Written by Paul J. Bucknell on December, 18, 2020
Numbers 7: Dedicatory Offerings for the Tabernacle and Altar
Moses anointed the tabernacle on the day it was set up (Num 7:1). The leaders of the twelve tribes brought their dedicatory offerings. This passage mentions two kinds of offerings in Numbers 7, dedication offerings for the tabernacle (1-9) and those for the altar (Numbers 7:10-88). In that these were for the dedications, these offerings were not to be repeated upon their use. It’s interesting to peruse the importance of their recording in the scriptures. Perhaps, it gives us a hint of the austere celebration of these dedications, deepening our impression of the import of the tabernacle and worship itself.
(1) Tabernacle Offerings (Numbers 7:1-9)
The Israelite leaders brought offerings upon the completion of the tabernacle. The Lord instructed them to distribute them to the Levites in a prescribed manner. The tabernacle, the complete worship system, enabled God’s people to come and live in God’s presence.
“4 Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 5 “Accept these things from them, that they may be used in the service of the tent of meeting, and you shall give them to the Levites, to each man according to his service” (Num 7:4-5).
- Gershon: two carts and four oxen
- Merari: four carts and eight oxen
- Kohath: (received no gifts). “…because theirs was the service of the holy objects, which they carried on the shoulder” (Num 7:9).
The New Testament many times announces the privilege of coming into God’s presence through Christ’s work on the cross. “Our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we also have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace.”
“Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we also have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we celebrate in hope of the glory of God” (Rom 5:1-2).
The ability of sinners to approach God does not come easily. God did not make it difficult, but man disobeyed God and fell under His anger as rebellious creatures (John 3:36). The tabernacle and altar dedications remind us of the protocols required for people to come before God. We cannot merely walk into God’s presence due to His holiness; we need our Savior.
(2) Altar Offerings (Numbers 7:10-88)
Each tribe, representing one of Jacob’s sons (Israel), had a designated leader bringing the tribe’s offering for the altar’s dedication. The altar with the Mercy Seat became a source of God’s extreme mercy, providing a means by which we could find forgiveness and a restored relationship with Him. The altar played a fundamental role in the whole tabernacle, just as the cross plays a central role in the Gospel story.
Each day, the leader from one tribe would bring an identical offering (Num 7:10-11). Everyone had to be represented. This chapter’s length is due to repeating what each leader brought, even though it was the same.
The twelve designated leaders, one from each tribe, brought this set of offerings on their appointed day. There is no explanation for these offerings. They represent a cleansing of sin, purification, ongoing commitment, and restoration in the altar’s dedication.
Day #1 Judah by Nahshon
Day #2 Issachar by Nethanel
Day #3 Zebulun by Eliab
Day #4 Reuben by Elizur
Day #5 Simeon by Shelumiel
Day #6 Gad by Eliasaph
Day #7 Ephraim by Elishama
Day #8 Manasseh by Gamaliel
Day #9 Benjamin by Abidan
Day #10 Dan by Ahiezer
Day #11 Asher by Pagiel
Day #12 Naphtali by Ahira
Grain offering (Num 7:19)
1 silver dish (130 shekels) – full of fine flour mixed with oil
1 silver bowl (70 shekels) – full of fine flour mixed with oil
Burnt offering (Num 7:20-21)
1 gold pan (10 shekels) full of incense
1 yearling male lamb
Sin offering: (Num 7:22)
1 male goat
Peace offering (Num 7:23)
5 male goats
5 yearling male lambs
Verses 84-88 summarize these offerings by articulating their total numbers. “This was the dedication offering for the altar after it was anointed” (Num 7:88).
It’s essential for us to consider what Jesus has done for us. These sacrifices on the altar would have no atoning effect if Christ the Messiah did not later come. Nor would any of us have the means to come before God’s holy presence apart from Christ’s death on the cross. Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life (John 14:6).
“23 For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith” (Rom 3:23-25).
By possessing the New Testament, we know and can treasure God’s gift of Christ for us on the cross, cleansing us from sin. Jesus Himself tends to the altar by laying Himself on it. Afterward, as High Priest, He continually intercedes for His people (Heb 2:17). All of this demonstrates His amazing grace “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”
Worship at the Tabernacle (Numbers 7:89)
After these offerings, Moses entered the tabernacle (i.e., the tent of meeting). There he met with Yahweh and heard “the voice” speaking from above the mercy seat on the ark of testimony.
“Now when Moses entered the tent of meeting to speak with Him, he heard the voice speaking to him from above the atoning cover that was on the ark of the testimony, from between the two cherubim; so He spoke to him” (Num 7:89).
In the New Testament, we find all the saints raising their voices to God for His wonderful grace, gaining a secure welcome to come into His presence.
“After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could count, from every nation and all the tribes, peoples, and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, and palm branches were in their hands; 10 and they cried out with a loud voice, saying,
“Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb” (Rev 7:9-10).
Gratefulness should fill our hearts for Christ’s work for us on the cross that enables us to come into God’s presence. Live holy lives and enjoy the abiding presence of God. Do not despise the privilege but delight in His holy presence.
“Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me” (Rev 3:20).
Discussion Questions on Numbers 7
- Review Numbers 7 and state the two sets of offerings that took place.
- Differentiate between the temple and the altar. What was each for?
- State what was given in the dedication of the tabernacle.
- State the four kinds of offerings made when dedicating the altar.
- What do you think the sin offering was for? How did Jesus help us with our sin?
- What do you note about God and Moses from verse 89?
- Why do you think God didn’t mind using a tent as His meeting place?
- So were the Israelites forgiven of their sins even when God does not consider animal sacrifices as sufficient (cf. Heb 9:12-14)?
- Read Hebrew 13:12-16. How should such the wonderful sacrifice of Christ cause us to come into God’s presence?
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