Numbers (Num)

This the fourth book of the OT, has 36 chapters and is one of the five Law books that comprise the Torah or Pentateuch, which forms the basis of the Hebrew faith. Moses, the author, wrote about 1430 BC. It records how Israel sinned as they were about to enter their promised inheritance [land]. The forty years of wilderness wanderings that followed were God’s punishment for the sin of unbelief. Time to read: 3 hrs.

Key people include: Moses, Aaron, Miriam, Joshua, Caleb.

Outline. The whole nation is counted twice – the first census found the total number of military personnel and polarized the various tribes (Num 1:2,3); the second was taken after the previous generation had died and just prior to entering the Promised Land (Num 26:2-4). This book gives an account of the Israelites’ journey in the wilderness, and the complaints and criticism against God’s appointed leader (Moses) – these were, in reality, against God (Num 14:27).  When nearing the Promised Land one leader from each of the 12 tribes was sent to spy out the land.  When they returned after 40 days all except Joshua and Caleb declared it wasn’t wise to enter and the Israelites collectively agreed.  Because of their lack of faith God declared all those over the age of 20 years, except Joshua and Caleb, would perish in the wilderness and not enter into their inheritance though He continued to provide for them as a nation (Num 14:22-30).  Further instruction is given about living as God’s special nation and the role of the Levites.  As preparations were made to enter their inheritance, two and a half tribes chose territory and settled outside the Promised Land (Josh 13:6-8).  Moses was told by God he wouldn’t enter because of his disobedience.

Main lesson. Grumbling, complaining and unbelief prevented them from experiencing what God wanted for them. Such attitudes won’t get us far in this life or in God’s purposes either, nor is it uplifting being around people with such a negative outlook on life.

Key verses or thoughts: * “Without God we can’t but with Him we can” (Num 13:30). We are to do our part but also rely on divine assistance to bring about His objectives. Pray as if it all depends on God, while working as if the outcome is fully dependent upon our efforts.

* “None of the men who refused to trust and obey me will even see the Promised Land” (Num 14:22,23). To a large degree, we determine our destiny in life by the confession we make with our lips. Expect great things from a loving generous God, and attempt great things for our Saviour who rescued us from hell.

* “I can only speak and do what the Lord tells me!” (Num 22:18,38). Is that our testimony? How often do we change the message for a personal advantage or because we are intimidated by others? We are to “speak the truth in love” but love is not a substitute for the truth (Eph 4:25). Stay true to God’s Word and act with integrity in all situations.

See also: Aaron, Caleb, complain, confession, criticism, Joshua, Miriam, Moses, unbelief, wilderness wanderings.