“Unit 13: Day 4, Numbers 15–21,” Old Testament Study Guide for Home-Study Seminary Students (2014)
“Unit 13: Day 4,” Old Testament Study Guide
After the children of Israel refused to obey the Lord and take possession of the promised land, the Lord reminded them of sacrificial ordinances that would help them receive forgiveness if they repented. He provided further instructions for offering sacrifices and keeping covenants, with provisions for redemption if the people sinned. The Lord also said, however, that if people sinned defiantly, their iniquities were upon them and they would be cut off from the Lord’s people. A group of Israelites rebelled against the Lord and were destroyed. Through a miracle, the Lord showed the people whom He had chosen to lead them.
Ponder the following scenarios:
A young man who is a recent convert to the Church becomes upset and swears while driving. Although he does not take the name of the Lord in vain, he feels an immediate withdrawal of the Spirit.
Just before a young woman begins her application for missionary service, she decides to spend time with friends who are not making good choices. When they offer her an alcoholic drink, she knowingly drinks it, believing she can easily repent later so that she could still serve a mission.
Do you think the consequences for these two individuals should be the same or different? Why?
In Numbers 15 the Lord distinguishes between two different attitudes of a transgressor—one who defiantly and willfully sins and one who sins ignorantly or who unintentionally makes a mistake and feels guilty about offending God.
In Numbers 15:1–26 we learn that the Lord taught the Israelites about repentance and the sacrifices they needed to perform after rebelling against Him and refusing to enter and take possession of the promised land.
The Lord continued to teach the Israelites about those who sinned ignorantly or unintentionally and those who sinned willfully. Read Numbers 15:27–29, looking for what the priest did for someone who sinned ignorantly.
Think about how this sacrifice is symbolic of what the Savior does for us when we do wrong unintentionally or out of ignorance.
This account reminds us that if we repent, we can be forgiven of our sins, including those we commit in ignorance, through the Atonement of Jesus Christ.
Read Numbers 15:30–31, looking for what the Lord said would happen to those who willfully break God’s commandments. As you read, it may help to know that the word presumptuously implies willfully and knowingly breaking God’s commandments.
You may want to mark the phrase “his iniquity shall be upon him” in verse 31. This phrase helps us understand that if we willfully break God’s commandments and do not repent, then we must stand accountable before God for those sins.
- Answer the following questions in your scripture study journal:
What do you think it means that someone who willfully disobeyed a commandment “despised the word of the Lord” (Numbers 15:31)?
What did the Lord say would happen to those who willfully broke His commandments?
Read the following excerpt from For the Strength of Youth, and underline why willfully committing sin is so serious: “Some people knowingly break God’s commandments, planning to repent later, such as before they go to the temple or serve a mission. Such deliberate sin mocks the Savior’s Atonement” ([booklet, 2011], 29).
Even though we are accountable for our sins, if we repent, we can be cleansed through the Atonement of Jesus Christ (see Mosiah 3:12).
In Numbers 15:37–41 we read that the Lord told the people to make fringes on the borders of their clothing to remind them to follow the commandments in order to remain holy.
- In your scripture study journal write a list of popular television shows, movies, songs, and games. Ponder how Satan could use the various types of media to influence you, then answer the following questions:
Because media can uplift or tear us down spiritually, how can we detect the influences that would weaken us spiritually?
How can we avoid such influences when they are accepted by those around us?
Numbers 16 contains an account of a group of Israelites who willfully sinned by rebelling against Moses and Aaron. This account teaches principles that can help us avoid the influence of those who would seek to entice us to rebel against God. It also teaches principles to help us know whom the Lord has called to lead His people. Look for these principles as you study Numbers 16.
Notice who Numbers 16:1–3 states rebelled against Moses and Aaron. Think about what the phrase “famous in the congregation, men of renown” (Numbers 16:2) tells you about those who rebelled against Moses.
These leaders accused Moses and Aaron of placing themselves above the rest of the Israelites. Read Numbers 16:4–7, looking for Moses’s response to the rebellious group. As you read, it may help you to know that the censers mentioned in verse 6 were containers for burning incense that the priests carried as they performed certain religious ceremonies in the tabernacle.
