THE BOOK OF NUMBERS
BEHOLD THE GOODNESS AND SEVERITY OF GOD
THE SETTING AND TITLE OF NUMBERS
In our introduction to Genesis and Exodus we referred to the five books of Moses on the basis of spiritual numerics: five being the number of grace. They are called The Pentetauch from pente "five", and each one sets forth a step in the developing program of grace as extended by Yahweh to fallen man.
Therefore, as a whole, they present a parable of salvation, which can be viewed from the standpoint of God or of man. Considered from the former, they reveal the following order of development:
Genesis: sets forth Divine Authority and Power — in creating, punishing and selecting.
Exodus: sets forth Divine Mercy — in choosing and delivering.
Leviticus: sets forth Divine Holiness — in separating and sanctifying.
Numbers: sets forth Divine Goodness and Severity — in providing and judging.
Deuteronomy: sets forth Divine Faithfulness — in disciplining and delivering.
Considered from this viewpoint, the five books of the Law typically set forth five necessary steps to salvation. They begin with a recognition of Yahweh's authority and power; they move on to record His mercy, they emphasise the need of His holiness, they show the inevitability of His goodness and severity, to finally culminate in the revelation of His faithfulness in delivering His people.
The same five books considered from the human viewpoint exhibit the following five steps of
Genesis: speaks of Ruin and Divine selection.
Exodus: speaks of Separation.
Leviticus: speaks of Fellowship with Yahweh.
Numbers: speaks of Divine grace in His Providence.
Deuteronomy: speaks of the attainment of Hope.
These are five steps that man must take to ensure salvation. He must recognise the fallen state of human nature, and the need of redemption from such. This will lead him to the separation of the waters of baptism, and to fellowship with Yahweh. Submitting to Divine guidance and providence, he will ultimately attain unto that which has been set before him as a matter of hope.
Though these five books spell out the principles of Divine grace on the background of Israelitish history, they have important lessons to teach all who would come unto Yahweh in truth.
In the Parable of the Pentetauch, Genesis represents the Book of Beginnings, Exodus sets forth a Pattern of Redemption, Leviticus lays down the principles of Fellowship Through Sanctification, and in Numbers there is set forth the next step: The Trial of Faith.
All Yahweh's saints, or separated ones, are subjected to trial. Indeed, in that great day when Christ returns, and the redeemed are gathered rejoicing into his presence, it will be revealed that though there will be only one in that great Family of God who never sinned, there will be no one who has never been tried. For even of the Lord Jesus it is declared: "Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered" (Heb. 5:8).
The Fourth Book of Moses Called Numbers, therefore, is much more than a dry record of past Israelitish history. It is a book vibrant with interest, setting forth experiences and principles which have a very personal bearing upon our walk to the Kingdom of God. In a different setting, it records the very trials that afflict us now.
Take the basic cause of the failure of the people. It began with but a little thing. Chapter 11 commences: "Then the people complained. . ." Their complaining undermined the foundation of their faith and led to their failure. Israel had the power to conquer; the people had received the invitation of Yahweh to enter the land (Deut. 1:8); but instead of keeping their eyes firmly fixed on the future glory, they permitted present difficulties to obscure their vision. Grumbling led to complaining, and found the people contrasting the comforts they had left behind in Egypt with the bitterness they experienced in the wilderness. The voice of complaint once raised became contagious, and was soon heard on all sides. In consequence it was not long before the whole camp was grumbling (see Num. 11:4-5,10). Even Moses became discouraged by the continual moaning (vv. 11-14). The leaders themselves became divided with contention (Num. 11), until finally the defeatist, faithless attitude of the spies, and their complaints against the land, brought ruin to the whole project (Num. 13). Thus the tragedy of Israel's failure, is traceable to but a small thing: a little grumbling on the part of a few people!
What a lesson to learn in regard to Ecclesial life! It teaches that those who murmur without cause are soon given cause to murmur! That was the case with Israel, as the old generation was condemned to wander and die in the wilderness. So the historical records of Numbers axe given deep, personal meaning by the Apostles. Drawing upon the whole of Israel's experiences in leaving Egypt, and specifically mentioning incidents recorded in Numbers, Paul observes: "Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples; and they are written for our admonition upon whom the ends of the ages are come. Wherefore, let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall. There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man; but God is faithful, Who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able, but will with the temptation also make a way of escape, that ye may be able to bear it" (1 Cor. 10:11-13).
