Introduction to Numbers

By James M. Rochford

The Hebrew title for this book (Bemiḏbār) is translated “in the wilderness,” while the Greek title (Arithmoi, think “arithmetic”) is translated as “numbers.”[1] In our estimation, the Hebrew title captures the major contents of the book better, because there is more narrative in this book compared to Leviticus and Deuteronomy, and much of it relates to the 40 year Wilderness Wandering.

Authorship of Numbers

Numbers claims to be written by Moses (Num. 1:1; 33:2), and “nearly every section begins ‘The Lord spoke to Moses’ or with some similar remark.”[2] Furthermore, the account gives clear, eyewitness details. For a list of historically confirmed details in Numbers, see Gordon Wenham, Numbers (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1981), pp.27-29.

The NT authors allude to Numbers (Acts 7, 13; 1 Cor. 10:1-11; Heb. 3), and Jesus himself referred to serpent in the wilderness in Numbers 21:9 (Jn. 3:14). For more on the authorship of Numbers, see our earlier article titled “Authorship of the Pentateuch.”

Themes in Numbers

The battle for belief. The Israelites forfeited God’s promise because they were so focused on the size and ferocity of the Canaanites. They refused to walk into the promises that God had given them. Archer writes, “It was not the size of their army that mattered, but only the size of their faith.”[3]

The importance of the land. While Exodus focuses on God’s deliverance from Pharaoh and Leviticus focuses on the worship of God, Numbers focuses on the land promises given to Israel.

God’s rest. Multiple NT authors refer to the failure of faith as a missed opportunity to experience God’s rest (1 Cor. 10:1-10; Heb. 3:7-4:13; Jude 5, 8, 11).

Commentary on Numbers

Unless otherwise stated, all citations are taken from the New American Standard Bible (NASB).

Numbers 1: Census of military aged men

Summary: The Jews had been out of Egypt for over a year at this point (1:1). God commands that they take a census (1:2) of the men who were 20 years old or older (v.18). They come up with a ~600,000 person group (1:46; 2:32). Levi’s tribe wasn’t counted (1:47), because they were in charge of the Tabernacle (1:50).

(Num. 1:46) Was the census really this big? (cf. Ex. 12:37)

Numbers 2: Protecting the Tabernacle

Summary: The various tribes were supposed to travel in certain formations. Some were supposed to be in the north, and some to the south. This was probably for the purpose of protecting themselves—not leaving any areas unmanned.

Why was the Tabernacle in the middle of the camp? (2:2) This was likely so that they could protect the Tabernacle from hostiles. This could also explain why God goes to such great lengths to describe which parts of the camp the tribes should protect.

Numbers 3: Census of the Levites

Summary: Aaron’s two sons—Nadab and Abihu—were judged and killed by God because they offered strange fire to God (3:4). As we mentioned in Leviticus 10 (Lev. 10:1), this anecdote shows us that we need to approach God in his prescribed way—not ours.

Anyone who approached the Tabernacle in the wrong way would be put to death (3:10, 38). Eleazar and Ithamar were Aaron’s surviving sons. The Levites are set apart to be the priests of God, and they were in charge of the Tabernacle (3:7). The Levites all had different roles in carrying the materials of the Tabernacle.

While God demanded the firstborn of all the children and animals of Israel (3:13), he accepted the Levites as a substitute for all of the people (3:41, 45). Since Christ is our ultimate high priest, who substitutes for us (Heb. 9-10). This is already prefiguring what God would do through Christ.

Moses took a census of all of the Levites. There was a total of 22,000 males (3:39).

Numbers 4: How to carry the Ark and the Tabernacle

Summary: God delegates to the Levites how to carry the Tabernacle and the Ark of the Covenant. There were three clans within in the Levites who were responsible for this: (1) the Kohathites, (2) the Gershonites, and (3) the Merarites. Each were given different a responsibility. All of the men needed to be between the age of 30 and 50.

(4:1-20) The Kohathites. They were a subdivision of the Levites responsible for moving the sacred objects—not for packing them up (4:15). Moses had to pick men who were 30 to 50 years old (4:3). They must have wanted fully grown and mature men to be responsible for the Ark of the Covenant. They also had to carry the Ark with poles (4:6). This description for carrying the Ark is very precise and detailed, going on for a dozen verses. Aaron’s son—Eleazar—was in charge of this whole process (4:16).

God is very clear that if they touch or look into the Ark directly that they will die (4:15, 20). When the Philistines stole the Ark of the Covenant, it caused boils in their people (1 Sam. 5:5). Also, later, the Israelites were transporting the Ark, when the oxen upset it. Instead of letting it fall over, Uzzah reached for the Ark to keep it from falling, and “God struck him down there for his irreverence” (2 Sam. 6:7).