Moses told Korah and his followers, who were Levites but not authorized to administer in the high priesthood (the Melchizedek Priesthood), to bring their censers to the tabernacle the following day. Moses also told them that the Lord would then show whom He had chosen to be His authorized servant.
In Numbers 16:8–19 we learn that those who rebelled against Moses and Aaron were not content “to do the service of the tabernacle of the Lord, and to stand before the congregation to minister unto them” (Numbers 16:9) with the priesthood authority they held as “sons of Levi” (Numbers 16:8). They sought after “the priesthood also” (Numbers 16:10), which the Joseph Smith Translation states was the “high priesthood,” or Melchizedek Priesthood (Joseph Smith Translation, Numbers 16:10 [in Numbers 16:10, footnote a]). We also learn that two rebellious men refused to meet with Moses and instead complained about not being in the promised land. The next day Korah and 250 rebels brought their censers to the temple, as Moses had told them to do.
Read Numbers 16:24–26, looking for what the Lord told the people to do. Consider marking what you find.
Look in Numbers 16:27–35 for what happened to those who rebelled against Moses. What did the people have to do to avoid the same fate of Korah and his followers?
Based on this account, what must we do to avoid the Lord’s judgments that come upon the wicked? Answer this question by completing the following statement: If from evil influences, then we show the Lord whose side we are on.
- In your scripture study journal, list some evil influences in our day that we need to separate ourselves from. Write what you need to do to separate yourself from these evil influences and other wickedness you may encounter.
Ponder how separating yourself from evil influences can help you avoid enticements to rebel against God.
Numbers 16:36–50 explains that after these wicked men had been destroyed, another group of Israelites rebelled against Moses and Aaron. The Lord sent a plague upon them, and many of them were destroyed.
In Numbers 17:1–4 we learn that in order to further show the children of Israel who was called to lead His people, the Lord told Moses to gather a rod (a staff, or a stick) from each of the twelve tribes of Israel. Moses then placed each rod in the tabernacle overnight.
- Draw 12 lines in your scripture study journal to represent the 12 rods Moses gathered. Read Numbers 17:5–10, and draw what happened to Aaron’s rod on one of the lines. Then answer the following questions:
What do you think is significant or symbolic about Aaron’s rod producing buds, blossoming, and yielding almonds?
What do you think the people learned because of this miracle?
From this account we learn that the Lord will help us know whom He has called to lead His people.
- In your scripture study journal, write about a time when you experienced a confirming witness that the Lord’s chosen leaders are called by Him. (If you cannot think of a time, ask a family member or ward member about his or her experience and write it in your journal.)
As you seek the Lord’s confirming witness, He will help you to know that His leaders are called of Him.
In Numbers 18–19 we see that the Lord again established the duties of the priests and the Levites and gave them additional directions regarding sacrifices to help them be sanctified or cleansed.
Numbers 20–21 records that the Lord directed Moses to smite a rock, and it brought forth water. The children of Israel rebelled again when they were not allowed to pass through the land of Edom on their way to the promised land and instead had to travel a great distance to go around it.
In response to their rebellion, the Lord sent poisonous serpents among the people. The Lord then instructed Moses to set a brass serpent upon a pole and promised that those who looked upon it would be healed. As many ancient witnesses testified, the brass serpent on a pole was an important symbol of Jesus Christ and His Atonement (see John 3:14–15; 1 Nephi 17:41; 2 Nephi 25:20; Alma 33:18–22; Helaman 8:14–15).
If you could be healed by merely looking at a brass serpent on a pole, would you do so? What are some ways you can look to Jesus Christ’s Atonement and victory over sin so that you can be healed?
You will be studying more about this during the lesson with your home-study teacher.
- Write the following at the bottom of today’s assignments in your scripture study journal:
I have studied Numbers 15–21 and completed this lesson on (date).
Additional questions, thoughts, and insights I would like to share with my teacher: