Numbers: Desert Wanderings

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Desert Wanderings

Grumbling from Sinai to Kadish, Desert Wanderings, Anticipation of entry into Promised Land

Background: Moses records events of the journey from Sinai to the Promised Land (1445-1405 BC)
Theme: Unfaithfulness of Israel and the faithfulness of God
Outline: Grumblings from Sinai to Kadish, Desert Wanderings from Kadish to Moab, and Anticipation of entry into Promised Land
Key Verse: "Not one of the men who saw my glory and the miraculous signs I performed in Egypt and in the desert but who disobeyed me and tested me ten times-- not one of them will ever see the land I promised on oath to their forefathers. No one who has treated me with contempt will ever see it." (Num 14:22-23, NIV)


The title 'Numbers' is from the Greek title 'Arithmoi', refering to the census or numbering of the people in Chapter 1. The Hebrew title is 'Bemidthbar, "In the wilderness" from the fourth Hebrew word in the book. The first verse begins, "These are the words which the Lord spoke to Moses in the wilderness. The Hebrew gives an excellent title to the book, not because the Lord spoke to Moses in the wilderness in verse 1, but because the book describes the 40 years in which the Hebrews would remain in the wilderness. Therefore I have subtitled the book, "Wilderness Wanderings"

Chapter Index

Study Guide Lessons
(6 Chapters Each)


The Bible Knowledge Commentary (Vol I, Old Testament) is an excellent resource for the study of this book. It is a one volume commentary on the Old Testament (with Vol II being the New Testament.

LESSON ONE - Ch 1-6 Observations

I. Preparations (1:1-10:10)

A. Order of Tribes (1-2)

1. Soldiers (1:1-46)

1:1 Thirteen months have elapsed since the Exodus, one month since the erecting of the tabernacle.

1:1 "The LORD spoke unto Moses" occurs over 150 times in 20 ways in Numbers (NIV SB). Evidence weighs in favor of accepting this internal witness of the source of this book. According to the higher criticism theory, Numbers is compiled mostly from a 'P' or priestly document from the fifth or sixth century B.C. and segments of 'J' and 'E' documents from the ninth and tenth centuries B.C. This theory is widespread, and may be found in many books in the Religion section of secular bookstores and in many institutions of learning. The JEDP or higher critical theory is a serious heresy to be on guard against.

1:2 The census also shows us the progress of the promise to Abraham (Genesis 22:17) concerning his descendants becoming numerous.

1:20-43 I once accepted the idea of 'thousand' being either symbolic or indicating a chief. In 1:16 the NIV translates it 'clan'. The word is frequently translated thousand, occasionally as group or clan, and eight times as cattle referring to a herd. Taken as clan or group, the math simply doesn't work out. The best interpretation is to take them as literal numbers, perhaps rounded to the nearest 50 or 100.

1:27 The pre-eminence of Judah is in keeping with Jacob's prophecy of Genesis 49:8.

1:32-34 Take note of the numbers for Ephriam and Manasseh. Although they were sons of Joseph, one of the twelve sons of Israel (Jacob), Israel adopted them himself and the double-inheritance he chose to give to Joseph was one share for each of Joseph's sons. Each son became a tribe, and the numbers indicate they were roughly equivalent to the other tribes. Sometimes they are referred to as half-tribes. As far as land and military service, the tribe of Levi is not counted, so counting Ephriam and Manasseh gives the count of 12. Ephriam numbering more than Manasseh is in keeping with Jacob's words in Genesis 48:19.

2. Levites (1:47-54)

1:47 Priests and ministers are still excluded from mandatory military service in many countries.

3. Remainder (2)

2:2 The tribes camped a distance from the tabernacle showing reverence for it and preventing accidental approach. This is also the arrangement of an Egyptian military camp according to some Assyrian art of later centuries. The Pharaoh's tent would be placed in the center, as the tabernacle is. The LORD was Israel's king.

2:2 I estimate this as more than sixty square miles of camp.

2:3-7 Reuben, Simeon, and Levi were not in the position of leadership (see Genesis 49:3-7).

2:14 Some Hebrew manuscripts have Reuel, other have Deuel. The difference is a sharp corner with an overhang on the Hebrew 'D', which distinguishes it from a rounded corner on the Hebrew 'R'. This mark is a tittle, which was referred to by Jesus who said, "Not one jot or tittle shall pass from the Law until all is fulfilled."

