Empty Cross Ministries
A Look at the Book of Numbers
A Chronology of the Book of Numbers
1445 BC Census, Tribes, Duties Numbers 1 – 6
1445 BC Tabernacle Dedication Numbers 7 – 10
1445 BC The People Complain Numbers 11, 12
1445 BC The Twelve Spies Numbers 13
1445 BC People Murmur at the Spies’ Report Numbers 14, 15
1426 BC Korah’s Rebellion Numbers 16
1426 BC Aaron’s Staff Buds Numbers 17
1426 BC Priests, Red Heifer, Cleansing Numbers 18, 19
1407 BC Water from the Rock at Meribah Numbers 20
1407 BC Aaron’s Death Numbers 20:22
1407 BC The Bronze Snake Numbers 21
1407 BC Balaam and the Angel Numbers 22 – 25
1407 BC The Second Census Numbers 26
1407 BC The Daughters of Zelophehad Numbers 27
1407 BC Joshua Chosen to Succeed Moses Numbers 27:18
1407 BC Special sacrifices and holy days Numbers 28, 29
1407 BC Vows of women Numbers 30
1407 BC Conquest of Midian Numbers 31
1407 BC Division of Transjordan Numbers 32
1407 BC Summary of Israel’s Journey Numbers 33
1407 BC Apportionment of Canaan Numbers 34
1407 BC Borders and Cities of Refuge Numbers 35
1407 BC Zelophehad’s Daughters Marry Numbers 36
The book is called Numbers because at the start God ordered a counting of the people (a census) in the twelve tribes of Israel. After counting all the men who are over twenty and fit to fight, the Israelites began to travel in well-ordered divisions, with God in the middle of the Ark of the Covenant.
Chapter One is the taking of a census to determine the number of men of fighting age in each of the twelve tribes.
603,550 men above the age of twenty. This census was taken at Mt Sinai. Moses is leading the escape from Egypt. They (The Israelites) travel through Sinai. Some people complain, insult God, insult Moses. God punishes them. They send 12 spies to see what the promised land is like. Two came back saying it is nice. Ten came back saying it is not nice and filled with “giants”. So the Israelites do not go. God becomes angry and punishes them. They have to wander the desert for 40 years.
Some people complain about God, and God punishes them (e.g. by giving one leprosy, a nasty disease). The complaints deal with the lack of good food and water, and the difficulty of life in the desert. The food they are given is called manna and quail, which God sends raining down from the sky above. Their ingratitude is an example of the human inclination of moaning rather than being thankful for what one has, which in their case was the ultimate liberation from centuries of wicked slavery. The Levites help Moses pray at the tabernacle.
Moses and the Israelites set for Moab, on the eastern border of Canaan (an earlier name for the promised land). The Israelites become thirsty and blame Moses for lack of water. God tells Moses to talk to a rock to bring out water. Moses hits the rock with his staff instead. For this wrong act, God tells Moses he can never enter the promised land. God punishes the people by preventing them from entering the promised land. They try to find another way. Aaron dies. The Israelites curse at God. They are then attacked by nasty fiery flying serpents. God tells Moses to make a brass serpent (the Nehushtan) and put it on a pole. Whoever looks at that brass serpent is cured of the bite of the serpents.
The Israelites arrive at Moab. Moses names Joshua the new leader, who is tasked with completing their journey into the Promised Land. The land is then divided between various tribes.
In Hebrew, the book is called Bemidbar (בַּמִּדְבָּר), which means ‘in the desert.’ This is because the Israelites wandered in the Egyptian desert for 40 years, fleeing from the pharaoh after more than 400 years of slavery. When the people found that the Promised Land was filled with strong and powerful people of other races, they became scared and rebelled against God and Moses. As a result of their bad behavior, therefore, God punished them by making the Israelites travel forty years before they could settle in the promised Land. This was also so that the next generation of Israelites would enter the promised land, following the death of the previous, badly-behaved generation was taken at Mt. Sinai.