Here we read a long list of the clans of Israel. This must be fascinating if you are of Jewish heritage and can trace your family line all the way back to one of these biblical clans. The total number of the fighting men of Israel was 601,730 (v.51) and the land was allocated in proportion to the number of people in each clan. This makes sense in terms of ecology / population density but one hopes that a small tribe, such as the Simeonites with 22,200 men, was happy at receiving a third of the land that the clans of Judah (76,500 men) were given. God told us all to ‘Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the earth’, (Genesis 9:1). The clans who been the most fecund were rewarded with the most land.
We learn the names of Moses’ father and mother, Amram and Jochebed (v.59-60).
There were now 23,000 male Levites (over a month old) – a veritable army to carry the Tabernacle and the Holy Things into the promised land (v.62).
This census was taken after the 40 years of wandering around the desert that God had mandated after the Israelites refused to enter the promised land. All the adults that had refused to go in had now perished apart from Moses, Caleb and Joshua.
In chapter 27, there are early champions for women’s rights: the daughters of Zelophehad. Their father had died in the desert without a male heir and so they petitioned Moses that they should inherit property and keep their father’s name going. Moses didn’t give an answer off the top of his head but represented them before the Lord, who agreed with them and dictates: ‘If a main dies and leaves no son, give his inheritance over to his daughter’ (v.9). It’s a long way from full equal rights but revolutionary at the time.
We see that Noah can be a female name as well as male. I am particularly taken with the name of one of her sisters, Hoglah. I think that this should be far more popular than it currently is.
A lady of the night wets Jesus’ feet with her tears, wipes them with her hair and pours perfume on them (v.38).
Sounds very relaxing – my feet are aching after slogging around the town with my miniature dachshund on her extensive lockdown walks.
The Pharisee looks down on Jesus for accepting this attention, even though the Pharisee had obviously let the lady into his house. He was prepared to have her around but obviously kept himself guarded and apart from her, which prevented her from changing her way of life sooner. Jesus was actually prepared for her to touch him and this intimate contact with holiness helped her to heal.
The woman proves her faith by her deeds in ministering to Jesus. Without her actions, Jesus wouldn’t have been able to say, ‘Your faith has saved you; go in peace’ (v.50).
Jesus came to call sinners, not the righteous to repentance (Luke 5:32). It is marvellous when you meet people who appear to have been righteous throughout their live, particularly Christian students starting at university. They do stand out as wonderfully meek ‘aliens’ in a foreign land, surrounded by their fellow students who are drinking and fornicating. I think it’s a challenge for the righteously meek to show overt joy. As a forgiven sinner, I have this great feeling of joy and happiness in my heart all the time. I know what it was like to be in the depths of despair and to be rescued by Jesus. Who loves more? The person who has been forgiven more. ‘But he who has been forgiven little loves little’ (27:47). I think it’s more challenging for people who have never had to be forgiven of grave sin to demonstrate such a high level of gratitude. They tend to look on in quiet, calm bemusement at the dreadful behaviour going on around them. Whereas, children of the Eighties such as me can look at today’s fleshly people and remember that we were once like that.
Even righteous people, who have behaved themselves all their lives, will still have carried out small sins. No-one is sinless apart from Jesus (and, particularly if you’re Catholic, the Virgin Mary (CCC,493)). So Jesus still suffered and died terribly even for people who appear to show exemplary behaviour and we all need to reflect on this. We can schedule a daily reflection time to consider that no-one is righteous before God without the sacrifice of Jesus. We all needed rescuing by the priceless gift of Jesus’s precious blood and even if we didn’t experience an exhilarating pardon from decades of accumulated sin, we should all exhibit huge amounts of joy, gratitude and love.
Wisdom is associated with prudence, knowledge and discretion (v.12). A very powerful combination.
If we are in awe (fear) of the Lord, we hate evil, pride, arrogance and perverse speech (v.13). As a result, I can’t stand watching most politicians on TV debate shows.
However, a few rare rulers do possess wisdom allowing them to make just laws (v.15) and giving them counsel and sound judgement (v.14).
We are guaranteed wisdom if we ask God for it. ‘Those who seek me find me’ (v.17). I would much rather hire someone with wisdom, with a degree in common sense, then an unwise person with a raft of formal qualifications.
Wisdom is better than gold and silver (V.19). It makes us love justice and righteousness. If we seek wisdom and love it, it will bestow ‘wealth on those who love’ it and make ‘their treasuries full’ (v.21).
Picture: Artus Wolffort, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons