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The Jewish Study Bible Contextualizes the Hebrew Bible with accompanying scholarly text on Jewish traditions and history.

The Final Encampment at Sinai

THE THEME OF THIS UNIT ( 1.1–10.10 ) centers on the organization of the Israelite camp around the Tabernacle and the maintenance of cult purity within the camp, assuring God's presence in the Tabernacle. Thus the material is mainly prescriptive. The first section of the unit opens with a census of eligible military‐age males and an election of tribal chieftains ( 1.1–46 ). A description of duties for the military‐exempt Levites follows ( 1.47–54 ). Next is a diagram of the traveling tribal camp ( 2.1–34 ). Much space is devoted to the roles of the Levites, who are stationed closest to the Tabernacle, performing guard duty there, making sure that no non‐priests approach the Tabernacle. Topics include the consecration of the Levites in place of first‐born Israelites, two Levite censuses, and a detailed outline of the familial relationships of the Levitical clans and their duties (chs 3–4 ).

The next sections shift focus from camp organization to the maintenance of camp purity. Conditions for removal and readmission of persons who have become impure are delineated (parts of ch 5 ). Laws regarding Nazirite vows and the formula for the priestly blessing follow (ch 6 ). The next few sections focus again on the Tabernacle and its functionaries: the initiatory gifts brought by the tribal chieftains to the sanctuary (ch 7 ); the procedure for lighting the lampstand (menorah); and the purification of the Levites (ch 8 ). The last section of unit one ( 9.1–10.10 ) discusses the final preparations for departure from Sinai. Israel celebrates the first Passover in the wilderness, and Moses makes provisions for ritually impure persons to celebrate a second Passover one month later. Directives concerning the fire‐cloud, to guide Israel's travels, and the silver trumpets, to herald movement of the camp divisions, conclude the unit.

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