B. Levite's Instructions (3-4)

1. Relationship of Levites to Priests (3:1-13)

3:10 Only priests entered the Tabernacle, and later, the Temple. This is foreign to our concept of the 'house of God' or church building in which every believer worships and is open to all.

2. Levite's Assignments (3:14-39)

3:39 The number of Levites was so small that it is reasonable to consider only the firstborn still living in the parents' tents, or perhaps those born since the departure from Egypt when God claimed the firstborn as his own

3. Levite's Substitution for the Firstborn (3:40-51)

Every first son born after this initial substitution will need to be redeemed (Numbers 18:16). The substitution was only for the firstborn over one month old at that time.

4. Moving of the Tabernacle (4)

4:3 John the Baptist and Jesus Christ also began their ministries at age 30.

4:4 The holiness of God is revealed in the setting apart of the holy things. Non-priests, even Levites, were prohibited from touching or even seeing them. Later, King David and the people were casual in their attitude towards the Ark, with deadly consequences.

4:5 This is the only time a priest other than the high priest would be allowed to enter the holiest of holies.

4:6 Sea cows are similar to the manatee and were common in the Red Sea area.

4:7 Although the people lived on manna, bread was continually kept on the table of the presence.

C. Cleansing/Consecration (5-6)

1. The Ceremonially Unclean (5:1-4)

2. Law of Recompense (5:5-10)

3. Accusation of Adultery (5:11-31)

5:19-31 The procedure here would prove innocence as well as guilt. If the woman passed the test, the husband must put aside his jealousy and acknowledge the faithful character of his wife. To do otherwise would be to call God a liar. This would prevent the husband from putting away or punishing an innocent wife. The reverse case is not dealt with, and a wife never had the authority to divorce or punish the husband. Also note that the priest put the woman under an oath before she said, "Amen, amen".

4. The Nazirite (6:1-21)

The Nazirite vow concerned diet, appearance, and association (not touching the dead). Perhaps the vows were related to pagan fertility rites (wine), magic (spells with hair), and contacting the dead (necromancy).

5. The Priestly Blessing (6:22-27)

6:24-26 I suggest that you memorize this blessing. This benediction was found on two small silver scrolls in a burial cave dated from the sixth or seventh century B.C. It is the oldest known copy of any Scripture text.

LESSON ONE - Ch 1-6 Summary

The ordering of tribes (ch. 1-2) shows what a large multitude Israel has become. The camp layout is similar to an Egyptian military camp, but with the tabernacle where the tent of Pharaoh would be. The Levites surround it as Pharaoh's guards would surround his tent. The LORD is the King over Israel. Moses is seen as a servant of the LORD, not a ruler himself. There is no special place for Moses' sons, although Aaron's sons camp with Moses and Aaron before the tabernacle. Whereas Pharaoh's guards guard him, the Levites protect Israel from the LORD's wrath (if they would approach too close). In the instructions to the Levites (ch. 3-4) we see the relationship of this tribe as assistants to the priests and as substitutes for the first-born of Israel. Detailed instructions concerning the sacredness of the tabernacle furnishings teach us of the holiness of God. None of these items is to be touched or even seen except by a priest.

The cleanliness and consecration (ch. 5-6) moves from the separation of the physically unclean, to the restitution for some sins of the spiritually unclean, to the Nazirite vow of dedication. Which characterizes you? Obvious and visible sins are common in the world but not so frequent in the church. Less visible sins such as holding grudges or sins of the thought life are much more common among believers. Finally, without taking a Nazirite vow, some believers truly dedicate their lives to the Lord's service (Romans 12:1-2). I believe God desires for every believer to come to this point.

LESSON ONE - Ch 1-6 Questions

    1. What do we learn from the census?

    2. Moses was a strong leader. How was the administration of traveling handled?

    3. Adultery and jealousy - are these problems for Christians?

    4. What does restitution to another believer have to do with our relationship to the Lord?

    5. Name some groups known for separation.

    6. What are our concerns about separation as believers dedicated to the Lord?

LESSON TWO - Ch 7-12 Observations

D. Tabernacle Service (7-8)

1. Offering of Leaders (7)

7:1 Moses acts as a priest in consecrating the tabernacle.

