Q. In Numbers 7:10-88, what is the significance of listing out what each of the 12 chiefs offered as they were all the same?
A. Numbers 7 is probably the most repetitive chapter in the Bible, with 6 verses for the leader of each tribe, offering the same dedication offering for the altar:
• 1 silver dish of 130 shekels (about 1/2 oz) i.e. 65 oz,
• 1 silver bowl of 70 shekels i.e. 35 oz,
• 1 gold pan of 10 shekels i.e. 5 oz,
• 1 bull, 1 ram, 1 male lamb for a burnt offering,
• 1 male goat for a sin offering,
• 2 oxen, 5 rams, 5 male goats, 5 male lambs for peace offerings.
The current price (Oct 21, 2016) for gold and silver is US$1,266.43 and US$17.52 per oz respectively, so just the gold and silver alone costs US$8,084 today. Using average weights, the sacrificial animals would cost:
• US$4,800 for an average bull,
• US$3,000 for a pair of oxen,
• US$900 for 6 rams,
• US$1,500 for 6 male lambs,
• US$1,200 for 6 male goats
• for a total of US$11,400. So the grand-total including the gold and silver utensils would cost about US$20,000 in round terms, and is not a modest offering.
But why the repetition? The text did not explain, but the following are possible:
• Each offering by an individual is just as important as the next, and are therefore recorded individually.
• Each leader’s offering is the same as the others, so no one can boast his offering is bigger than others.
• It takes all to contribute before the combined effort is complete. No one is left out.
There could be other explanations, but these seemed reasonable.