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The Dream of Israel Implied in Their Camping (Numbers 1-4)

Han, Dong-Gu 1

1평택대학교

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ABSTRACT

The present article examines Numbers 1-4 to find what theological significance could be presented in the sacred organization and order in the Israelite camp. Particularly it aims to find what ideal nation is sought after by the Israelite religious community. An exegesis of the texts in Numbers 1-4 is made in detail. A further comparison with other thoughts in the Old Testament is also made in the history of their traditions, which is a must in the present study. A theological question is asked concerning the total number of the men who are able to serve in the army in Numbers 1, in which the numbering of the Israelites is made. Furthermore the relationship between the census in Numbers 1 and the arrangement and order of the camp in Numbers 2-4 is also examined. The characteristics and theological meaning of the camp arrangement in Numbers 2 are examined. The Israelite camp was arranged on every side of the Tent of Meeting, with the Levites standing in the center. The theological meaning of the arrangement is a development from the thoughts about the center of the world and the universe proposed by the prophets. The rule of the Levites’ duties is examined. Their overall duties are prescribed in Numbers 1, and they are, in Numbers 3, assistants to ritual duties and responsible for the management of the furnishings in the Tent of Meeting. In Numbers 4 their duties relate to carrying the tabernacle and its furnishings. The theological meaning of the arrangement and the Levites’ duties is examined. The arrangement and their duties not only make manifest the value of the sacred separation but also serve to realize it completely. The ultimate value of the sacred separation lies in setting up a nation of value. The ritual community of Israel could develop as a truly strong nation when it was based on mental and religious values, not on material power. The present study, therefore, argues that Numbers 1-4 imply the aspiration to build up a strong nation by seeking mental values, and that it is an aspect of the theological tendencies of the Sinaitic tradition and post-exilic period.

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