7:10-17 It is difficult to place an actual value on the silver offerings because of the fluctuating price of silver in ancient and modern times. For instance, the BKC references $5.00 per ounce, but in recent years it has been over $20.00 per ounce.

7:10 The word Hanukkah is translated as dedication. The holiday of that name comes from a later dedication of the temple altar by the Maccabees (inter-testament period).

7:89 Moses entered the actual tent, not just the outer perimeter of the tabernacle area.

2. Lighting the Lamps (8:1-4)

8:2 Compare these seven lamps to the seven lampstands of Revelation 1:2. This type of lampstand with seven lamps (six branches) was in use in other parts of the ancient Near East.

3. Consecrating the Levites (8:5-26)

8:7 Although the actual word for shave may indicate trimming or shaving, the context seems to indicate shaving and complete removal of all hair.

8:8-11 The Levites were a 'living sacrifice' to the LORD. See Romans 12:1-2 where Paul beseeches the Christian to present himself as a 'living sacrifice'.

8:24 Levites began to work at age 25, but the earlier section indicated only Levites over age 30 would work at moving the temple. Either they served for five years as apprentices, or were simply excluded from the heavy duty of moving the tabernacle and furnishings.

E. Passover Instructions (99:1-14)

9:12 The prohibition against breaking any bone of the Passover lamb would find fulfillment in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.

F. Accompaniment of the Lord (9:15-10:10)

1. The Cloud (9:15-23)

2. The Trumpets (10:1-10)

10:2 The silver trumpet is long and straight as opposed to the ram's horn.

II. Journey to Kadesh Barnea (10:11-14:45)

A. Depart from Sinai (10:11-36)

10:29-32 We translate 'the in-law of Moses' from the Hebrew, then search the context to determine whether it is a father, brother or son in law. Here we conclude it is brother-in-law, but elsewhere we may conclude the same word is father-in-law, because the Hebrew word is more general than the English is. Although Moses had God's direct leading; he did not find this to conflict with seeking the best human advice he could find.

10:34 Possibly the cloud provided shade in the desert. "He spread out a cloud as a covering". (Psalm 105:39)

B. Rebellion of People (11)

11:1-3 The people complained in the hearing of the LORD. It must be remembered that His visible presence was with them in the pillar of fire by night and the cloud by day. It is one thing to complain behind someone's back, or when they are far away. How brash it is to complain when you are perhaps in sight of the LORD's presence.

11:4 What type of meat did they desire? They recently ate lamb (Passover). The Hebrew word 'basar' in this context means the edible flesh of an animal, whether cooked or uncooked. The word includes the flesh of fish and quail.

11:21-23 Miracles appear unbelievable to us - this one seemed impossible to Moses in his own time! Nevertheless, the miracle occurred. God "is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine" (Ephesians 3:20 NIV). We must not 'explain away' miracles, they were clearly not humanly possible but were divinely performed.

11:26 I take these as elders in addition to the seventy that were specifically called.

11:32 They possibly spread them to dry in the sun. This is an ancient means of preserving meat and produces jerky.

C. Miriam and Aaron (12)

12:1-3 Note Mose's humility in this regard in the previous chapter where Joshua wanted to prohibit Eldad and Medad from prophesying. Moses wished that all might share in the LORD's Spirit.

12:3 I see no difficulty in accepting this as an editorial comment by a scribe of Moses' time or shortly after.

LESSON TWO - Comment on 'Higher Criticism'

        The following paragraph is quoted from Cliff's Notes on OLD TESTAMENT by Charles H. Patterson, Professor of Philosophy at the University of Nebraska, 1965. It is typical of liberal thinking about the Scriptures, and is inserted here in contrast to true Biblical beliefs. It is very widespread and should be understood and carefully guarded against.

"The first five book of the Old Testament were, according to both Jewish and Christian traditions, attributed to Moses until comparatively recent times. To be sure there are some exceptions, but in general we may say that it was not until the era of the movement known as 'Higher Criticism' that the Mosaic authorship of these books was brought into question. Now there is almost universal agreement among Biblical scholars that the Pentateuch is composed of at least four separate and distinct narratives written by different persons who were widely separated in point of time. Indeed, it seems highly probable that within each of these four documents it is possible to recognize the work of more than one author. The evidence in support of this view is overwhelming. Nothing in the first four of these books asserts, or even suggests, that Moses was the author.   Deuteronomy is presented as though it were an address delivered by Moses, but the content of the book indicate quite clearly that it was written a long time after the death of Moses. It was a fairly common practice among Hebrew authors to write as though the words they used had been spoken a long time before."

