The Book of Numbers
Numbers 14:14 - "And they will tell [it] to the inhabitants of this land: [for] they have heard that thou LORD [art] among this people, that thou LORD art seen face to face, and [that] thy cloud standeth over them, and [that] thou goest before them, by day time in a pillar of a cloud, and in a pillar of fire by night."
The Old Testament - A Brief Overview
Bible Survery - Numbers
Hebrew Name - Bemidhbar "in the wilderness"
Greek Name - Numbers "numberings"
Author - Moses
Date - From 1490-1451 BC approximately
Theme - The Journey to the Promised Land
Types and Shadows - In Numbers Jesus is the Pillar of Cloud by Day and the Pillar of Fire by Night
Summary of The Book of Numbers
Quick Overview of the Book of Numbers
Chpts 1-4 - The numbering of the Israelites, the organizing of the Israelites into tribes and companies, the offices of the Levites while serving in the Tabernacle.
Chpts 5-10 - The establishing of various civil and ceremonial laws.
Chpts 11-21 - The murmuring of the Israelites in the wilderness on their way to Mount Sinai.
Chpts 22-36 - The encampment of the Israelites on the plains of Moab.
The book of Numbers takes its name from the account of the census that happened two times among the congregation of Israel in Numbers 1-4 and Numbers 26. The Greek title was used even though there is really no connection with the "numberings."
The original Hebrew title which means "in the wilderness," is much more accurate, because the book of Numbers is it's really an accurate history of the events that happened during the period of wandering in the wilderness and not necessarily a book about statistics.
The book of Numbers seems to follow naturally after the book of Leviticus in the order of the books of Moses in the Old Testament. After the children of Israel received the laws at Mount Sinai, they began the journey as described in the book of Exodus, and they were ready to march directly into the land of Canaan.
The book of Numbers reveals how the children of Israel became prepared, and went through various trials, and how they were sinful in not trusting the Lord. Their sinful ways resulted in 37 years of wandering through the harsh wilderness.
The book of Numbers concludes with the children of Israel once again at the edge of the land of Canaan, where they received instructions for the conquest of Canaan and the division of the land.
The main divisions in the book of Numbers
Outline of the Book of Numbers
1) The preparation for the departure from Sinai (1:1-10:10). The events described here took place in nineteen days. In this time a census was taken of all men who were over twenty and who could serve in military efforts (1-4). The total obtained was 603,550 (1:46). This would indicate that the total population of the group was probably near three million. The census was followed by the cleansing and blessing of the congregation (5-6), the offering of gifts from the various tribes (7), the consecration of the Levites (8) and the observance of the Passover at Sinai (9:1-14).
2 ) The journey from Sinai to Kadesh-barnea (10:11-14:45). This section includes the account of the coming of the quail (11), the rebellion against Moses by Miriam and Aaron (12), and the fateful mission of the spies (13, 14).
3) The wanderings in the desert wilderness (15-19). As noted above, this covered a period of thirty-seven years, from the end of the second to the beginning of the fortieth year in the wilderness. Ch. 15 includes various laws and a record of capital punishment for Sabbath breaking. The rebellion of Korah (ch. 16) and the budding of Aaron's rod (ch. 17) are also mentioned here.
4 ) The history of the last year, from the second arrival of the Israelites at Kadesh till they reach "the plains of Moab by Jordan near Jericho" (20-36: 13). Notable sections of this are the story of Balaam (22:2-24:25), the zeal of Phinehas (ch. 25), the second census (26:1-51) , instructions for dividing the land (26:52-27: 11), the appointment of Joshua as Moses' successor (27: 12-23), various laws concerning offerings and vows ( 28-30 ), the war with Midian (ch. 31), the settlement of the tribes east of the Jordan (ch. 32), a review of the locations at which Israel had camped during their wanderings (33: 1-49), more instructions concerning the conquest and division of Canaan (33:50-34:29 ), the appointment of the cities of refuge (ch. 35) and instructions concerning the marriage of land-owning Israelite women (ch. 36).
