These chapters also are important because they remind the Israelites of the festivals described in Leviticus 23 and 25, many of which they have never celebrated because they depend on their residence in the Promised Land. As Yahweh goes back and presents them again, He confirms to a new generation that He is about to fulfill His promise.
Numbers 28:3-8 confirms the daily offering explained in Exodus 29:38-42. That reading inserted it among the commands to consecrate the priests. To review, remember all of the daily responsibilities of the priests: they have to put wood in the base of the bronze altar to keep the fire burning (Leviticus 6:12-13); they must present the daily offering and dispose of the ashes of the burnt offerings (Exodus 29:38-42; Leviticus 6:9-11; Numbers 28:3-8); they must present the grain offering for their consecration (Leviticus 6:20-23); they burn incense on the golden altar twice daily (Exodus 30:7-8) and tend the lamps of the lampstand (Exodus 27:20-21; 30:7-8). Notice that this offering and all the rest of these priestly duties are continual: they are not replaced by the offerings on the sacred days.
Numbers 28:9-10 describes the Sabbath offering presented in addition to the daily one. The Israelites celebrated the Sabbath with rest from work and a sacred assembly while they were in the wilderness (Exodus 20:8-11; Leviticus 23:2-3; Numbers 15:32-36); now for the first time, Yahweh commands a special offering for this day.
Numbers 28:11-15 commands the offering for the beginning of the month, also for the first time in all the Mosaic Law. We can see the importance of this celebration by the number of sacrifices involved. Notice that the fine flour, oil and wine offered with each animal agrees with what we read earlier about all of the sacrifices (Exodus 29:38-40; Numbers 15:3-12).
Numbers 28:16-25 describes the offering for Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread. Notice that the offering is the same as that of the new month, but it is offered on every one of the seven days of the feast (Leviticus 23:8; Numbers 28:24). Although it is not mentioned here, remember that the day after the Sabbath following Passover, the Israelites will present the sheaf of the firstfruits of the barley harvest. Along with that sheaf they will offer a one-year-old lamb without defect as a burnt offering to Yahweh. They will not eat the grain of the new harvest until that offering is fulfilled (Leviticus 23:10-14).
Numbers 28:26-31 commands the sacrifices for the Feast of Weeks (or in Greek, Pentecost) that celebrate the wheat harvest. Notice again that they are the same as the sacrifices for the new month. Notice too, that there are some differences with the offerings mentioned in Leviticus 23:15-21: Leviticus 23:17-18 mentions two loaves baked with leaven as firstfruits to Yahweh, and then a bull and two rams among the sacrificial animals; Numbers 28:27 says two bulls and one ram and makes no mention of loaves. According to Jacob Milgrom, Numbers (Jewish Publication Society, 1990, pg. 244), the rabbis understood that these passages referred to two separate series of sacrifices offered the same day. That way the sacrifices of Numbers 28:26-31 would sanctify the day and those of Leviticus 23:15-21 would thank Yahweh for the harvest.
Numbers 29:1-6 gives more detail about the Feast of Trumpets, one that is only described briefly in Leviticus 23:23-25. Notice that the sacrifices for this day are added to those for the first day of the month mentioned in Numbers 28:11-15. That is, on the first day of the seventh month the Israelites offered the daily sacrifices, the ones of for the beginning of the month and the ones for the Feast of Trumpets. And if this day happened to fall on a Sabbath, they would offer a total of three bulls, two rams, 18 lambs, all with the appropriate flour, oil and wine offerings, and two male goats for atonement.
Numbers 29:7-11 describes the additional sacrifices for the Day of Atonement. We read about the main sacrifices for this day in Leviticus 16 and Leviticus 23:26-32. Once again, we see that the additional sacrifices mentioned here do not replace the daily offerings or the sacrifices for atonement on that day.
Numbers 29:12-40 commands the sacrifices for the Feast of Tabernacles or Booths that we read about in Leviticus 23:33-43. The changes in the number of sacrifices each day are interesting, but notice that for the seven main days of the feast, all of the sacrifices add up to numbers divisible by seven: 70 bulls, 14 rams and 98 lambs in all.
Notice too, that in addition to the daily offering, Numbers 28 – 29 describes seven sacred Israelite celebrations. If we were to calculate holiness as equal to the number of sacrifices and feasts, the seventh month would be the holiest of them all. It makes sense that the number seven is seen as a symbol of Yahweh’s holiness and completeness!
Notice too, that the daily sacrifices and those of the feasts do not cover all the tabernacle sacrifices: “These you shall offer to the LORD at your appointed feasts, in addition to your vow offerings and your freewill offerings, for your burnt offerings, and for your grain offerings, and for your drink offerings, and for your peace offerings” (Numbers 29:39).
The mention of personal vows fulfilled in the tabernacle in Numbers 29:39 brings us to the additional laws on vows in Numbers 30. Notice that these protect the integrity of a woman’s vow under authority without demonstrating any disrespect to that authority.
In all these ways, Yahweh prepares the Israelites to continue to relate to Him through the tabernacle even after they have entered and settled in the Promised Land.