In response, I believe that this theory is a primary reason why many church leaders have departed from the Biblical faith. There is excellent support for the single authorship of these books, rather than viewing them as a collection of contradictory stories. During this study, we will focus on the developing thread of the books. In the first twelve chapters we see the preparation for the move and early signs of rebellion that will climax at Kadesh. It is important to understand what these writing meant to the original audience of Moses' time in order to understand the application to our own time. If the Higher Criticism theory is accepted, the method we are applying is invalid, as the message was never intended for Moses' generation but parts were for generations from the split kingdoms to the return from Exile. Although these words do apply to all generations, it is important to understand that they were first written as a unified composition for the generation of the Exodus and their children who would enter the Promised Land Harold Lindsell wrote the following paragraph in God's Incomparable Word, about 1977. I am in wholehearted agreement with it.

"We have said plainly that the Bible is the source of our religious knowledge. But having said that, we must follow it immediately by asserting that Christianity is Christianity, and can be supported and defended only within the context of the Old and New Testaments. And the truth claims of Christianity are reliable ONLY TO THE EXTENT THAT THE SOURCE FROM WHICH WE DERIVE THESE TRUTHS IS ITSELF RELIABLE. So we are confronted with two major questions: First, "Is the Bible the Word of God?" Second, "Is the Bible the reliable Word of God?" If the revelation of God in Scripture is not reliable, then Christianity can be no more reliable than the source from which it springs. If the premise from which we start is untrue, then the conclusions we draw must be untrue as well. And if we cannot trust the parts of the Bible we can check, why should we trust the parts of the Bible we cannot check? The Christian faith then, stands or falls on the reliability of the revelation of God."

LESSON TWO - Ch 7-12 Summary

In contrast to the Higher Criticism, it is important to catch the overall flow and development throughout this unified book. In the first chapters we saw the ordering of the people, instructions to the Levites, and rule of cleansing and consecration. This has continued with instructions concerning the Tabernacle, the Passover or remembrance of the miracles of the previous year, and how the Lord would accompany Israel. This is soon followed by the actual departure, with rebellion of the people against the Lord's provision and even Miriam and Aaron rebelling against Moses' leadership. This is leading up to the next section where Israel will refuse to enter the Promised Land.

Concerning the various complaints, the LORD dealt with Moses' complaint by pouring out His spirit on many elders, who would then take some of the responsibility of governing as Moses' would delegate. The complaints of the people for meat and Miriam for position were punished. We should not be afraid to bring legitimate concerns to the LORD, but must be careful not to reject His provision and guidance.

LESSON TWO - Ch 7-12 Questions

    1. Explain how the story is progressing and preparing for the events at Kadish.

    2. What is the relationship between worship and obedience?

    3. Is it easier or harder to follow the Lord's guidance today?

    4. Do complainers influence us?

    5. What can we learn from Moses about handling conflict?

    6. An article in a local newspaper (Pocono Record, March 14, 1998) described the church trial of a minister who had performed a same sex commitment celebration (wedding?). The minister was declared not guilty of violating church practice. He has been restored to his position as pastor with full ministerial credentials in this major denomination. What does this have to do with Higher Criticism?

LESSON THREE - Ch 13-18 Observations

D. Spying (13-14)

13:21 The exploration consists of about a 500 mile round-trip journey.

13:22 A 13th century B.C. papyrus describes fierce Canaanites as seven to nine feet tall, and two female skeletons seven feet tall have been excavated from a tell in Transjordan from the 12 th century B.C. (Bible Background Commentary)

13:27 Milk refers to pastureland for grazing, and honey may refer to a syrup made from dates.

14:29 Everyone counted in the census would exclude women, children, teen-agers, Levites, and men unfit for military service.

III. Journey to Plains of Moab (15:1-22:1)

A. Covenant Statutes (15)

15:2 By giving these covenant statutes God is reaffirming that someday the children of Israel will enter the land, although 40 years of wandering is immediately ahead of them.

