252 – Numbers 34 – Just an Address

Though not many people give it a thought, I’m sure it comes as no surprise that chapter and verse markings are not a part of the original biblical manuscripts. 


According to GotAnswers.org, 


“The chapter divisions commonly used today were developed by Stephen Langton, an Archbishop of Canterbury. Langton put the modern chapter divisions into place in around A.D. 1227. The Wycliffe English Bible of 1382 was the first Bible to use this chapter pattern. Since the Wycliffe Bible, nearly all Bible translations have followed Langton’s chapter divisions.”

The Hebrew Old Testament was divided into verses by a Jewish rabbi by the name of Nathan in A.D. 1448. Robert Estienne, who was also known as Stephanus, was the first to divide the New Testament into standard numbered verses, in 1555. Stephanus essentially used Nathan’s verse divisions for the Old Testament. Since that time, beginning with the Geneva Bible, the chapter and verse divisions employed by Stephanus have been accepted into nearly all the Bible versions.


Probably the greatest use of chapter/verse divisions is as locators of a given passage. In short, it’s easy to find what you are looking for and communicate where you are in the text to someone else. However, as a careful student of the Bible, you may encounter chapter/verse divisions you either do not agree with or should not be influenced by. 


For example, consider the following verse.


Romans 12:4 (LEB)

4 For just as in one body we have many members, but all the members do not have the same function,


Notice verse four does not end with a period. That’s because the sentence is not complete. Like Verse four, five ends with a comma, and verses six and seven with a semicolon. The period signaling the end of the sentence that verse four began doesn’t appear until verse eight!


So what? Why does it matter? It matters because sometimes when we quote a given verse we are quoting only a sentence fragment. If we end a sentence prematurely we run the risk of misunderstanding the author’s meaning. 


Having said all of that, I think the chapter division between Numbers thirty-four and thirty-five is correctly delineated. The biblical text in verse one begins a new idea or set of ideas.


Numbers 34:1 (LEB)

1 Then Yahweh spoke to Moses, saying,


Verse one of chapter thirty-five is a nice post-bookend to 34:1.

Numbers 35:1 (LEB)

35 Yahweh spoke to Moses on the desert plains of Moab beyond the Jordan across Jericho, saying,


If you’ve read Numbers 34 you may be thinking, “Mark is just avoiding talking about another boring chapter of the Bible!”


I agree at first blush the chapter seems boring, but not so fast, Let’s look at verse 2.


Numbers 34:2 (LEB)

“Command the ⌊Israelites⌋ and say to them, ‘When you come into the land of Canaan, this is the land that was allotted to you as an inheritance, the land of Canaan according to its boundaries.


Notice the left and right brackets around “Israelites”? The LEB translators flag for us that the Hebrew actually says children/sons of Israel. I wish they would have translated it that way instead of making it a footnote. The reason is the word inheritance toward the end of the verse would have been given more weight. 


What am I talking about? Joseph said it better than I could.


Genesis 50:24 (LEB)

And Joseph said to his brothers, “I am about to die, but God will certainly visit you and bring you up from this land to the land that he swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.


In Numbers 34 Moses is dividing the land amongst the nation demonstrating that Yahweh is dispensing their Inheritance He promised to Jacob (Israel)!


If you get nothing else out of this chapter, verse two should at least be a powerful reminder to you that Yahweh is always faithful to His word! He always has, and always will, do exactly what He has said He will do!


Praise God for His faithfulness! It is heartbreaking that His faithfulness and goodness towards His people are almost always seen against the backdrop of their (and our) faithlessness! This just makes me want to praise Him even more! What about you?


Psalm 100 (LEB)

A psalm of thanksgiving. 

1 Shout in triumph to Yahweh, all the earth.

2 Serve Yahweh with joy; come into his presence with exultation. 

3 Know that Yahweh, he is God; he made us and we are his. We are his people and the sheep of his pasture. 

4 Enter his gates with thanksgiving, his courts with praise. Give thanks to him; bless his name. 

5 For Yahweh is good; his loyal love is forever, and his faithfulness is from generation to generation.

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