The Greek word here translated as "ensamples" is tupoi, that is "types". Hence the incidents recorded in Numbers are to be treated first as historical, and second as typical. One generation perished in the wilderness; the other generation was brought safely to the confines of the Land of Promise. The two generations are typical of those who will be rejected of the Lord, and those who will be accepted of him. Therefore, in the nation of Israel, struggling through the wilderness towards the Promised Land, we have a type of "the Ecclesia in the wilderness" (Acts 7:38), enduring privations, trials and temptations such as it is our lot to experience in our wilderness journeyings. So Paul adds a word of warning: "If God spared not the natural branches, take heed lest He also spare not thee. Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God: on them which fell, severity; but towards thee, goodness, if thou continue in His goodness; otherwise thou also shalt be cut off' (Rom. 11:21-22). This, indeed, is the theme of the wonderful book before us.
ITS SIGNIFICANT TITLE
Our sub-title: Behold the Goodness and Seventy of God is locked up in the title of the book.
For Numbers is not its true title. This name comes to us from the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the O.T.) through the Vulgate (Jerome's Latin translation of the O.T.). The Septuagint translators gave the book the name Arithmoi (from whence comes Arithmetic), and in Latin this appears as Numeri, which, in English, becomes Numbers.
The title Numbers was given to the book because it contains two numberings of the children of Israel: one at Sinai, and the other before entering the land. During the wilderness wanderings, the old generation perished, and its place was taken by a new generation. A census was taken of both generations, and, remarkably, when the two numbers are compared there is little difference (cp. Num. 2:46 with 26:51). This teaches that if individuals, to whom the call comes fail their place will be taken by others. Hence Christ warned: "Let no man take thy crown" (Rev. 3:11).
In contrast to the Greek title, fhe Hebrew title of the book is Be-Midbar which, in the first verse is rendered In the wilderness. This takes us to the words of Stephen who speaking of Moses declared: "This is he, that was in the Ecclesia in the wilderness..." (Acts 7:38). The nation comprised the Ecclesia, called out by invitation, from Egypt and given the hope of an inheritance in the Promised Land.
Today the Gentile Ecclesia likewise finds itself in the wilderness, where the Roman Apostasy is found. John was figuratively taken "into the wilderness" to view the judgment poured out upon the "great whore" that had perverted the truth (Rev. 17:3). Figuratively he was taken into the populated areas of the world such as Europe, where Roman Catholicism has flourished, and where, down through the ages, the Ecclesia also has found itself. Though moving among people who are highly educated and sophisticated, the true Ecclesia has found those areas a howling wilderness as far as the Truth is concerned, and as barren and as bitter as was the wilderness through which the Israelites wandered. And there it has to submit to the laws and instruction of Yahweh.
The key thought of Numbers, therefore, is the need for discipline. The called are separated from Egypt for service to Yahweh, and educated in a new way of life. They were taught to implement in action through their wilderness wanderings the holy principles of self-sacrifice, as exemplified in the teaching of Leviticus. The old generation failed, and Paul draws a lesson from Numbers which he sums up by stating: "But with whom was He grieved forty years? Was it not with them that had sinned, whose carcases fell in the wilderness? And to whom sware He that they should not enter into His rest, but to them that believed not? So we see that they could not enter into because of unbelief (Heb. 3:17-19).
Unbelief is lack of faith. Hence the book of Numbers teaches that the redeemed are separated to serve in faith, and that they must be on their guard against unbelief.
As we follow those journeys we will find that the trials that faced the Israelites type those that face us today. The times and settings are different, but the principles remain the same. The book is separated into three sections:
(1) Leaving Sinai — Ch. 1-10;
(2) Wandering in the Desert — Ch. 11-20;
(3) Journeying to the Land - Ch. 21-36.
Though Moses dominates in the Book of Numbers, above him there is the invisible Presence of Yahweh. He is more prominent than any man therein. The basic story of the book reveals how He works among His people. He is revealed as a Pillar of Fire by night, a Pillar of Cloud by day, a Provider of water and manna, a Shepherd leading His flock; a Captain commanding His army, a hovering Presence protecting the camp. Unfortunately, the people failed to comprehend this completely, and so failure marked their efforts, until the new generation arose. God is the same today as He was yesterday, and it remains for His people today, to seek the lessons in the Book of Numbers, and learn of the Presence of Yahweh, leaning on Him for help, hearkening to His voice in His Word, and seeking His guidance today, as He called upon His people to seek Him then.