15:30 Intentional and defiant sin is to result in the offender being cut off from the people, possibly by death. This may be relevant to the commandment to honor parents, the dishonoring would be defiant and intentional, not just a simple disobedience.

B. Korah's Rebellion (16)

16 Critics view the various groups and motives as evidence of different source documents and different rebellions making a composite story as if it was one rebellion. To the contrary, rebellions often consist of varied groups and motives that combine for a common purpose. Here Korah and some Levites want priestly positions, and some Reubenites want political power. There is no reason to doubt that the record of a combined rebellion is accurate. Certainly Moses and Aaron as brothers combine the priestly and government functions.

16:6-7 Note what had happened to Aaron's sons who had burned incense while offering unauthorized fire before the LORD (Lev 10:1-2). Surely Moses, Aaron, Korah, and the other Levites knew of this earlier occurrence. Yet they dared to offer fire before the LORD even though only priests are allowed to do so.

16:16-27 God commanded (through Moses) the people to separate from Korah and his followers. If any had persisted in remaining with Korah (giving him their support) it may be assumed that they also would have fallen into the crevice that appeared.

C. Vindication of Aaron (17)

D. Priests and Levites (18)

18 After the LORD confirms only Aaron and his family may be priests, the specific duties of the two groups are spelled out.

LESSON THREE - Ch 13-18 Summary

Review the outline on pages 215-216 from the beginning through chapter 18. A primary purpose of a Bible Survey is to be able to understand every book and chapter in the overall context of God's revelation, the Bible. The LORD directed this exploration, although in Deuteronomy we will learn that the people first requested it. After 40 days the spies reported a fruitful land, but feared the inhabitants. Caleb silenced them and said they would be victorious because of the LORD. That night the people grumbled, and Caleb and Joshua speak against the millions. As the mob prepares to stone them, the Glory of the LORD shone from the tabernacle. God declared that they must spend 40 years in the wilderness, and that every one counted in the census except Caleb and Joshua must die in the wilderness.

The people then decide to enter Canaan, and are defeated in battle. God then gives commands for what they will do (their children) when they settle in Canaan, thus confirming the promise to Abraham although a 40-year punishment is ahead of them. Korah with other Levites and some Reubenites then rebel against Moses and Aaron. Moses tells Korah they should not presume to become priests. The Reubenites refuse to meet with Moses and say he took them away from a land of milk and honey. Moses state that he has taken nothing from them (a king would have taxed them). By fire God destroys Korah's followers who offer fire before Him, and later Korah and the Reubenites are swallowed as the earth opens beneath them (Korah's family survived, some of his descendants are mentioned in the Psalms). Aaron and family are confirmed as priests, and the specific duties of priest and Levite are reviewed.

LESSON THREE - Ch 13-18 Questions

    1. Why are commands about life in the Promised Land given following the defeat by the Canaanites?

    2. Why are duties of priests and Levites given after Korah's rebellion?

    3. Who will be excluded from entering Canaan? Give examples of the types of people that might be permitted to enter.

    4. Where the Israelites excluded from Canaan saved? That is, were their sins forgiven?

    5. Is the Promised Land more representative of heaven or of God's blessings for obedient followers?

    6. Hebrews 11:12 was written to believers. Does this New Testament verse refer to losing heaven or blessings on earth?

LESSON FOUR - Ch 19-24 Observations

E. Purification Laws (19)

19:17-19 Any clean man may perform this cleaning, it does not require a priest.

F. Desert of Zin (20)

20:2-13 Moses was now about 120 years old. He was 40 when he fled Egypt, 80 when he returned to Egypt, and 40 years of wilderness wanderings are near an end.

G. Journey to Moab (21:1-22:1)

21:6-9 The bronze snake wound around a pole has since become a symbol of the medical profession. This verse is part of the background of John 3:16. The particular type of snake is not known. It could have been a parasitic worm growing under the skin and is very painful. Such parasites would be extracted by slowly winding them on a stick (Zondervan Pictorial Dictionary), as pictured by the snake wound around a pole. If so, looking and believing also involved an action to extract it. This parasite view is only a possibility.

21:14 God made it clear that he can use any creature He desires as a prophet! The donkey warns Balaam three times by action before speaking, and even then Balaam does not want to listen. The donkey warned Balaam, just as Balaam would warn Balak.