Canaan Before Joshua
Moab and Ammon
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The Book of Numbers
The Book of Numbers (from Greek Ἀριθμοί, Arithmoi; Hebrew: במדבר, Bəmidbar, "In the desert [of]") is the fourth book of the Hebrew Bible, and the fourth of five books of the JewishTorah.
Numbers begins at Mount Sinai, where the Israelites have received their laws and covenant from God and God has taken up residence among them in the sanctuary. The task before them is to take possession of the Promised Land. The people are numbered and preparations are made for resuming their march. The Israelites begin the journey, but they "murmur" at the hardships along the way, and about the authority of Moses and Aaron. For these acts, God destroys approximately 15,000 of them through various means. They arrive at the borders of Canaan and send spies into the land, but upon hearing the spies' fearful report concerning the conditions in Canaan the Israelites refuse to take possession of it, and God condemns them to death in the wilderness until a new generation can grow up and carry out the task. The book ends with the new generation of Israelites in the Plain of Moab ready for the crossing of the Jordan River.
Numbers is the culmination of the story of Israel's exodus from oppression in Egypt and their journey to take possession of the land God promised their fathers. As such it draws to a conclusion the themes introduced in Genesis and played out in Exodus and Leviticus: God has promised the Israelites that they shall become a great (i.e. numerous) nation, that they will have a special relationship with Yahweh their God, and that they shall take possession of the land of Canaan.
Numbers also demonstrates the importance of holiness, faithfulness and trust: despite God's presence and his priests, Israel lacks faith and the possession of the land is left to a new generation. The book has a long and complex history, but its final form is probably due to a Priestly redaction (i.e., editing) of a Yahwistic original text some time in the early Persian period (5th century BCE).
Most commentators structure Numbers in three sections based on locale (Mount Sinai, Kadesh-Barnea and the plains of Moab), linked by two travel sections. This view has the advantage of anchoring Numbers to the Pentateuch as a whole.
But an alternative is to see it as structured around the two generations of those condemned to die in the wilderness and the new generation who will enter Canaan, making a theological distinction between the disobedience of the first generation and the obedience of the second.
|Priest, Levite, and furnishings of the Tabernacle|
God orders Moses, in the wilderness of Sinai, to number those able to bear arms—of all the men "from twenty years old and upward," and to appoint princes over each tribe. 603,550 Israelites are found to be fit for military service. In chapter 26, a generation later and after approximately forty years of wandering the desert, the Lord orders a second census. 601,730 men are counted.
The tribe of Levi is exempted from military service and therefore not included in the census totals. Moses consecrates the Levites for the service of the Tabernacle in the place of the first-born sons, who hitherto had performed that service. The Levites are divided into three families, the Gershonites, the Kohathites, and the Merarites, each under a chief, and all headed by one priest, Eleazar, son of Aaron. Preparations are then made for resuming the march to the Promised Land. Various ordinances and laws are decreed.
The first journey of the Israelites after the Tabernacle had been constructed is commenced. The people murmur against God and are punished by fire; Moses complains of the stubbornness of the Israelites and is ordered to choose seventy elders to assist him in the government of the people. Miriam and Aaron insult Moses at Hazeroth, which angers God; Miriam is punished with leprosy and is shut out of camp for seven days, at the end of which the Israelites proceed to the desert of Paran. Twelve spies are sent out into Canaan and come back to report to Moses. Joshua and Caleb, two of the spies, tell that the land is abundant and is "flowing with milk and honey"; the other spies say that it is inhabited by giants, and the Israelites refuse to enter the land. Yahweh decrees that the Israelites will be punished for their loss of faith by having to wander in the wilderness for 40 years.
With the two hundred fifty censers left after God's destruction of Korah's band for questioning the authority of Moses and Aaron, Moses is ordered by God to make plates to cover the altar. The children of Israel murmur against Moses and Aaron on account of the destruction of Korah's men and are stricken with the plague, with 14,700 perishing.
Aaron and his family are declared by God to be responsible for any iniquity committed in connection with the sanctuary. The Levites are again appointed to help in the keeping of the Tabernacle. The Levites are ordered to surrender to the priests a part of the tithes taken to them.
