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Getting to Know the Bible: Numbers Overview

Updated: Oct 7, 2022




Peace & Blessings Beloved,

TGBTG for allowing us to see another day. I pray all is well with you and yours, and that your week has been fruitful & blessed thus far.


Today we are going to visit our Getting to Know the Bible Series. In this series, our goal is to come to a comprehensive understanding of each book of the bible. At this point of the series we're going to focus on Numbers. But before we get to Numbers 1, I want to ensure we have a baseline understanding of the book of Numbers. This way we can have a full appreciation for the exquisiteness of the entire book, as well as each individual chapter.


And so, in that spirit, see below for a comprehensive overview of the book of Numbers, as we prepare to behold and discern Numbers, beginning with Numbers 1 in our next installment of this series.





Video courtesy of LUSU Media Group, BrandLUSU, LLC.


Book Type: Torah/Pentateuch — Book 4 of 5; Historical


Author: Traditionally believed to be Moses


Date of Writing: The Book of Numbers was written between 1440 and 1400 B.C.


Original Language: Hebrew


Genre: Narrative


Audience: The Israelites


Theme:

Because the Israelites are unwilling to enter the land of Canaan, their entire generation is forced to wander in the Desert of Sinai for 38 years.


Title:

The English name of the book comes from the Septuagint (the pre-Christian Greek translation of the OT) and is based on the census lists found in chp. 1; 26. The Hebrew title of the book (bemidbar, in the desert) is more descriptive of its contents. Numbers presents an account of the 38-year period of Israel's wandering in the desert following the establishment of the covenant of Sinai (compare 1:1 with Deut 1:1).


The name Numbers is a translation of Arithmoi, from the Septuagint, titled thus because the book contains many statistics, population counts, tribal and priestly figures, and other numerical data.


Purpose of Writing:

The message of the Book of Numbers is universal and timeless. It reminds believers of the spiritual warfare in which they are engaged, for Numbers is the book of the service and walk of God's people. The Book of Numbers essentially bridges the gap between the Israelites receiving the Law (Exodus and Leviticus) and preparing them to enter the Promised Land (Deuteronomy and Joshua).


Summary:

Most of the events of the Book of Numbers take place in the wilderness, primarily between the second and fortieth years of the wandering of the Israelites. The first 25 chapters of the book chronicle the experiences of the first generation of Israel in the wilderness, while the rest of the book describes the experiences of the second generation. The theme of obedience and rebellion followed by repentance and blessing runs through the entire book, as well as the entire Old Testament.


The theme of the holiness of God is continued from the book of Leviticus into the book of Numbers, which reveals God's instruction and preparation of His people to enter the Promised Land of Canaan. The importance of the Book of Numbers is indicated by its being referred to in the New Testament many times. The Holy Spirit called special attention to Numbers in 1 Corinthians 10:1-12. The words "all these things happened to them for examples" refers to the sin of the Israelites and God's displeasure with them.


In Romans 11:22, Paul speaks about the goodness and severity of God. That, in a nutshell, is the message of Numbers. The severity of God is seen in the death of the rebellious generation in the wilderness, those who never entered the Promised Land. The goodness of God is realized in the new generation. God protected, preserved, and provided for these people until they possessed the land. This reminds us of the justice and love of God, which are always in sovereign harmony.


Overview:

This book consists of 36 chapters in two general sections. The first 25 chapters address the account of the Jews who came out of Egypt with Moses. The remaining chapters address the younger generation, which has been largely raised in the wilderness years as they anticipated and prepared for entering the Promised Land.


For the older generation of Israel, the first 10 chapters address the organization and orientation of the Jews around the Lord's tabernacle. Each tribe had its own place and responsibilities related to the tabernacle and its items. The tabernacle represented the place where the Lord's presence remained. Every Israelite tribe had an important role to play in relation to its movement.


Beginning in chapter 11, Numbers records many of the ways Israel disobeyed the Lord in the wilderness. First, they repeatedly complained to God, despite His daily, miraculous provisions (Numbers 11:1—12:16).


Second, Israel rebelled against the Lord (Numbers 13–19). One of these incidents involved a group of men, led by Korah, who rejected the authority of Moses and demanded equal status. As punishment, God destroyed Korah and his family. In another failure, Israel's fearful resistance to God at Kadesh including both Moses and Aaron, was especially devastating (Numbers 20). Because of these rebellions, none of this generation—those 40 years old or older—would enter the Promised Land except Joshua and Caleb.


