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It’s so hard to read through the seventh chapter of the Book of Numbers without skipping some lines. The repetition is a trial, and the length is a challenge, and the temptation to do the wedding scene from the movie ‘The Princess Bride’ and “skip to the end” is a very real one. Twelve tribal leaders, bringing exactly the same set of gifts, and listed in minute detail, to the “house warming” of the Tabernacle. Why so?
Is the repetition deliberate, to communicate an equality in worship, where all the people of God have the same status around the throne? Is the register of gifts, which are all given for the ministry of the Tabernacle, meant to convey that each and every tribe is dependent upon the Tabernacle’s ministry of grace? Do we have here a Gospel theme, where it is not Angel-worship for the tribe of Naphtali, and Feng Shui for the tribe of Benjamin, but the Blood of the Lamb for all?
Interestingly the twelve paragraphs are exactly the same, but with one very minor difference. The paragraphs begin by introducing the tribal leader as “the leader of the tribe of such and such”, all except the man in charge of the tribe of Judah. Why the omission, when the deliberate repetition seems so important? Perhaps it’s because of that ancient prophecy, that the ultimate Leader, Messiah, will arise from the tribe of Judah, and that all who go before him are simply two-ICs.
DM 4th June 2013