Someone Needed an Editor …

by Bethany

Today’s Readings: Numbers 7

“Omit Needless Words.”

I prize brevity in writing – each 843 Acres post is 400 words or less and each daily reading in the Subway Series is 750 words or less [1]. My literary motto is Strunk & White’s seventeenth composition style – “Omit needless words” [2] – and Handelsman’s cartoon in The New Yorker makes me smile (see below).

The Value of Repetition

With the exception of Psalm 119, Numbers 7 is the longest chapter in the Bible and, in my opinion, it may be the most verbose and boring. It is a detailed record of the gifts given at the tabernacle’s dedication. Since each of the twelve tribal leaders gave exactly the same set of gifts, the author could have been succinct by writing, “Each leader gave the following gifts …” Yet, he did not. Instead, he listed each leader and their gifts, leaving us to read the same list of gifts twelve times.

Although these details bore most of us, the Hebrews would have been enthralled. First, they would have been hearing, not reading, the lists because their history was oral, not written. Second, as tribal citizens, they would have been intently listening for the gifts given by their particular tribe, careful to hear that they gave as much as the others. Finally, they would have been longing for this moment, when God fulfilled His promise to meet with Moses and give him all His commands for the His people [3]. Thus, when these gifts were given, the tabernacle was complete and Moses was able to enter the Holy Place: When Moses entered the tent of meeting to speak with the LORD, he heard the voice speaking to him from between the two cherubim above the atonement cover on the ark of the covenant law. In this way the LORD spoke to him” [4]. Now, finally, the people could do what they were called and created to do – to worship and know and enjoy God.


Lord, No matter how long or wordy we may think parts of the Bible may be, we confess that every word is God-breathed and useful for teaching. Give us hearts that long for Your presence in our midst so that we wait intently and expectantly for Your purposes to be fulfilled. Amen.


[1] 750 words or less is the same word limit as an op-ed for The New York Times.  |  [2] William Strunk, Jr., and E.B. White. The Elements of Style. 1918.  |  [3] Exodus 25:22  |  [4] Numbers 7:89 NIV 2010

One Comment to “Someone Needed an Editor …”

  1. Bethany, thank you for this insight. I now see the perspective the people in the 12 tribes and can rejoice in this chapter of God’s word. Love the cartoon too!

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