IV. Moabites and Balaam (22:2-25:18)

A. Plight of Moab (22:2-4a)

22:2 Moab was a descendant of Lot, the nephew of Abraham. Being a related people, Israel would have been willing to make peace.

B. Invitation to Balaam (22:4b-20)

C. Journey of Balaam (22:21-35)

D. Oracles of Balaam (22:36-24:25)

24:8-9 This statement by Balaam, "May those who bless you be blessed and those who curse you be cursed" may be a guide for our own attitudes towards the Jewish people. Balak only believed Balaam's prophecies when it would fit with his own desires. He would have been wise to make peace with Israel instead of war.

LESSON FOUR - Ch 19-24 Summary

Rules of cleansing with the ashes of the Red Heifer are given. Moses dishonors God by striking a rock instead of speaking to it to bring forth water, and is told he will never enter the promised land. After 40 years of wandering, the people travel to the plains of Moab. When Edom refuses passage, they take another route. When Arad attacks, Israel destroys them. Continued grumbling leads to a plague of snakes. Moses puts a bronze snake on a pole, and those who look on it in faith are saved (a type of Jesus crucifixion). Balak hires Balaam to curse Israel, but he blesses them (after an interlude with a talking donkey).

LESSON FOUR - Ch 19-24 Questions

    1. Who was the Angel of the LORD? What are some possibilities?

    2. Why did the LORD tell Balaam to go, and then stop him on the way?

    3. Is the statement of Balaam, "May those who bless you (Israel) be blessed and those who curse you be cursed!" still in effect today?

    4. How serious was the incident of Moses striking the Rock? What principles are involved that apply to us?

LESSON FIVE - Ch 25-30 Observations

E. Idolatry of Israel (25)

See II Peter 2:15 for 'the way of Balaam' and Revelation 2:14 for 'the doctrine of Balaam'.

V. Preparation for Entering Canaan (26-36)

A. Inheritance (26:1-27:11)

26:1-51 Specifically, the men of that generation aged 20 or over at the time of the military census had died. It is likely that some children and teens from Egypt, and possibly a few older women were still alive. Joshua and Caleb were the only two men of military age from that generation to enter the Promised Land. The other 603,550 died.

26:5 The prophet Samuel was descended from Korah.

26:55 Land was given by lot, leaving it in the hands of the LORD and preventing disputes.

27:1-11 In Egypt, land passed from mother to daughter.

B. Succession to Moses (27:12-23)

27:18-23 It is notable that Moses was not succeeded by one of his sons. The LORD was the sovereign, and as great as Moses was, Moses was after all only the servant of the ruler, not the ruler. From Joshua through Samuel, the leadership of Israel (not of single tribes) was based on recognition of the empowering Spirit of God.

C. Laws of Offerings (28-29)

D. Laws of Vows (30)

LESSON FIVE - Ch 25-30 Summary

After Balaam failed to curse Israel, Moab sends women to seduce the Israelite men into physical and spiritual immorality. Phineas puts an end to a blatant example, and the LORD establishes a lasting priesthood through him. A census is taken as the basis for distributing the land (by lot). Only Joshua and Caleb remain from the previous census. Some daughters are given rights of inheritance, as there is no male kinsman-redeemer. Joshua is appointed successor to Moses. The various sacrifices and times they are to be offered in the Promised Land are reviewed, perhaps to emphasize continuity through Joshua. Laws governing vows are given, including the rights of the father or husband to nullify the vow of their daughter or spouse.

Hebrew Religious Calendar and Holidays

17NisanApril14th-21st - Passover/Unleavened BreadDeliverance from Egypt
39SivanJune6th - PentecostHarvest
511AbAugust9th - 9th of AbDestruction of Temple
71TishriOctober1st - Rosh HashanahNew Year
    10th - Yom KippurDay of Atonement
    15th-21st - TabernaclesWanderings (in booths)
93KislevDecember25th - HanukkahRestoration of Temple
126AdarMarch14th - PurimDeliverance (Esther)

LESSON FIVE - Ch 25-30 Questions

    1. How are physical and spiritual immorality related in the story of the Moabites seducing Israel? Are they related today?

