by his words in Numbers 14:13-19. The LORD told Moses what would become of this generation of rebels. “As I live, says the Lord, just as you have spoken in My hearing, so I will do to you: The carcasses of you who have complained against Me shall fall in this wilderness, all of you who were numbered, according to your entire number, from twenty years old and above. Except for Caleb the son of Jephunneh and Joshua the son of Nun, you shall by no means enter the land which I swore I would make you dwell in.
But your little ones, whom you said would be victims, I will bring in, and they shall know the land which you have despised. But as for you, your carcasses shall fall in this wilderness. And your sons shall be shepherds in the wilderness forty years, and bear the brunt of your infidelity, until your carcasses are consumed in the wilderness. According to the number of the days in which you spied out the land, forty days, for each day you shall bear your guilt one year, namely forty years, and you shall know My rejection. I the Lord have spoken this. I will surely do so to all this evil congregation who are gathered together against Me. In this wilderness they shall be consumed, and there they shall die” (Numbers 14:26-35).
The LORD then commanded the people “Tomorrow, turn and move out into the wilderness by the Way of the Red Sea.” The LORD unequivocally told the children of Israel to not try and conquer the people of Canaan at this point and to turn around and go back into the wilderness. The next morning, the stiff-necked people reported to Moses, “Here we are, and we will go up to the place which the Lord has promised, for we have sinned!” Wait, what?
“And Moses said, “Now why do you transgress the command of the Lord? For this will not succeed. Do not go up, lest you be defeated by your enemies, for the Lord is not among you. For the Amalekites and the Canaanites are there before you, and you shall fall by the sword; because you have turned away from the Lord, the Lord will not be with you” (Numbers 14:41-43).
Neither Moses nor the ark of the covenant left the camp. It wasn’t really a battle, more of a rout, as the Amalekites and the Canaanites who dwelt in that mountain came down and attacked them, and drove them back as far as Hormah. Just as Moses had prophesied, the LORD was not with them. The negative report of the spies and subsequent lack of confidence that they couldn’t defeat the inhabitants of Canaan (even with the LORD’s help) became a self-fulfilling prophecy for this generation of rebels.
The 12 tribes of Israel would spend the next 38 years wandering in the wilderness until they finally entered the Promised Land. None of the older generation of Israelites would enter Canaan (even Moses, Miriam, and Aaron) except for Joshua and Caleb. “Surely none of the men who came up from Egypt, from twenty years old and above, shall see the land of which I swore to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, because they have not wholly followed Me” (Numbers 32:11).
There is no other mention of a Passover being celebrated during the 38 years of wandering in the wilderness until all of the older generation had died. Joshua 3 records the children of Israel finally entering the Promised Land on Nisan 10. The Levites carried the ark of the covenant across the Jordan River on this day. The first Passover in the Promised Land would come four days later on Nisan 14 in the year 1406 BC. More on this in the next article.
THE WAVE OFFERING OF THE FIRSTBORN OF THE CHILDREN OF ISRAEL
In the spring of 2025 AD, it will be 3430 years since the children of Israel first entered the Promised Land. That is 49 generations of Jews since that time if you count a generation as 70 years. Or you could say it is 490 Shemitah weeks. After all of the curses the Jews have endured, they are still here. I believe they will still be here after all of the conflict and war going on in Israel now and they will fulfill prophecy by eventually building a Third Temple in Jerusalem. All prophecy regarding the Jews and Israel will be fulfilled completely, for God has declared it.
I believe that after the “sign” of the Rapture, many Jews will come to the realization that the New Testament is an addition to the Tanakh (Old Testament) and that Jesus is their Messiah whom they missed the first time. These Jewish believers will come from all over the world and will preach the gospel of Christ and the Kingdom to the world during the first half of the Tribulation. They will come from all twelve tribes of Israel, including Levi. These are the 144,000 Messianic Jews mentioned in Revelation 7.
Then I saw another angel ascending from the east, having the seal of the living God. And he cried with a loud voice to the four angels to whom it was granted to harm the earth and the sea, saying, Do not harm the earth, the sea, or the trees till we have sealed the servants of our God on their foreheads. And I heard the number of those who were sealed. One hundred and forty-four thousand of all the tribes of the children of Israel were sealed” (Revelation 7:2-4).
The results of their ministry are seen in Revelation 7:9, “After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb.” The 144,000 Jews will be sealed for service like the Levites of old were cleansed and consecrated for their service in the Tabernacle and Temple.
The seal will also be for protection from God’s remaining judgments that will be poured out upon the earth, sea, and trees. In Ezekiel 9:4, we read of a similar case where before the city of Jerusalem was destroyed by the Babylonians, angels went throughout, searching out and sealing the faithful to protect them from the destruction. Here the Lord again delays the coming judgments until His faithful can be sealed.
It is at this time that the “firstborn” (Messianic Jews) of the twelve tribes of Israel will become what God initially intended them to be before they were replaced by the Levites, in the time of Moses. They will be consecrated for service to do the Lord’s work. The Levites will revert to being one of the twelve tribes that are sealed for service, just 12,000 out of 144,000. The Bible doesn’t mention it, but I think they will be “waved before the Lord” at the time of their sealing, like the Levites of old.
God will accept and bless this last wave offering and will redeem the remnant of His chosen people.“And it shall come to pass, that in all the land, says the Lord, two parts shall be cut off and die; but the third shall be left in it. And I will bring the third part through the fire, and will refine them as silver is refined, and will try them as gold is tried: they shall call on my name, and I will hear them: I will say, This is my people: and they shall say, The Lord is my God” (Zechariah 13:8-9).
“Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah— not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, though I was a husband to them, says the Lord. But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. No more shall every man teach his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord, for they all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them, says the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more”(Jeremiah 31:31-34).
Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus.
P.S. Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: May they prosper who love you. Peace be within your walls, Prosperity within your palaces (Psalm 122:6-7).