Miriam dies at Kadesh Barnea and the Israelites set out for Moab, on Canaan's eastern border. The Israelites blame Moses for the lack of water. Moses is ordered by God to speak to a rock but disobeys, and is punished by the announcement that he shall not enter Canaan. The king of Edom refuses permission to the Israelites to pass through his land and they go round it. Aaron dies on Mount Hor. The Israelites are bitten by Fiery flying serpents for speaking against God and Moses. A brazen serpent is made to ward off these serpents.
The Israelites arrive on the plains of Moab. A new census gives the total number of males from twenty years and upward as 601,730, and the number of the Levites from a month old and upward as 23,000. The land shall be divided by lot. The daughters of Zelophehad, their father having no sons, are to share in the allotment. Moses is ordered to appoint Joshua as his successor. Prescriptions for the observance of the feasts, and the offerings for different occasions are enumerated.
Moses orders the Israelites to massacre the people of Midian. The Reubenites and the Gadites request Moses to assign them the land east of the Jordan. Moses grants their request after they promise to help in the conquest of the land west of the Jordan. The land east of the Jordan is divided among the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and the half-tribe of Manasseh.
Moses recalls the stations at which the Israelites halted during their forty years' wanderings and instructs the Israelites to exterminate the Canaanites and destroy their idols. The boundaries of the land are spelled out; the land is to be divided under the supervision of Eleazar, Joshua, and twelve princes, one of each tribe.
|A Plague Inflicted on Israel While Eating the Quail|
(illustration from the 1728 Figures de la Bible)
The key event in the formation of the Old Testament was the fall of the kingdom of Judah to the Babylonian empire in 586 BCE. The Babylonians destroyed the city and the Temple of Solomon, executed the king's sons in front of him before putting out his eyes, and took him and many others into exile. These events represented a major religious crisis: why had [Yahweh] allowed this to happen [to His people]? What had happened to the promise that the descendants of David would reign forever? The answers were recorded in the works of the prophets Ezekiel, Jeremiah and Second Isaiah, and in the Deuteronomistic history, the collection of historical works from Joshua to Kings: God had not abandoned Israel; Israel had abandoned God, and the Babylonian exile was God's punishment for Israel's lack of faith.
The Babylonian exile lasted approximately 48 years, from 586 to 538 BCE, and ended with the conquest of Babylon in that year by the Persians. The new Persian ruler decided to allow the exiles to return home. According to the book of Ezra-Nehemiah they did so under the joint leadership of a descendant of the last king and the last High Priest, rebuilding the Temple and reconstituting Judah (now called Yehud) as a holy community ruled by priests. It was in this period that the Pentateuch (or Torah, to give the Hebrew name) was composed, by detaching the book of Deuteronomy from the Deuteronomistic history and adding it to the books of Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus and Numbers.
|Balaam and the Angel (illustration from the 1493 Nuremberg Chronicle)|
David A. Clines, in his influential The Themes of the Pentateuch (1978), identified the overarching theme of the five books as the partial fulfilment of a promise made by God to the patriarchs, to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. The promise has three elements:
1 - posterity (i.e., descendants – Abraham is told that his descendants will be as innumerable as the stars),
2 - divine-human relationship (Israel is to be God's chosen people), and
3 - land (the land of Canaan, cursed by Noah immediately after the Deluge).
The theme of the divine-human relationship is expressed, or managed, through a series of covenants (meaning treaties, legally binding agreements) stretching from Genesis to Deuteronomy and beyond.
1 - The first is the covenant between God and Noah immediately after the Deluge in which God agrees never again to destroy the Earth [(the Noahic Covenant)]
2 - The next is between God and Abraham [(the Abrahamic Covenant)], and
3 - the third between God and all Israel at Mount Sinai [(the Mosaic Covenant)].
In this third covenant, unlike the first two, God hands down an elaborate set of laws (scattered through Exodus, Leviticus and Numbers), which the Israelites are to observe; they are also to remain faithful to Yahweh, the God of Israel, meaning, among other things, that they must put their trust in his help. [sic, the Noahic Covenant]
The theme of descendants marks the first event in Numbers, the census of Israel's fighting men: the huge number which results (over 600,000) demonstrates the fulfillment of God's promise to Abraham of innumerable descendants, as well as serving as God's guarantee of victory in Canaan. [sic, the Abrhamaic Covenant]
As chapters 1–10 progress the theme of God's presence with Israel comes to the fore: these chapters describe how Israel is to be organised around the Sanctuary, God's dwelling-place in their midst, under the charge of the Levites and priests, in preparation for the conquest of the land. [sic, the Mosaic Covenant]
The Israelites then set out to conquer the land, but almost immediately refuse to enter it and Yahweh condemns the whole generation who left Egypt to die in the wilderness. The message is clear: failure was not due to any fault in the preparation, because Yahweh had foreseen everything, but to Israel's sin of unfaithfulness. In the final section the Israelites of the new generation follow Yahweh's instructions as given through Moses and are successful in all they attempt.
The last five chapters are exclusively concerned with land: instructions for the extermination of the Canaanites, the demarcation of the boundaries of the land, how the land is to be divided, holy cities for the Levites and "cities of refuge", the problem of pollution of the land by blood, and regulations for inheritance when a male heir is lacking.
Weekly Torah portions
Main article: Weekly Torah portion
Bemidbar, on Numbers 1–4: First census, priestly duties
Naso, on Numbers 4–7: Priestly duties, the camp, unfaithfulness and the Nazirite, Tabernacle consecration
Behaalotecha, on Numbers 8–12: Levites, journing by cloud and fire, complaints, questioning of Moses
Shlach, on Numbers 13–15: Mixed report of the scouts and Israel's response, libations, bread, idol worship, fringes
Korach, on Numbers 16–18: Korah’s rebellion, plague, Aaron’s staff buds, duties of the Levites
Chukat, on Numbers 19–21: Red heifer, water from a rock, Miriam’s and Aaron’s deaths, victories, serpents
Balak, on Numbers 22–25: Balaam's donkey and blessing
Pinechas, on Numbers 25–29: Phinehas, second census, inheritance, Moses' successor, offerings and holidays
Matot, on Numbers 30–32: Vows, Midian, dividing booty, land for Reuben, Gad, and half of Manasseh
Masei, on Numbers 33–36: Stations of the Israelites’ journeys, instructions for conquest, cities for Levites
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English Standard Version (ESV)
God Promises Judgement
6 And the men whom Moses sent to spy out the land, who returned and made all the congregation grumble against him by bringing up a bad report about the land— 37 the men who brought up a bad report of the land - died by plague before the Lord. 38 Of those men who went to spy out the land, only Joshua the son of Nun and Caleb the son of Jephunneh remained alive.
English Standard Version (ESV)
A Sabbathbreaker Executed
32 While the people of Israel were in the wilderness, they found a man gathering sticks on the Sabbath day. 33 And those who found him gathering sticks brought him to Moses and Aaron and to all the congregation. 34 They put him in custody, because it had not been made clear what should be done to him. 35 And the Lord said to Moses,
“The man shall be put to death; all the congregation shall
stone him with stones outside the camp.”
36 And all the congregation brought him outside the camp and stoned him to death with stones, as the Lord commanded Moses.
English Standard Version (ESV)
16 Now Korah the son of Izhar, son of Kohath, son of Levi, and Dathan and Abiram the sons of Eliab, and On the son of Peleth, sons of Reuben, took men.2 And they rose up before Moses, with a number of the people of Israel, 250 chiefs of the congregation, chosen from the assembly, well-known men. 3 They assembled themselves together against Moses and against Aaron and said to them,
“You have gone too far! For all in the congregation are holy, every one of them, and the Lord
is among them. Why then do you exalt yourselves above the assembly of the Lord?”