    2. Why was Joshua chosen as the new leader?

    3. Is the right of the father/husband to nullify the vow of a wife/daughter discriminatory?

    4. Are holy days and celebrations useful to us today? Why or why not?

    5. Which feasts would require all Israelite men to attend in Jerusalem? Which feasts are related to Christian holidays?

LESSON SIX - Ch 31-36 Observations

E. Judgment on Midianites (31)

In chapter 22:4,7, it is clear that the Moabites and Midianites were allies. Midianites were descended from Abraham through his wife Keturah (after Sarah died).

31:6 This early use of the trumpet (a long simple horn with no valves) is attested in Egyptian art. It continued into modern times, such as the use of the bugle in the American Civil War. Both instruments would have the same relative notes (bugle calls can be played on a natural trumpet).

31:8 Balaam did not take the Word of the LORD to heart, although he spoke it himself. He is found in the company of those who curse Israel and suffers the consequences. The prophet's neglect of the Word he spoke did not negate that Word.

31:19 The purification rite would be with the ashes of the red heifer as described in ch. 19.

31:50 Apparently this counting of the surviving troops was a census, and the ransom of Exodus 30:12 was paid for each man counted.

F. Eastern Tribes Inheritance (32)

32:11 The fathers had followed the LORD, but reluctantly and not wholeheartedly.

G. Recap - Egypt Journey (33:1-49)

The list of cities goes back to the events described in Exodus.

33:3-4 The summary of plagues and the Exodus includes a reason, which is judgement on the gods of Egypt.

H. Final Instructions (33:50-36:13)

33:55-56 Unfortunately, this clear warning will be frequently ignored and will be a recurring theme of Israelite history.

35:16 This is the late bronze age for Israel and iron is not common. The Israelites will have to trade for tools of iron.

35:16-21 Murderers were not arrested by police and tried by a court system. Justice was primitive, and carried out by a member of the victim's family. The cities of refuges and their assembly provided a mercy in the case of manslaughter, that is, unpremeditated killing (perhaps in a fistfight) or an accidental killing. The cities also ensure a due process for the accused, and prevent uncontrolled blood feuds.

35:25,28 It is the death of the High Priest, not the period of exile in the city, that absolved the person of bloodguilt. This is a priestly function, even though it is presumed the High Priest died a natural death.

35:30-34 The death penalty is severe, but there were many limits not in use in our society. Circumstantial evidence, though convincing, was not sufficient to establish guilt. For instance, if the men had been heard arguing, and later one was found dead with the other man's knife lying nearby, perhaps the other man even is found to have blood on his robe ... this is still not enough for the death penalty. Two or more eyewitnesses to the actual killing event were required in order to establish guilt. The reason given for capital punishment refers directly to pollution of the covenant land where the LORD will dwell with His people.

36:6 The women are allowed to marry whoever they chose because there is no male kinsman to make the arrangements for them. If their father or a brother were alive, his permission would be required.

36:11-13 The preservation of family property holdings was one of the highest values in Israelite life, because the land was a covenant gift from God. Although family property was highly valued in other ancient societies, the strength of the religious overtone was unique to Israel.

LESSON SIX - Ch 31-36 Summary

Moses led the holy war against Midian before his death. The soldiers distribute booty and Reuben and Gad request and receive this property on condition of helping the other tribes conquer Canaan. The journey from Egypt is summarized, and final instructions concerning the Promised Land are given. These include the distribution of land by lot, the Levitical and refuge cities, and keeping the land inheritance of daughters (where there is no male heir) within the tribe.

LESSON SIX - Ch 31-36 Questions

    1. What are consequences of reluctance in serving the LORD?

    2. Are there any implications of the passage on Capital Punishment for today?

    3. Compare the Old Covenant ties to tribe and land to the New Covenant as applied to gentiles.

    4. Balaam actually pronounced the very Word of God as a prophet - yet did not obey it. Are there any Balaams today?


Jamieson, Robert; "Numbers", Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible, ed. Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown, 1871

Matthews, Henry; "Numbers", Concise Commentary on the Bible

Merrill, Eugene H., "Numbers", Bible Knowledge Commentary, ed. Walvoord and Zuck, Victor Books 1984

"Numbers", New International Version Study Bible, ed. Kenneth L. Barker, Zondervan 1985

Wesley, John; "Numbers", Notes on the Bible

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