244 – Numbers 29 – Afflict?

According to the New King James pericopes (section headings), Numbers 29 is about three main things:

  1. Offerings at the Feast of Trumpets (verses 1-6)
  2. Offerings on the Day of Atonement (verses 7-11)
  3. Offerings at the Feast of Tabernacles (verses 12-40)

My suspicion is we either let our minds drift, or we skim over these verses failing to notice their relevance. After all, why should I care about the ancient blood and gore practice of animal sacrifices?

If the Old Testament sacrifices were about the animal I could raise no objection. But since the sacrifices have always been about Jesus Christ, they are incredibly relevant. Let’s observe a few things in this powerful chapter.

Numbers 29:7 (NKJV)

7      ‘On the tenth day of this seventh month you shall have a holy convocation. You shall afflict your souls; you shall not do any work.

Last time we learned, convocation is מִקְרָא summons; assembly; reading, recitation. In verse one they were commanded to have a holy convocation too, but that one seemed celebratory, this one gloomy. Compare verse one to verse seven and see if you don’t agree.

Numbers 29:1 (NKJV)

1      ‘And in the seventh month, on the first day of the month, you shall have a holy convocation. You shall do no customary work. For you it is a day of blowing the trumpets. 

We should take note, verse one is talking about the Feast of Trumpets, and verse seven is discussing the Day of Atonement.

Why would Yahweh command them to “…afflict their souls”? Maybe we should start by studying the word “afflict” as it appears in verse seven.

The single Hebrew word translated afflict here has quite a list of glosses (range of possible meanings).

  1. afflict, afflicted, afflictions
  2. humble, humbled
  3. force, forced
  4. violate, violated, violates
  5. oppress
  6. you afflict … in any way
  7. ravished
  8. dealt harshly
  9. submit
  10. weakened

When I think of them afflicting their souls in light of the fact that this is for the feast of the Day of Atonement I wonder if submit isn’t a better translation than afflict. Atonement means covering. God is going to cover their sin and they need to submit to Him in order to experience His grace. 

However, I dare not impose my perspective on the meaning of the Word of God. Remember, our job is to discover not dictate the meaning of the scriptures. Maybe it would be helpful to consider other places the Hebrew word is translated.

Genesis 15:13 (NKJV)

13      Then He said to Abram: “Know certainly that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, and will serve them, and they will afflict them four hundred years.

Many of the glosses above could be a translation choice. I think we could substitute any of these words (afflict, force, violate, oppress, deal harshly) without changing the meaning of the verse.

Let’s look at another verse.

Exodus 10:3 (NKJV)

3      So Moses and Aaron came in to Pharaoh and said to him, “Thus says the Lord God of the Hebrews: ‘How long will you refuse to humble yourself before Me? Let My people go, that they may serve Me.

The same Hebrew word is here translated, “humble yourself”. Hmmm, yeah that could fit in Numbers 29:7.

Genesis 34:2 (NKJV)

2      And when Shechem the son of Hamor the Hivite, prince of the country, saw her, he took her and lay with her, and violated her.

Violated in this case clearly means rape. Rape would not be an appropriate substitute for the word afflicted in Numbers 29:7.

One more.

2 Samuel 7:10 (NKJV)

10      Moreover I will appoint a place for My people Israel, and will plant them, that they may dwell in a place of their own and move no more; nor shall the sons of wickedness oppress them anymore, as previously, 

There are many more verses that contain the Hebrew word we are looking at. Regardless of the word we decide is the best representation of the Hebrew word we should recognize that the command is given because they had the power to obey it. In other words, they had at least as much power over their own souls as to afflict, submit, or humble themselves before Yahweh.

Wouldn’t we be wise to take note of the condition of our own soul as we approach a Holy God? Dare we approach Yahweh in our arrogance, pride, or sin? Should we not recognize the afflicted condition of our soul as we approach the throne of Grace?

Well, something to think about anyway.

God is so very good. He and He alone is worthy of all praise, worship, and adoration.

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