4 When Moses heard it, he fell on his face, 5 and he said to Korah and all his company,
“In the morning the Lord will show who is his,[a] and who is holy, and will bring him near to him. The one whom he chooses he will bring near to him. 6 Do this: take censers, Korah and all his company; 7 put fire in them and put incense on them before the Lord tomorrow, and the man whom the Lord chooses shall be the holy one. You have gone too far, sons of Levi!”
8 And Moses said to Korah,
“Hear now, you sons of Levi: 9 is it too small a thing for you that the God of Israel has separated you from the congregation of Israel, to bring you near to himself, to do service in the tabernacle of the Lord and to stand before the congregation to minister to them, 10 and that he has brought you near him, and all your brothers the sons of Levi with you? And would you seek the priesthood also? 11 Therefore it is against the Lord that you and all your company have gathered together. What is Aaron that you grumble against him?”
12 And Moses sent to call Dathan and Abiram the sons of Eliab, and they said,
“We will not come up. 13 Is it a small thing that you have brought us up out of a land flowing with milk and honey, to kill us in the wilderness, that you must also make yourself a prince over us? 14 Moreover, you have not brought us into a land flowing with milk and honey, nor given us inheritance of fields and vineyards. Will you put out the eyes of these men? We will not come up.”
15 And Moses was very angry and said to the Lord,
“Do not respect their offering. I have not taken one donkey from them
and I have not harmed one of them.”
16 And Moses said to Korah,
“Be present, you and all your company, before the Lord, you and they, and Aaron, tomorrow. 17 And let every one of you take his censer and put incense on it, and every one of you bring before the Lord his censer, 250 censers; you also, and Aaron, each his censer.”
18 So every man took his censer and put fire in them and laid incense on them and stood at the entrance of the tent of meeting with Moses and Aaron. 19 Then Korah assembled all the congregation against them at the entrance of the tent of meeting. And the glory of the Lord appeared to all the congregation.
20 And the Lord spoke to Moses and to Aaron, saying,
21 “Separate yourselves from among this congregation,
hat I may consume them in a moment.”
22 And they (Moses and Aaron) fell on their faces and said,
“O God, the God of the spirits of all flesh, shall one man sin,
and will you be angry with all the congregation?”
23 And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying,
24 “Say to the congregation, Get away from
the dwelling of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram.”
25 Then Moses rose and went to Dathan and Abiram, and the elders of Israel followed him. 26 And he spoke to the congregation, saying,
“Depart, please, from the tents of these wicked men, and touch nothing of theirs,
lest you be swept away with all their sins.”
27 So they got away from the dwelling of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram. And Dathan and Abiram came out and stood at the door of their tents, together with their wives, their sons, and their little ones. 28 And Moses said,
“Hereby you shall know that the Lord has sent me to do all these works, and that it has not been of my own accord. 29 If these men die as all men die, or if they are visited by the fate of all mankind, then the Lord has not sent me. 30 But if the Lord creates something new, and the ground opens its mouth and swallows them up with all that belongs to them, and they go down alive into Sheol, then you shall know that these men have despised the Lord.”
31 And as soon as he had finished speaking all these words, the ground under them split apart. 32 And the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them up, with their households and all the people who belonged to Korah and all their goods. 33 So they, and all that belonged to them, went down alive into Sheol, and the earth closed over them, and they perished from the midst of the assembly. 34 And all Israel who were around them fled at their cry, for they said,
“Lest the earth swallow us up!”
35 And fire came out from the Lord and consumed the 250 men offering the incense.
36 [b] Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying,
37 “Tell Eleazar the son of Aaron the priest to take up the censers out of the blaze. Then scatter the fire far and wide, for they have become holy. 38 As for the censers of these men who have sinned at the cost of their lives, let them be made into hammered plates as a covering for the altar, for they offered them before the Lord, and they became holy. Thus they shall be a sign to the people of Israel.”
39 So Eleazar the priest took the bronze censers, which those who were burned had offered, and they were hammered out as a covering for the altar, 40 to be a reminder to the people of Israel, so that no outsider, who is not of the descendants of Aaron, should draw near to burn incense before the Lord, lest he become like Korah and his company—as the Lord said to him through Moses.