NUMBERS: BEHOLD THE GOODNESS AND SEVERITY OF GOD OR VICTORY THROUGH TRIAL
THE THEME OF THE BOOK
The key thought of the book, is the need of discipline on the part of the called as they wander through the wilderness of life, moving in faith towards the promised hope. A key verse is Numbers 33:1: "These are the journeys of the children of Israel, which went forth out of the land of Egypt with their armies under the hand of Moses and Aaron."
The New Testament repeatedly alludes to, or cites, the book of Numbers. The incident of the brazen serpent is several times used by the Lord to exemplify his ministry on earth at that time (John 3:14; 8:28; 12:32); the teaching and influence of Balaam is referred to by Jude (11), Peter (2 Pet. 2:15-16), and John (Rev. 2:14), showing that the test he brought to Israel is typical of the trials to which the Ecclesia in every age can be subjected. The rebellion of Korah finds reference in Jude (11). The unbelief of Israel forms a basis for Paul's exhortation to the Hebrews (Heb. 3,4), and so on in numerous places.
Hence our sub-title for Numbers:
BEHOLD THE GOODNESS AND SEVERITY OF GOD
The book commences by describing the preparations made in order to leave Sinai. The nation is numbered, and purified by excluding from the camp those who are ceremonially "unclean", though provision is also made for restitution in case of offence. The people are also shown that Yahweh is a jealous God and will not brook disobedience. In illustrative of this, the people are introduced to the Law of Jealousy, and to the Nazarite vow.
The second section takes us into the wilderness, and records outstanding events that happened there. We are shown the small things that led to the failure of the nation, until finally the spies return with their discouraging report, and a doomed generation wander through the wilderness without hope. Finally, the new generation is shown rejoicing as it moves towards the Land of Promise, overcoming its enemies by outstanding and remarkable victories, and finally encamping in an organised manner in the plains of Moab, facing the Land of Promise, ready to enter therein under Joshua.
Hence the book has three "movements":
BEHOLD THE GOODNESS AND SEVERITY OF GOD
Part One: In the camp before Mount Horeb — Ch. 1-10
Part Two: Wanderings in the Wilderness — Ch. 11-19.
Part Three: Preparations for entering the land — Ch. 20-36
We can set out these three main divisions as follows:
NUMBERS: IN THE WILDERNESS
(1) Preparation in the Wilderness — Ch, 1-10
(2) Provocation in the Wilderness — Ch. 11-19
(3) Vindication in the Wilderness — Ch. 20-36
The above provides an outline for studying the book. We are now ready to read it superficially, and then to study it in greater detail. As an aid to that we discuss the chronology of the Gook, and then provide a suggested Analysis.
The book of Numbers does not supply a true sequential chronological order. For example, though it commences at "the first day of the second month of the second year" (Num. 1:1), the celebration of the Passover (Num. 9:4) actually took place on the 14th day of the first month; and the instructions for it were given prior to that (Num. 9:1). The appointment of Levites (Num. 3:6-8), the instructions regarding the lighting of the lamps and so forth (Num. 8:1-4) obviously all took place before the celebration of the Passover, and therefore before the period set down at the opening of the book. This suggests that Numbers comprises a careful selection of subjects designed to establish certain principles of spiritual importance, rather than providing a complete history of events throughout the wilderness wanderings.
We continue our chronology from Exodus
Period from Creation to the Exodus 2513
Tabernacle erected (111/2 months from 15 day
of 1st year to 1st day 2nd year 1
First day 2nd month Census taken (Num. 1:1)... 1 mth.
20th day 2nd year, Journey commenced
(Num. 10:11-12) (20 days)
From 20th day 2nd mth to death Miriam (1st
mth 40th year — Num. 20:1 =37 yrs. 11 mths
— Deut. 2:14)
To Moses' Address on Plains of Moab (1st day,
11th mth — Deut. 1:3) a period of 38 years
9 mths from 1st day 2nd mth 2nd year (Num.
