DATE: 1450-1410 B.C.
The Hebrew title of the book means “in the wilderness of.” Most of the book records the history of the Israelites as they wandered for 40 years in the wilderness of Sinai. The Greek Septuagint attributed the title, Arithmoi (Numbers) based on the prominence of numbering the people (census figures, chaps. 1-3, 26).
The book of Numbers covers the time after Israel’s departure from Egypt and before her entering into Canaan. Exactly one year after God delivered Israel from Egypt, the Israelites gathered at Mount Sinai to receive instructions concerning the law and the Tabernacle (Tabernacle instructions are recorded in the book of Leviticus). The historical narrative of Numbers picks up one month after the close of events in the last chapter of Exodus (cf. Ex 40:2 and Num 1:1). The book covers the time period and the people’ journey from Sinai to Kadesh-barnea, through the wilderness, and finally to the plains of Moab east of the Jordan River across from Jericho.
The book of Numbers tells of God preparing His people to learn to walk by faith and trust in His promises. It records the people’s unbelief and discontent (Num 11:1), their refusal t enter the Promised Land (Num 14:2), rebellion agains leaders (Num 15), the sin of their leader Moses (Num 20:12), idolotrous worship (Num 25:3), and more. But it also tells of God’s gracious provision in meeting all their needs and His faithfulness to His promise of delivering them into their Promised Land.
Several of the events in the book of Numbers are referenced in the New Testament to remind believers of the seriousness of sin (compare John 3:14 and Num. 21:9; 1 Cor. 10:5-11 and Num. 14:29-35, 16:41-50, 20:1-13; 2 Peter 2:15-16, Rev. 2:14 and Num. 22-24; Jude 11 and Num. 16, 27:3).
OUTLINE OF NUMBERS
I. Israel Preparing at Sinai, 1:1-10:10
A. The Census of the People, 1:1-4:49
1. The population of the tribes, 1:1-54
2. The position of the tribes in camp and on march, 2:1-34
3. The place of the Levites, 3:1-4:49
B. The Sanctification of the People, 5:1-10:10
1. By separation from defiling things, 5:1-31
2. By taking a Nazirite vow, 6:1-27
3. By the offerings of the leaders, 7:1-89
4. By the setting apart of the Levites, 8:1-26
5. By observing the first annual Passover, 9:1-14
6. By being led by God, 9:15-10:10
II. Israel Marching to Kadesh-barnea, 10:11-12:16
A. The March Begun, 10:11-36
B. The Murmurings Begun, 11:1-12:16
1. The murmuring of the people (the seventy elders and the quail), 11:1-35
2. The murmuring of Miriam and Aaron (the leprosy of Miriam), 12:1-16
III. Israel at Kadesh-barnea, 13:1-20:13
A. The Defiance of God, 13:1-14:45
1. The reconnaissance and report of the spies, 13:1-33
2. The reaction and judgment of the people, 14:1-45
B. The Discipline from God, 15:1-20:13
1. Miscellaneous laws concerning offerings, Sabbath-breaking, and garment tassels, 15:1-41
2. The rebellion of Korah, 16:1-50
3. Validation of the Aaronic priesthood: Aaron’s rod that budded, 17:1-13
4. The duties and support of the Levites, 18:1-32
5. The red heifer sacrifice, 19:1-22
6. The sin of Moses, 20:1-13
IV. Israel Marching to Moab, 20:14-21:35
A. The Defiance of Edom, 20:14-22
B. The Death of Aaron, 20:23-29
C. The Defeat of Arad, 21:1-3
D. The Discipline of Israel: the Bronze Serpent, 21:4-9
E. The Defeat of Sihon and Og, 21:10-35
V. Israel on the Plains of Moab, 22:1-36:13
A. Balak Propositions Balaam to Curse Israel, 22:1-41
B. Balaam Blesses Israel, 23:1-24:25
C. Israel Worships Baal of Peor, 25:1-18
D. The New Generation Numbered, 26:1-65
E. The People Instructed, 27:1-30:16
1. The laws of inheritance, 27:1-11
2. The appointment of Joshua, Num 27:12-23
3. The order of offerings and festivals, 28:1-29:40
4. The law for vows, 30:1-16
F. The People Defeat the Midianites, 31:1-54
G. Transjordan Settled by Two-and-a-Half Tribes, 32:1-42
H. The Journey from Egypt to Moab Reviewed, 33:1-49
I. Instructions for Possessing the Land, 33:50-56
J. The Division of the Land of Canaan, 34:1-36:13
1. The boundaries, 34:1-12
2. The allotment, 34:13-29
3. The cities of the Levites, 35:1-8
4. The cities of refuge, 35:9-34
5. The inheritance of women, 36:1-13
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