Church Education Trust

Church and the Bible

BHB004 Numbers



"The wilderness journey"

"40 years wandering in the desert searching for a promised land." 

Key Verse.

The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make His face to shine to you; the Lord turn His face toward you and give you peace." Ch 6:24-26.

"The Lord`s anger burned against Israel and He made them wander in the desert forty years, until the whole generation of those who had done evil in His sight was gone."  Ch.32:13.

Key Words.

Service, War, Sojourning and Work.

Key Theme.

Transition, Service, Dangers of unbelief.


The book of Numbers introduces the reader to the tests and challenges that the Children of Israel had to experience as they left behind the influences of slavery to become the chldren of God and later the nation of Israel. 

At the beginning of their departure from Egypt a census was taken of the numbers of people who had left Egypt, some 38 years later a second census was needed. The book covers a period in the life of the children of Israel which reflected unbelief, idolatry and disobedience to the will and law of God.  

Numbers begins with a generation of people who had witnessed God`s miracles on their behalf freeing them from the grip of the Egyptians. (ch.1-14) They also experinced God`s law being given to them through Moses`s encounter with God at Mount Sinai. (Ch.1-10:10) This law was to be applied to every pary of their human and spiritual experience. Because of the generation`s unbelief, God judged them by not allowing them to be the generation who would enter the land of promise.

In chapters15-20 the results of their unbelief hindered God`s blessing on them. Their self inflicted unbelief caused them to wander around the wilderness for some 40 years. They would not see the land of "milk and honey" but would spend the rest of their days aimlessly living in unbelief.

In chapter 21-36 a new generation is in charge and they decided that it was time to enter the land and so in preparation for that event they moved to Moab waiting for Joshua to instruct them and lead them into the victory of their inheritance promised to their fathers.

Book Outline.

1. Service in the Wilderness. ch.1-10.

    Offerings. ch.1-5.

    Teaching about offerings. ch.6-7

    Consecration of Aaron. ch.8,9.

    Punishment against sin. ch.10.

2. Failure of the Wilderness Journey. ch.11-20, 21:5-9, 25.

    Clean and unclean animals for sacrifice. ch. 11

    Purification. ch.12.

    Desease Tests. ch.13-14.

    Uncleanness. ch. 15.

    Atonement. ch.16.

    Mode of Sacrifice. ch.17.

    Canaanite Idolatry. ch.18.

    Laws of conduct. ch.19-20.

    Neighbourly love and care. ch.19:18.

3. Victory in Canaan. ch.21:1-4,10; 36:13.

    Priestly roles. ch.21-22.

    Feasts and blasphemy. ch.23-24.

    Year of Jubilee. ch.25.

    Obedience and disobedience. ch.26.

    Tithe offerings and personal vows. ch.27.



Chapter 1 and verse 1 of Numbers begins with the Hebrew word "wayyedabber" when translated into English means "The Lord spoke" or " and He said". Usually in Jewish writings it would be more usual for the book simply to be called "bemidbar" which translates "in the wilderness".

The Greek title in the Septuagint is "arithmoi" or "numbers". The idea behind the title is that on two separate occasions a census was carried out by the leadership of Hebrew people as they left Egypt and before they entered Canaan. (Ch.1 & 26).


Internal and external evidence would point to a Mosaic authorship. The same evidence that has been used for Genesis, Exodus and Leviticus would apply to this book. 80 times in the book we where remembered that God spoke to Moses and ch 33:2 reveals clearly that " Moses recorded their starting places according to their journeys by the command of the Lord."


The book of Numbers covers a period of 39 years from about 1444 B.C. to 1405 B.C. 




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