1:1) to 1st day 11th mth, 40th year (Deut. 1:3)
= 38 years 9 months. 38 9 mths.
Period from Creation to end Numbers 2552 10 mths
• The time covered by the book is 38 years nine months (Deut. 1:3):
Dedication of the Tabernacle with the offering of the princes (7:1-2), and
the descent of the cloud (9:15) on the first day of Abib in year 2.
• The second Passover (9:5) 14th day of Abib in year 2
• The census at Sinai (1:1) 1st day of second month in year 2
• The supplementary Passover (9:11) 14th day of Zif
• The commencement of the march (10:11) 20th day of Zif.
• The death of Miriam (day not given — 20:1) 1st month of 40th yr.
• The death of Aaron (Ch. 33:38; 20:28) 1st day of Ab (5th mth) of 40th year.
• Address of Moses — 1st day 11th month of 40th year (Deut. 1:3) a total
period of 38 years 9 months (cp. Num. 1:1 with Deut. 1:3).
The last of the old generation perished at the brook Zered after thirty-eight years of aimless wandering. See Deut. 2:13-15.
(There were forty years from Exodus to death Moses: 2513 + 40 = 2553).
VICTORY THROUGH PROBATION
(Behold the goodness and severity of God)
PREPARATION IN THE WILDERNESS — Ch. 1:1-10:10
1. Census of Warriors — Ch. 1:1-54
A census to be taken of those from 20 yrs upwards vv.1-3
The Twelve Princes over the Tribes vv.4-16
Only True Israelites Numbered vv.17-43
General Summary vv.44-46
Levites Exempted from War vv.47-54
2. Order of Worshippers — Ch. 2:1-34
The Eastern Encampment under Judah vv.1-9
The Southern Encampment under Reuben vv.10-16
The Tabernacle in the Centre v.17
The Western Encampment under Ephraim vv.18-24
The Northern Encampment under Dan vv.25-31
General Summary vv.32-34
3. Service of Workers — Ch. 3:1-4:49
Aaron's Family Appointed to the Priesthood vv.1-4
The Ministry of the Levites Defined vv.5-10
The Levites Replace the Firstborn vv.11-13
Levites Numbered from One Month Upwards vv.14-16
The Three Families of Levites vv.17-20
Number and Service of Gershonites vv.21.-26
Number and Service of Kohathites vv.27-31
Eleazar to Supervise Service of Levites v.32
Number and Service of Merarites vv.33-37
Moses and Aaronites at East of Camp v38
Total Number of Levites v.39
Firstborn Numbered vv.40-43
Redemption of the Surplus of Firstborn vv.44-51
Period of Kohathites' Service Ch. 4:1-4
Kohathites' Service in transporting Tabernacle vv.5-15
Eleazar's Service v.16
Special Dispensation for Kohathites vv.17-20
Period of Gershonites' Service vv.21-23
Gershonites' service in transporting Tabernacle vv.24-28
Period of Merarites' Service vv.29-30
Merarites' Service in Transporting Tabernacle vv.31-33
Number of Kohathites vv.34-37
Number of Gershonites vv.38-41
Number of Merarites vv.42-45
Total Number of Levites vv.46-49
4. The Camp Cleansed From Defilement — Ch. 5:1-31
The Unclean Excluded (Purity Essential) vv.1-4
Laws of Recompense and Offerings (Honesty Essential) vv.5-10
The Trial of Jealousy (Exclusiveness in Worship Essential) vv.11-31
5. Separated to Yahweb — Ch. 6:1-27
The Nazarite Vow vv.1-21
The Formula of Priestly Benediction vv.22-27
6. Co-operating with Yahweh — Ch. 7:1-88
The Combined Freewill Offering of the Princes Accepted vv.1-9
Instructions concerning the Altar Offerings of the Princes vv.10-11
Nahshon of Judah Offers the 1st Day vv.12-17
Nethaneel of Issachar Offers the 2nd Day vv.18-23
Eliab of Zebulun Offers the 3rd Day vv.24-29
Elizur of Reuben Offers the 4th Day vv.30-35
Shelumiel of Simeon Offers the 5th Day. vv.36-41
Eliasaph of Gad Offers the 6th day vv.42-47
Elishama of Ephraim Offers the 7th Day vv.48-53
Gamaliel of Manasseh Offers the 8th Day vv.54-59
Abidan of Benjamin Offers the 9th Day vv.60-65
Ahiezer of Dan Offers the 10th Day vv.66-71
Pagiel of Asher Offers the 11th Day vv.72-77