41 But on the next day all the congregation of the people of Israel grumbled against Moses and against Aaron, saying,
“You have killed the people of the Lord.”
42 And when the congregation had assembled against Moses and against Aaron, they turned toward the tent of meeting. And behold, the cloud covered it, and the glory of the Lord appeared. 43 And Moses and Aaron came to the front of the tent of meeting, 44 and the Lord spoke to Moses, saying,
45 “Get away from the midst of this congregation,
that I may consume them in a moment.”
And they fell on their faces. 46 And Moses said to Aaron,
“Take your censer, and put fire on it from off the altar and lay incense on it and carry it quickly to the congregation and make atonement for them, for wrath has gone out from the Lord; the plague has begun.”
47 So Aaron took it as Moses said and ran into the midst of the assembly. And behold, the plague had already begun among the people. And he put on the incense and made atonement for the people. 48 And he stood between the dead and the living, and the plague was stopped. 49 Now those who died in the plague were 14,700, besides those who died in the affair of Korah. 50 And Aaron returned to Moses at the entrance of the tent of meeting, when the plague was stopped.
Numbers 16:5 Septuagint The Lord knows those who are his
Numbers 16:36 Ch 17:1 in Hebrew
English Standard Version (ESV)
Aaron's Staff Buds
17 [a] The Lord spoke to Moses, saying,
2 “Speak to the people of Israel, and get from them staffs, one for each fathers' house, from all their chiefs according to their fathers' houses, twelve staffs. Write each man's name on his staff, 3 and write Aaron's name on the staff of Levi. For there shall be one staff for the head of each fathers' house. 4 Then you shall deposit them in the tent of meeting before the testimony, where I meet with you. 5 And the staff of the man whom I choose shall sprout. Thus I will make to cease from me the grumblings of the people of Israel, which they grumble against you.”
6 Moses spoke to the people of Israel. And all their chiefs gave him staffs, one for each chief, according to their fathers' houses, twelve staffs. And the staff of Aaron was among their staffs. 7 And Moses deposited the staffs before the Lord in the tent of the testimony.
8 On the next day Moses went into the tent of the testimony, and behold, the staff of Aaron for the house of Levi had sprouted and put forth buds and produced blossoms, and it bore ripe almonds. 9 Then Moses brought out all the staffs from before the Lord to all the people of Israel. And they looked, and each man took his staff. 10 And the Lord said to Moses,
“Put back the staff of Aaron before the testimony, to be kept as a sign for the rebels,
that you may make an end of their grumblings against me, lest they die.”
11 Thus did Moses; as the Lord commanded him, so he did.
12 And the people of Israel said to Moses,
“Behold, we perish, we are undone, we are all undone. 13 Everyone who comes near,
who comes near to the tabernacle of the Lord, shall die. Are we all to perish?”
Numbers 17:1 Ch 17:16 in Hebrew
English Standard Version (ESV)
Duties of Priests and Levites
18 So the Lord said to Aaron,
“You and your sons and your father's house with you shall bear iniquity connected with the sanctuary, and you and your sons with you shall bear iniquity connected with your priesthood. 2 And with you bring your brothers also, the tribe of Levi, the tribe of your father, that they may join you and minister to you while you and your sons with you are before the tent of the testimony. 3 They shall keep guard over you and over the whole tent, but shall not come near to the vessels of the sanctuary or to the altar lest they, and you, die. 4 They shall join you and keep guard over the tent of meeting for all the service of the tent, and no outsider shall come near you.5 And you shall keep guard over the sanctuary and over the altar, that there may never again be wrath on the people of Israel. 6 And behold, I have taken your brothers the Levites from among the people of Israel. They are a gift to you, given to the Lord, to do the service of the tent of meeting. 7 And you and your sons with you shall guard your priesthood for all that concerns the altar and that is within the veil; and you shall serve. I give your priesthood as a gift,[a] and any outsider who comes near shall be put to death.”
8 Then the Lord spoke to Aaron,
“Behold, I have given you charge of the contributions made to me, all the consecrated things of the people of Israel. I have given them to you as a portion and to your sons as a perpetual due....