First off, let me chuckle at the title of the first section of Chapter 17:
The budding of Aaron’s rod
OK, it’s out of my system now. Anyway, quick summary of Chapter 17 is that God wants to stop all the complaints of the Israelites toward Moses by choosing the staff of one of the leaders of the twelve houses, including Aaron who will represent the House of Levi. God will do this by causing one of the staffs to sprout. Gee, I wonder who will win. Obviously, Aaron’s is the chosen staff.
So, I have a problem with these two chapters because it gives away the game. Moses and Aaron were already the defacto leaders of this group and were the only ones who God “spoke” to and who had access to the tent of meeting. So they could have set this all up like a parlor trick in order to keep their hold on power.
In Chapter 18 God tells Aaron that, as the one responsible for the sanctuary, he and his Levite brothers have the right to eat the offerings of the people because they are holy. These offerings include the first fruits of the harvest, the best animals, and shekels of silver (obviously they won’t eat those). They are told that only they are to approach the tent of meeting and that anyone else that approaches will die. That’s a good way to keep people away, by issuing a stern warning and a threat of death.
This chapter deals with the consecration of Nazirites, which are those who take a special vow to the Lord. They must abstain from any product of the grapevine, whether it’s alcoholic or not. They must also not cut their hair (I can’t let my hair grow much longer than an inch, so I’m out) and they cannot defile themselves by going near a corpse. That is, even if it’s a family member. This is the time of their consecration. Of course, all of this ritual is accompanied by, what else, animal sacrifices. You can’t do anything in the Bible without grilling up a living creature.
Once the consecration period has ended, the Nazirite comes to the tent with an offering of a lamb, a ewe, and a ram along with some unleavened bread because you need the carbs, a grain offering, and a drink offering to wash it all down. The Nazirites shave their heads at the entrance to the tent of meeting and the priest places the hair in the fire under the offering for a lovely addition of flavor. I’ll pass on dinner, thanks.
Chapter 7 is a long litany of offerings over the span of twelve days in order to dedicate the altar. It’s a lot of animals being burned on the altar along with a lot of silver and gold. Basically, the whole chapter is a really long “12 Days Of Christmas”.
Chapter 8 starts off about lamps and a lampstand for the altar, but then goes into the consecration of the Levites. It’s not as complicated as the Nazirite consecrations and it doesn’t involve animal sacrifice. Levites are to serve in the tent of meeting from aged 25 to 50. Once they hit 50, they can only assist.