Ahira of Naphtali Offers the 12th Day vv.78-83
General Summary vv.84-88
7. Yahweh With His People — Ch. 7:89-10:10
The Voice in the Most Holy v.89
The Light in the Holy Ch. 8:1-4
The Levites Cleansed and Consecrated for Service in the Court vv.5-22
The Duty and Age of Levites in Service Defined vv.23-26
The Second Passover Ch. 9:1-5
The Supplementary Passover vv.6-14
The Ever-present Cloud (Yahweh's guiding Presence) vv. 15-23
Divine Control By the Silver Trumpets Ch. 10:1-10
PROVOCATION IN THE WILDERNESS — Ch. 10:11-19:22
1. Journeying At Yahweh's Command — Ch. 10:11-36
The Departure vv. 11-13
The Standard of Judah and His Company vv.14-17
The Standard of Reuben and His Company vv.18-21
The Standard of Ephraim and His Company vv.22-24
The Standard of Dan and His Company vv.25-28
Hobab Invited to Join Israel vv.29-32
The Overshadowing Presence of Yahweh vv.33-36
2. Murmuring and Discontent — Ch. 11:1-12:16
Complaints at Taberah vv.1-3
Murmuring by the Mixed Multitude vv.4-9
Moses Discouraged vv. 10-15
Seventy Elders Appointed to Assist Moses vv.16-17
The People are Promised Flesh vv.18-23
The Spint given to the Elders vv.24-30
Quails from Heaven vv.31-32
The Graves of the Greedy vv.33-35
Dissension Among the Leaders Ch. 12:1-3
Moses Vindicated vv.4-9
Miriam's Leprosy vv. 10-16
3. Lack of Faith and Rejection — Ch. 13:14-45
Spies Selected vv.1-16
Moses Instructs Them vv.17-20
The Expedition vv.21-25
The Report vv.26-33
Dismay and Faithlessness of the People Ch. 14:1-5
The Exhortation of Caleb & Joshua Rejected vv.6-10
Yahweh Provoked to Anger vv.11-12
Intercession of Moses vv.13-19
The Nation Forgiven but Criminals Condemned vv .20-25
Sentenced to Hopeless Wandering: Spies Destroyed vv .26-38
Further Rebellion; Further Punishment vv.39-45
4. Instructions for the Next Generation — Ch. 15:1-41
Individual Offerings to be Resumed (vv. 1-29)
a. The Law of Offerings vv.1-16
b. The Law of Firstfruits vv.17-21
c. Ignorance to be Atoned vv.22-29
The Presumptuous Sinner to be Destroyed vv.30-31
The Sabbath-breaker to be Stoned (Example of Presumptuous sin) vv.32-36
Distinguishing Fringes to be Worn (Reminder of the Law) vv.37-41
5. Revolt Against Yahweh's Appointments — Ch. 16-19
Rebellion of Korah and His Confederates & Its Suppression 16:1-50
Endorsement of Aaron's Appointment by the Budding Rod Ch. 17:1-13
Privileges of the Priests Reaffirmed Ch. 18:1-32
Provision of the Sacrifice of the Red Heifer against the taint of death Ch. 19:1-22
VINDICATION IN THE WILDERNESS — Ch. 20:1-36:13
1. The Fortieth Year: From Kadesh to Hor — Ch. 20:1-21:3
Death of Miriam v.l
Moses Provoked at the Waters of Strife vv.2-13
Edom's Insolence: Passage Refused vv.14-21
At Hor: Death of Aaron vv.22-29
2. To Moab via Ezion-Geber — Ch. 21:1-22:1
Defeat at Arad: Vengeance Promised Ch. 21:1-3
The Fiery Serpents and Brazen Serpent vv.4-9
On to the Border of Moab vv.10-13
The Song of Triumph at Arnon vv.14-15
The Joyful Song of the Well vv.16-20
Decisive Defeat of Sihon of the Amorites vv.21-32
Defeat of Og, King of Bashan vv.33-35
Encampment on the Plains of Moab Ch. 22:1
3. Balaam's Curse Turned Into A Blessing — Ch. 22:2-25:18
Moab and Midian Join in Alliance Against Israel vv.2-4
The Help of Balaam the Soothsayer Sought vv.5-7
Yahweh Refuses Balaam Permission to Accept vv.8-14
Further Rewards Offered: Balaam accepts vv.15-21
The Angel and the Ass vv.22-35
A State Welcome Granted Balaam vv.36-38
Offerings to Baal at Kirjath-Huzoth vv. 39-41
Balaam Views the Camp of Israel Ch. 23:1-6
First Parable: Israel Immune from the Curse of Man vv.7-10
Balak's Anger and Disappointment vv.11-13
Second Parable at Zophim: Yahweh's Purpose With Israel Is
Balak's Increasing Irritability vv.25-28
