“and the Lord said, ‘Now hear what I have to say! When there are prophets among you, I reveal Myself to them in visions and speak to them in dreams. It is different when I speak with My servant Moses; I have put him in charge of all My people Israel. So I speak to him face-to-face, clearly and not in riddles; he has even seen My form! How dare you speak against My servant Moses?’” Numbers 12:6-8 (GNT)
What’s Going On? The Book of Numbers is all about, well – numbers. There will be a census taken at the beginning of their journey to The Promised Land, which was only about 200 miles away. There are 603,550 men of fighting age, plus their families, plus the tribe of Levi. It is estimated that there are at least 2,000,000 total and possibly even more than that. The people of Israel are called to assemble in their family tribe units and placed in an orderly fashion around the Tabernacle. God is very specific in His instructions on how to do this. There is a grand dedication ceremony, they celebrate the Passover, and then head to the desert of Paran following the pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night. The people will learn some harsh lessons about rebellion and complaining along the way and a system of elders will be set up. Once they arrive at the outskirts of Canaan, twelve men are chosen, one from each tribe, to enter the land and then give a report to the people. The land is rich and fertile, but the inhabitants are large and fierce. Only Joshua and Caleb trust the Lord and vote to go in. The others are afraid and they choose not to go in. The constant complaining, opposition, and rebelling against Moses and the Lord will have harsh consequences. There will even be a full on rebellion against Moses, Aaron, and the priesthood. God will open the earth and swallow up those who led the revolt, reminding the people once again that He is their leader and will not stand for rebellion.
When and Where Are We? We start off at the foot of Mt. Sinai two years after leaving Egypt, about 1500 BC. The people have spent the last year building the Tabernacle and all of the things that will be used in service to the Lord. They will then begin the journey toward the land that had once belonged to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob – the land of Canaan – The Promised Land. The first nine chapters of the book cover the time of preparation for leaving Mt Sinai, and then in chapter 10 the cloud begins to move and they people begin their journey in the orderly fashion as the Lord had decreed. The next few chapters will cover 40 years as the Israelites travel around in the desert and a new generation is prepared to conquer The Promised Land.
- Moses – “The Lord spoke to Moses” This phrase is used over 150 times in the book of Numbers
- Aaron – Moses’ brother, the first High Priest of Israel
- Eleazar and Ithamar – living sons of Aaron (after Nadab and Abihu are killed)
- Hobab – Jethro/Reuel’s son, their guide through the desert lands
- Miriam – Moses’ sister and prophetess
- Joshua – Moses’ aide, one of the two that trust God to lead them into Canaan
- Caleb – One of the twelve spies, along with Joshua, who votes to go into Canaan
- The Twelve Tribes of Israel – The twelve tribes are named after the twelve sons of Jacob, with two exceptions. The tribe of Levi will be scattered among the other twelve tribes in order to serve as the priests to the whole community. The Levites will not march together in formation with the others but will be responsible for the Tabernacle and all of its equipment. There is not a tribe named after Jacob’s son Joseph. Instead, Joseph’s two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh, will each be heads of tribes thereby giving Joseph a double portion of the inheritance. These twelve tribes are Reuben, Simeon, Judah, Issachar, Zebulun, Ephraim, Manasseh, Benjamin, Dan, Asher, Gad, and Naphtali.
- Gershonites, Kohathites, Merarites – the names of the family groups of the sons of Levi that would be used in service for the Lord. Korah, a Kohathite, will lead a rebellion against Moses and he and his supporters will be swallowed up by the earth. Moses and Aaron were also from the line of Kohath.
God is a God of order!
Weekly Reading Assignment:
Monday: Numbers 1-3
Tuesday: Numbers 4-6
Wednesday: Numbers 7-9
Thursday: Numbers 10-12
Friday: Numbers 13-15
Saturday: Numbers 16-19