March 16 – The Stars of Israel and the Star of Israel

Numbers 24:1-25:18
Luke 2:1-35
Psalm 59:1-17
Proverbs 11:14

Numbers 24:17 — The Star out of Jacob. Not the numberless stars prophesied of in Genesis 15:5, 22:17, 26:4, 37:9; Exodus 32:13; Deuteronomy 1:10, 10:22, 28:62; 1 Chronicles 27:23; Nehemiah 9:23; and Hebrews 11:12. Not the star of the Remphan (Amos 5:26, Acts 7:43), not the morning star (literal translation of the word Lucifer, Isaiah 14:12), not “Wormwood” of Revelation 8:10, not the falling star of Revelation 9:1, not the twelve stars of Israel (Revelation 12:1), and it’s not part of the third part of the stars that fell from heaven (Revelation 12:4).

This is the One whose star was seen in the east (Matthew 2:2), who is the day star (2 Peter 1:19), the holder of stars (Revelation 1:16), and the bright and morning star (Revelation 22:16).

Numbers 25:3 — What is Baal-peor?

Name of a Canaanitish god. Peor was a mountain in Moab (Num. xxiii. 28), whence the special locality Beth-peor (Deut. iii. 29, etc.) was designated. It gave its name to the Ba’al who was there worshiped, and to whose service Israel, before the entrance into Canaan, was, for a brief time, attracted (Num. xxv. 3, 5; Ps. cvi. 28). The god is himself also called “Peor” by abbreviation (Num. xxxi. 16; Josh. xxii. 17). It is commonly held that this form of Ba’al-worship especially called for sensual indulgence. The context seems to favor his view, on account of the shameful licentiousness into which many of the Israelites were there enticed. But all Ba’al-worship encouraged this sin; and Peor may not have been worse than many other shrines in this respect, though the evil there was certainly flagrant. In Hosea ix. 10 “Baal-peor” is the same as “Beth-peor,” and is contracted from “Beth-baal-peor.”

By the way — who was behind enticing the Israelites into apostasy? Balaam (Numbers 31:16).

Numbers 25:14 — Zimri was the name of an Israelite who sinned and on whom God commanded the Israelites to exercise the death penalty. It’s very unlikely that someone would name their child Ted Bundy if they knew Mr. Bundy’s history, yet interestingly, someone in Israel named their child Zimri many years later, and he eventually became a chariot captain in the Israeli army and King in Israel (I King 16:9-10).

Luke 2:8 — What was special about the shepherds’ field?

The shepherds’ fields outside Bethlehem, to this day, play a central role in the Christmas celebrations in the Holy Land. Countless tourists have visited the fields between Bethlehem and Jerusalem. The church historian Eusebius linked these fields to a unique biblical location called Migdal Eder, which translated means the “tower of the flock”.

The first time Migdal Eder is mentioned in the Bible is in the account of Rachel, who died after giving birth to Benjamin, the youngest son of Jacob. “Then Israel journeyed and pitched his tent beyond the tower of Eder”, records Genesis 35:21.

This area on the outskirts of Bethlehem is also mentioned in the Talmudic writings. According to the Talmud, all cattle found in the area surrounding Jerusalem “as far as Migdal Eder” were deemed to be holy and consecrated and could only be used for sacrifices in the Temple, in particular for the peace and Passover sacrifices. There was thus a special, consecrated circle around the city of Jerusalem.

Luke 2:13-14 — George Frederic Handel’s Messiah captures this scene:

Luke 2:32 — The Light & Glory was the Star of Jacob and the Scepter of Israel!

Psalm 59:13 — This is a good example of an imprecatory psalm. Do these violate the command to love your enemies? (Luke 6:27-29)

It is important to recall the theological principles that underlie such psalms. These include: (1) the principle that vengeance belongs to God (Deut. 32:35; Ps. 94:1) that excludes personal retaliation and necessitates appeal to God to punish the wicked (cp. Rom. 12:19); (2) the principle that God’s righteousness demands judgment on the wicked (Pss. 5:6; 11:5–6); (3) the principle that God’s covenant love for the people of God necessitates intervention on their part (Pss. 5:7; 59:10, 16–17); and (4) the principle of prayer that believers trust God with all their thoughts and desires.

Proverbs 11:14 — We’ll notice that many “business principles” are really “stolen Proverbs.” Why do Fortune 500 companies pay their board members over $200,000 per year? Because in the multitude of counsellors there is safety.

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