Balaam at the Sanctuary of Peor vv.29-30
Third Parable: Israel's Future Glory, Triumph and Strength… Ch. 24:1-9
Balak's Anger vv. 10-14
Fourth Parable: Prophecy Of The Latter Days vv.15-24
Balaam Makes Ready to Leave v.25
Balaam's Insidious Counsel to Balak Israel Seduced Ch. 25:1-6
Phinehas Vindicates Yahweh's Honour vv.7-9
Phinehas Granted an Eternal Covenant of Peace vv. 10-15
Israel Ordered to War Against the Midianites vv. 16-18
4. Preparations to Enter The Land — Ch. 26:1-36:13
A Second Census vv.1-51
Land Inheritances to be granted by lot vv.52-56
Second census of Levites vv.57-62
Summary: An Entirely New Generation vv.63-65
Law of Inheritances Clarified Ch. 27:1-11
Moses told of his impending Death vv.12-14
Joshua Appointed as Moses' Successor vv.15-23
Re-instruction Concerning Offerings — Ch. 28,29
a. Daily Offerings vv.1-8
b. Sabbath Offerings vv.9-10
c. Monthly Offerings vv.11-15
d. Passover Offerings vv.16-25
e. Harvest Offerings vv.26-31
f. New Year Offerings Ch. 29:1-6
g. Atonement Offerings vv.7-11
h. Tabernacle Offerings vv.12-40
Laws of Vows — Ch. 30
a. A Man's Vow must stand vv.1-2
b. A Father can Annul a Daughter's Vow vv.3-5
c. A Husband can Annul a Wife's Vow vv.6-8
d. All other Vows shall Stand vv.9-16
Yahweh's Vengeance On Midian — Ch. 31
a. The Army Selected vv.1-6
b. The Battle: Victory won but Instructions Ignored vv.7-12
c. Moses' Anger: Judicial Punishment vv.13-18
d. Ceremonial Purification of the Army returned from slaying vv. 19-20
e. Ceremonial Purification of things Taken in Battle vv.21-24
f. Distributing the Prey vv.25-47
g. The Army's Offering to Yahweh vv.48-54
Conquered Territory Occupied by 2½ Tribes — Ch. 32
a. Request of Reuben & Gad to Settle East of Jordan vv. 1-5
b. Expostulation of Moses vv.6-15
c. Assurances of the Tribes vv.16-19
d. Moses' Stipulation vv.20-24
e. Conditions Accepted vv.25-27
f. The Nation Notified vv.28-33
g. Gad's Portion vv.34-36
h. Reuben's Portion vv.37-38
i. Manasseh's Portion vv.39-42
Review Of the Journeyings — Ch. 33
a. 1st Stage: From Egypt to Sinai vv.1-15
b. 2nd Stage: From Sinai to Kadesh vv.16-17
c. 3rd Stage: 38 yrs Wandering — Kadesh to Kadesh vv.18-36
d. 4th Stage: From Kadesh to Moab vv.37-49
Final Instruction and Exhortation on the Plain of Moab vv.50-56
The Borders of the Land — Ch. 34
a. South Border vv.1-5
b. West Border v.6
c. North Border vv.7-9
d. East Border vv.10-13
e. Transjordan Area vv.14-15
f. Leaders to Divide the Land by Lot vv.16-29
Appointment of Levitical Cities & Cities of Refuge — Ch. 35
a. Cities for Levites vv. 1-3
b. Description of the Type of City Required vv.4-5
c. Six Cities of Refuge Appointed vv.6-8
d. Purpose of the Cities of Refuge vv.9-15
e. Murder Defined vv.16-21
f. Manslaughter Defined vv.22-25
g. Warning Against Refugees Leaving the City vv.26-29
h. More Than One Witness Required for a murder conviction v.30
i. No Atonement for a Murderer vv.31-34
Legislation Regarding Inheritances & Marriage of Heiresses — Ch. 36
a. Objections to the Existing Law vv.1-4
b. Limitation of Partners to a Marriage vv.5-9
c. Conditions Accepted vv.10-13
With this Analysis before us, we can see that the Book of Numbers can be briefly epitomised in three sections:
1. The old generation (1-14)
2. The transition era (15-20)
3. The new generation (21-36)
In similar manner, the journeyings can be divided into three parts:
1. Sinai to Kadesh-Barnea (1-14)
2. The wilderness wandering (15-20)
3. Kadesh to Moab (21-36)
Again, in the Book of Numbers there are:
Two generations (1-14; 21-36)
Two numberings (1-4; 26-27)
Two journeyings (10-14; 21-27)
Two instructings (5-9; 28-36)
BEHOLD THE GOODNESS
AND THE SEVERITY OF GOD
PREPARATION IN THE WILDERNESS Ch. 1:1-10:10
