The Book of Numbers describes Israel’s journey from Mt. Sinai to the brink of the Promised Land.
The Septuagint calls this book “Arithmoi,” which means “Numbers.”
That is fitting since the book contains population figures, the totals of the priests and Levites, and other numerical data.
In Hebrew, the name of the book is “b’midbar.” That is the fifth word in the book. It means “in the desert of.”
Universal Jewish and Christian tradition attributes the Book of Numbers, along with the rest of the Pentateuch, to Moses.
But in modern days, critical scholars insist that Exodus was compiled from various sources. This seems to be the product of rationalistic skepticism.
The last verse in the Book of Numbers states:
Numbers 36:13. These are the commands and regulations the Lord gave through Moses to the Israelites on the plains of Moab by the Jordan across from Jericho.”
This suggests the journey through the wilderness had been completed, and Israel was about to cross the Jordan River and enter the land of Canaan.
The Exodus took place in 1446 BC. Crossing the Jordan River occurred 40 years after the Exodus. So the Book of Numbers is dated 1406 BC.
The death of Moses is also dated in 1446 BC. So Moses would have written the Book of Numbers prior to his death.
The Book of Numbers describes the LORD God’s expectations, and Israel’s reactions, over the nearly 40-year period from the giving of the Law at Sinai until the eve of the conquest of the Promised Land.
The expectations of the LORD God fall into three categories:
- How the nation is to order itself while journeying
- How the priests and Levites were to function while journeying
- How to prepare for their conquest of the Promised Land and their settled lives there.
As for Israel’s reactions, they both succeeded and failed at keeping those expectations.
PREPARATION FOR TRAVEL
The order of the tribes
Instructions to the Levites
Cleansing and consecration
The accompaniment of the LORD
THE JOURNEY TO KADESH BARNEA
The departure from Sinai
The rebellion of the people
The rebellion of Miriam and Aaron
Spying out the Promised Land
THE JOURNEY TO THE PLAINS OF MOAB
The rehearsal of the covenant statutes
The rebellion of Korah
The vindication of Aaron
The roles and privileges of the priests and Levites
The laws of purification
The journey in the Desert of Zin
The journey to Moab
THE MOABITES AND BALAAM
The plight of Moab
The invitation to Balaam
The journey of Balaam
The oracles of Balaam
The idolatry of Israel
Numbers chap. 25
FINAL PREPARATION FOR ENTERING CANAAN
The provisions for inheritance
Succession to Moses
Laws concerning offerings
Laws concerning vows
God’s judgment on the Midianites
The inheritance of the Eastern tribes
Résumé of the journey from Egypt
Final instructions about conquest and inheritance
Numbers 7:89. When Moses went into the Tent of Meeting to speak with the LORD, he heard his voice speaking to him from above the mercy seat that was on the ark of the Testimony, from between the two cherubim; and he spoke to him.
Numbers 12:3. Now the man Moses was very humble, more than all the men who were on the surface of the earth.
Numbers 12:6. He said, “Now hear my words. If there is a prophet among you, I, the LORD, will make myself known to him in a vision. I will speak with him in a dream.
Numbers 23:19. God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent: hath he said, and shall he not do it? or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good?” (KJV translation)