How Numbers 18:1 Might Apply to Jesus

How Numbers 18:1 Might Apply to Jesus



In Numbers 18, God calls upon Aaron and his sons to bear the sins of the Temple and of the priesthood. Christian missionaries seize upon this passage as a Scriptural example of “vicarious atonement”. They argue that this passage teaches that the priests were charged
with the function of bearing the sins of the people, and they conclude their argument with the assertion that Jesus now assumes this priestly function by bearing the sins of the world.

The missionary rendition of Numbers 18 does not deserve to be treated as an “interpretation”. There is not a shred of textual evidence to support the contention that this passage in Numbers speaks of vicarious atonement. In fact, all of the textual and contextual evidence clearly demonstrates that this passage is speaking of a
transfer of responsibility from the people to the priests. The missionary “interpretation” of this passage is not rooted in a loyalty to Scripture, it is rooted in a loyalty to Christian theology.

In this passage we learn how the priests are charged with the guarding of the sanctuary (verse 7). God is entrusting the responsibility of the sanctity of the Tabernacle to Aaron and his sons. It is their duty to ensure that the people do not violate the laws of the sanctuary. From this point in time onward, if anyone will profane the sanctity of the Tabernacle, it will be the priests who will bear the sin because they have been negligent of their duty. This is not a situation of vicarious atonement; i.e. the innocent priests suffering for the guilty sinner. Rather, this is a case where the priests are assigned the responsibility of preventing the sinners from sinning to begin with. Thus when they fail in their duty, they are held guilty for their own negligence.

Ezekiel 33:1-9 presents a similar situation. The prophet describes how people appoint a lookout to warn the people in the case of an impending attack. If the lookout fails in his duty and people die as a result of his negligence, the lookout shares in the guilt of the death of these people. God  uses this parable to illustrate the prophet’s duty towards the people. If he fails in his duty, and does not warn the people to turn from their evil ways, he will share in the guilt of their crimes.

This teaching is relevant to all those who occupy a position where people look to them for guidance in matters of morality and ethics. Those who occupy positions of spiritual leadership must teach their following right from wrong. If they fail in their duty and they mislead their students, they will then share in the guilt incurred by the sins that they have caused. In modern parlance we would say; if you shoot your mouth off, you must bear the consequences of the damage you cause.

If we look at the history of mankind, we will realize that in a certain sense this passage in Numbers applies to the founders of Christianity. The fact of the matter is that for centuries upon dark centuries, millions of people were looking to the founders of Christianity for moral guidance. The founders of Christianity failed their following. Not only did they preach faulty theology, but they poisoned the minds of men towards those whom God appointed as the teachers of mankind; the Jewish people.

Had the European people looked to the Jewish people for guidance instead of to the founders of Christianity; they would have heard a lot more about the dignity of man than they heard about the depravity of man. They would have learned about the spiritual beauty inherent in every good deed instead of hearing about how good deeds lead to pride. They would have been presented with a God-centered world in which all of God’s creations are children of light, as opposed to a Jesus-centered world where those who don’t believe in Jesus are outside the circle of “light” and are seen as members of the camp of darkness. They would have learned to appreciate the justice of Moses, the yearning of David, and the wisdom of Solomon, instead of being taught that the pettiness of Matthew and the hatred of John are the epitome of virtue. They would have seen how the purpose of life is to infuse all of existence with God’s holiness instead of being taught that the purpose of life is to earn a free pass to eternal life. They would have learned how the breath of God is to be found in the conscience of every human being instead of being taught that without faith in Jesus, everyone is completely corrupt. They would have realized that as creations of the One God, they are called to answer directly to the Author of all morality, as opposed to being taught to hide behind the folds of a man who lived and breathed as they do.

As the self-appointed teachers of a significant portion of humanity, the founders of Christianity must share in the responsibility of the dark history of their followers. If you want to talk about Numbers 18 – this is what it says.

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Thank You

Yisroel C. Blumenthal

If you found this article helpful please consider making a donation to Judaism Resources by clicking on the link below.

Judaism Resources is a recognized 501(c) 3 public charity and your donation is tax exempt.

Thank You

Yisroel C. Blumenthal

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2 Responses to How Numbers 18:1 Might Apply to Jesus

  1. steve88 says:

    I noticed this was similar to your previous post, but a valid point nonetheless that when people start messing with what god already said, the proof is in the pudding. Thanks for the food for thought.

  2. Gavin says:

    One can NEVER “give” responsibility, one ALWAYS takes it!

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