Third, the complaining continued yet again during the journey (Numbers 21). This incident is particularly important, since it serves as foreshadowing of Jesus Christ. God sends serpents into the camp, and only those who look at a specially-made bronze serpent are healed from their bites. This salvation by faith, in something "lifted up" for the people, reflect the message and ministry of Jesus many centuries later (John 3:14–15). Along the way, Balaam blessed Israel repeatedly when called to curse them (Numbers 22:2—24:25). Chapter 25 then records a final rebellion by the Israelites with the false god Baal.


For the younger generation of Jews, a renewal was expected before entering the Promised Land. This began with many preparations before entering the land described in chapters 26—32.


Foreshadowing:

God's demand for holiness in His people is completely and finally satisfied in Jesus Christ, who came to fulfill the Law on our behalf (Matthew 5:17). The concept of the promised Messiah pervades the book. The story in chapter 19 of the sacrifice of the red heifer without defect or blemish prefigures Christ, the Lamb of God without spot or blemish who was sacrificed for our sins. The image of the bronze snake lifted up on the pole to provide physical healing (chapter 21) also prefigures the lifting up of Christ, either upon the cross, or in the ministry of the Word, that whoever looks to Him by faith may have spiritual healing.


In chapter 24, Balaam's fourth oracle speaks of the star and the scepter who is to rise out of Jacob. Here is a prophecy of Christ who is called the morning star in Revelation 22:16 for His glory, brightness, and splendor, and for the light that comes by Him. He not only has the name of a king, but has a kingdom, and rules with a scepter of grace, mercy, and righteousness.


Application:

A major theological theme developed in the New Testament from Numbers is that sin and unbelief, especially rebellion, reap the judgment of God. First Corinthians specifically says and Hebrews 3:7-4:13 strongly implies that these events were written as examples for believers to observe and avoid. We are not to set our hearts on evil things (v. 6), be sexually immoral (v. 8), put God to the test (v. 9), or gripe and complain (v. 10). Just as the Israelites wandered in the wilderness 40 years because of their rebellion, so too does God sometimes allow us to wander away from Him and suffer loneliness and lack of blessings when we rebel against Him. But God is faithful and just, and just as He restored the Israelites to their rightful place in His heart, He will always restore Christians to the place of blessing and intimate fellowship with Him if we repent and return to Him (1 John 1:9).


Key Verses (ESV):

Numbers 6:24-26, "The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD turn his face toward you and give you peace."


Numbers 12:6-8, "When a prophet of the LORD is among you, I reveal myself to him in visions, I speak to him in dreams. But this is not true of my servant Moses; he is faithful in all my house. With him I speak face to face, clearly and not in riddles; he sees the form of the LORD. Why then were you not afraid to speak against my servant Moses?"


Numbers 14:30-34, "Not one of you will enter the land I swore with uplifted hand to make your home, except Caleb son of Jephunneh and Joshua son of Nun. As for your children that you said would be taken as plunder, I will bring them in to enjoy the land you have rejected. But you " your bodies will fall in this desert. Your children will be shepherds here for forty years, suffering for your unfaithfulness, until the last of your bodies lies in the desert. For forty years " one year for each of the forty days you explored the land " you will suffer for your sins and know what it is like to have me against you.'"


Conclusion:

In this book, the people of Israel tested God’s patience, and He in turn tested their endurance and faithfulness. Though the people failed many times, God showed His own faithfulness by His constant presence leading the way: through a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night.

More than just a history lesson, the book of Numbers reveals how God reminded Israel that He does not tolerate rebellion, complaining, and disbelief without invoking consequences. He taught His people how to walk with Him—not just with their feet through the wilderness but with their mouths in worship, hands in service, and lives as witnesses to the surrounding nations. He was their God, they were His people, and He expected them to act like it.


I pray you receive this with the love intended, and apply it to wisdom.

May the joy of the Lord continue to be your strength.


Love you much.


Stay Safe, Stay Healthy, Stay Blessed!


-Humble Servant


P.S- If you have not given your life to Jesus Christ, I implore you to take the time to do so right now. Use John 3:16 & Romans 10:9-10 as a foundation for making your confession of faith. And use Ephesians 2:1-10 to provide proper context for your salvation.

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