The Book of Numbers
The book records the history of Israel's wilderness-life from Sinai onwards. At Sinai they were incorporated as the people of God under the legal covenant, and were given the task of crossing the wilderness to the Promised Land. Instead of a rapid march to the Land of the Covenant, sad and terrible failure delayed them in their progress due to their lack of faith. But though the generation that left Egypt perished in the wilderness, the nation did not. A new generation arose that was led on to the borders of the land, conquerors over all opposition, until they reached the Plains of Moab, ready to enter into their inheritance. And here the story ends, to be taken up in The Book of Joshua. Deuteronomy is simply a review, and not a history.
The lesson is simple and obvious. Those called out of the Gentiles, as was Israel from Egypt, can be categorised under the heading of failure or success; the old generation or the new. The Book of Numbers reveals that though individuals may fail, God's purpose will not. Those who trust in Yahweh, and seek to do His will, shall succeed in spite of temporary failure. In Christ they have a priest, a mediator, whose resurrection is the sign of competence, and in whom they can conquer, and go on from strength to strength awaiting the consummation at his coming.
In the first section, we find the ordering of the camp. The people, having been incorporated as the nation of God under the Mosaic Covenant, must now be placed to the test. They are to face the perils of the way, and the first requisite for success is to be in subjection to their Leader, Captain and King: Yahweh. Hence the first task is to organise those qualified as an army under His direction, so as to conquer any opposition that may be received on the way to the Promised land.
First there is ordered that a census of warriors be taken (Ch. 1). This requires an examination of pedigrees, for only true Israelites are to be allowed to fight the nation's battles. Complete identification with Israel is thus a first principle.
Then follows the order of worshippers (Ch. 2); for Israelites are not only to be warriors, but also worshippers. A true fighter for Yahweh is also a true worshipper; one appointment goes hand in hand with the other. Thirdly, there is the service of workers (Ch. 3,4). It is not enough that a man may desire to work for God, he must do it methodically and correctly as Yahweh directs. Hence the workers are given their proper function.
But even when all is organised with the Tabernacle set up in the centre, the camp is not yet ready to move; the preparations are not yet complete. As the Ecclesia in the wilderness, Israel must be above reproach, and hence, there is first removed any polluting influences, so that the camp itself is pure (Ch. 5).
And now, having organised the army, the encampment, the workers, and purified the camp, opportunity is given any who so desire to reach unto a higher form of worship by the provision of the Nazarite vow (Ch. 6). Then as a national response to the goodness of Yahweh, the tribes, through their princes, present a freewill offering unto Yahweh which He graciously condescends to accept.
Thus individual initiative is encouraged when it does not violate any specific prohibition (Ch. 7).
And now all is ready. The Levites are organised for their service (Ch. 8) the Passover is celebrated; and the pillar of fire by night and the pillar of cloud by day, witnesses that Yahweh is with His people (Ch. 9). Finally, there is heard the sounding of the silver trumpets, as the people gathered unto Him for worship and fellowship (Ch. 10), and to receive their instructions to leave for the Promised Land.