Working with Numbers

This post is in the series Rite Reading.

Leviticus was wholly legal instruction, but with the book of Numbers, we again have substantial sections of story. These narratives tell more of the travels of the Israelite people, as they make their way through the wilderness to the promised land. The lectionary only uses three short excerpts from this story.

The first is a blessing, probably better known from its use in worship than directly from the biblical book. “The Lord bless you and keep you, the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you. The Lord lift up the light of his countenance upon you, and give you peace.” (Numbers 6:24-26) It provides the first reading for the 1st January, eight days after Christmas, when the gospel relates the circumcision and naming of Jesus.1 It helps relate the continuity of God’s promise of blessing between the two testaments, especially in the way Luke portrays the holy family’s torah-observant piety.

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