Book of Numbers

From Journey the Word

Numbers, written by Moses, was primarily for God preparing the Israelites for the life ahead. Many religious, moral, and social orders were stated, for people were to head to the Promised Land from Sinai. This details the preparations for the journey and outlines the different regulations that people had to follow.

God begins preparations for the Exodus generation to inherit the land. So, the first thing to prepare is to march and to create a census. Before leaving Sinai, Moses takes a census of the number of men available for military service. Twelve of Israel’s leading men, one from each tribe, helped Moses carry out the work. The Levites were not included in the census, it seems, because they weren’t required for military service. Therefore, the Levites were responsible for looking after and transporting the tabernacle. After marching preparations were made, and the duties of the Levites being laid out – Scripture changes gears to talk about problems that are likely to arise where people live close to each other. These Laws discussed were concerning uncleanness and repayment, causing harm to people, and adultery.

Then, Nazirite vows were discussed, when Nazirites would express their commitment to their vow by submitting to the specific requirements: refusing wine and anything that’d produce it, temporary refusal of the enjoyments of life, and ensuring they wouldn’t lose control of themselves through drunkenness. They let their hair grow, so people knew they were part of a vow. They didn’t touch anything dead, because of the emphasis placed upon themselves and other the holiness required for service unto God. Other aspects, such as forgiveness and other offering of sacrifices were outlined.

Soon, we see other things for the Laws outlined, such as priestly blessings, offerings from Israelite leaders, and dedication of the Levites. In chapter 9, we see the Feast of Passover being discussed again, as the Israelites kept the Passover in remembrance of the deliverance from Egypt. All Israelites were to keep the Passover; however, a problem arose where some men didn’t want to keep it – because of being ceremonially unclean. God instructed them that a second Passover feast was to be held, for those missing the feast through being unclean or were away on some journey. All others had to join in the normal feast, and any who broke the Law of it should be expelled from the camp. Non-Israelites among them had to keep the Passover as well, providing the fact that they were circumcised.

Going forward, through the tabernacle cloud (the sign of God’s presence among them), God would continue to guide the Israelite people, and they had to obey His commands promptly. Around one year after they arrived at Mount Sinai, Judah led them in the journey to Canaan. After a stop in Kadesh, as we see in chapter 13, they refused to enter into Canaan. They wanted a new leader and to go back to Egypt (why go back to bondage?), because they were rebelling God. God wanted, once again, to destroy Israel and recreate it, but Moses pleaded once again with God not to do so, but to be merciful and forgive them. Moses’ prayer once again was answered, but God didn’t ignore the rebellion. God punished them, only for them to rebel again. So, God willed for them to remain in the wilderness for the next forty years. Still in blunt rebellion, the people were stubborn, and lost a battle they could not win because they refused God’s help.

In chapter 15, lessons learned in Kadesh were outlined for the people, which involved different regulations, especially for animal sacrifices, as well as dealing with sin. Later, more laws were revealed about cleansing, especially in cleansing rituals for animals. Uncleanness would spread to anyone or anything that the unclean person touched. Therefore, the cleansing ritual was highly important, especially symbolically for sin and death keeping people from God’s presence.

Next, we read about the small journey from Kadesh to Moab, as Moses decided to use this route for Israel’s entrance into Canaan. The Israelites then moved around quite a bit, before later we see another census being taken by Moses. Forty years previously had Moses taken a census of those available for military service; therefore, many of them had died since. So, a new census was taken to determine military strength for an attack on Canaan and making an arrangement to divide the land. Moses received instruction by God that where a man hadn’t a son, his inheritance could pass to his daughters. If he didn’t have any children, the inheritance would pass to his nearest living relative.

We learn in chapter 27 that Moses would not be allowed to enter the Promised Land, but that he could see it from a mountain on the other side of the river before he died. Moses wanted someone who could replace him, albeit, someone righteous to handle God’s commands. Therefore, God chose Joshua, and even though Joshua didn’t have as high authority as Moses, it seemed that he received instructions from God through the high priest.

Other things were identified and outlined, such as amount of the yearly offerings, more about vows or pledges, etc. before God sent Israel to carry out his judgment on the Midianites. The Midianites done wrong to Israel at Peor, so since this was a war, Phinehas the priest was given command (rather than Joshua). All of the spoils of war were given to God, which were represented by the high priest at the time – Eleazar. God identified the war as a holy judgment, so the Israelites had to remove any uncleanness that had resulted from their contact with the enemy. The spoils that were seized were divided equally with soldiers and non-soldiers. After all these things were through, preparations were being made for entrance to Canaan once again, as we see in chapters 33-36. Plans were first given for the division of Canaan, with Moses assisting giving the boundaries of the land that Israel would occupy. Representatives would be appointed to divide the area among nine-and-a-half tribes, all under the direction of Joshua and Eleazar. Israel, under Joshua’s command, conquered Canaan – and some of the Israelite kings had spread their power over the neighboring countries. Only drawback was that sole possession of the land of Canaan did not occur for Israel.

Finally, there was an issue about the transfer of land, where Moses had introduced a law to ensure if a woman married, that she would only do so in her own tribe. In addition, another final thing to note is that the inheritance of the children of Israel shouldn’t be removed from tribe to tribe, because the children of Israel were to keep himself to the inheritance of the tribe of his fathers.