(4:21-28) The Gershonites. They were a subdivision of the Levites responsible for moving the Tabernacle (4:25). Aaron and his two sons were supposed to supervise them (4:27).

(4:29-33) The Merarites. They were a subdivision of the Levites responsible for carrying the frames of the Tabernacle (4:31). They were also under the supervision of Aaron and his sons (4:31).

(4:34-49) The chapter ends by Moses and Aaron counting all of these clans.

The Tabernacle was designed to be portable—not stationary like a Temple. When the cloud of God’s presence moved, the people would follow God (see Num. 9:15-17).

Numbers 5: Laws for leprosy, general wrongdoing, and adultery

(5:1-4) Those with infectious skin diseases were sent outside of the camp of Israel. As we argued earlier (see “Leprosy”), this probably was due to the fact that God wanted to quarantine their disease from the rest of the people.

(5:5-10) Wrongdoers needed to make a public confession and give back the full amount—plus 20% (5/4 total). If there was no person to inherit this money, then it should be given to the priest—along with a sacrificial ram (5:5-10).

(5:11-31) This entire section offers a test for finding out an adulterer.

(Num. 5:11-31) Is this a case of magic?

Numbers 6: The Nazarite Vow

(Num. 6:1-21) The Nazarite vow?

(6:22-27) God used Aaron and his priestly sons to bless the people. The priests were God’s instrument for blessing the people.

Numbers 7: Offerings from the twelve tribes

(7:1-88) Moses begins to accept offerings from the people of Israel to help out with the Tabernacle and the Ark of the Testimony. The various leaders of the tribes of Israel brought their offering to Moses. Each leader—one by one—brought their offering for their tribe over the course of twelve days. The text goes into precise detail as to who gave what.

God had formerly commanded the people to steal from the Egyptians as they left slavery (Ex. 3:22). These were probably some of the spoils that they brought to serve in the Tabernacle. This is interesting to note, because the people also used this spoil to build the Golden Calf (Ex. 32)! This shows that our worldly money can be used for furthering God’s purposes or the world’s.

(7:89) God spoke to Moses from the mercy seat. Of course, Christ fulfills the symbolism of the Ark of the Testimony, pouring out his blood over the sins of the people, as the angels (cherubim) watch. This is why the text says that God spoke from the mercy seat (Num. 7:89).

Numbers 8: The dedication of the Levites

(8:1-26) Aaron was supposed to set up the seven lampstands (8:1-4). Aaron was also supposed to perform a “wave offering” for the Levites, where he dedicated the Levites over to God. God repeats the fact that the Levites replace the firstborn of the Israelites that was taken (8:15-19). Levites could only work from age 25 to age 50 (8:-24-25). After retirement, they could serve as guards at the Tabernacle (8:26).

(Num. 8:11-14) What is a “wave offering”?

Numbers 9: The Passover

(9:1) A year has now passed since the Exodus.

(9:2-5) God told Moses to celebrate the Passover, because it had been a year since they left Egypt. So, this would have been the second Passover ever celebrated.

(Ex. 12:1-22) Does the Passover foreshadow the work of Christ?

(9:6-12) Some people were ceremonially unclean, because they had touched a dead body. They asked Moses if they could still celebrate the Passover. God told Moses that they still could, but they needed to celebrate it a month later than everyone else. Otherwise, their celebration was the same.

(9:13) If some Israelites refused to celebrate the Passover, they would be cut off from the people. This showed that the Passover was very important to God, and it shouldn’t be neglected. This could foreshadow the work of Christ (i.e. if a person doesn’t come to Christ, they are eternally cut off from God).

(9:14) Foreigners were also allowed to participate in the Passover, as long as they followed the same practices and regulations.

The people followed the cloud (i.e. God’s presence)

(9:15-23) God’s presence was in a cloud during the day or a pillar of fire at night. Whenever the cloud moved, the people needed to follow God’s presence. This implicitly showed that God didn’t reside in a specialized location or “holy place.” Rather, wherever he chose to go became holy. This is very different from religious thinking, where places themselves become holy.

The beginning of this chapter is about the importance of celebrating the Passover supper (9:1-14). It gives stipulations for people who are travelling and even the foreign, Gentile who was in Israel. If they didn’t practice the Passover, they were cut off from the people.

Numbers 10: The Trumpet

(10:1-6) The trumpets were used for both gathering the people and calling them to move together to follow God. One trumpet blast signaled only the leaders to gather, but two trumpet blasts signaled all of the people.

(10:7-10) Only the priests could blow the trumpets, and these were used for warning people of being attacked and also for celebrating the festivals. They served as a reminder that God was with them.

(10:11-28) God moved the people from Sinai to Paran. All of the instructions for moving the Tabernacle and Ark are put into place.

(10:29-32) Moses’ brother-in-law (Hobab) was a Midianite, but Moses wanted to include him in God’s blessing of the Promised Land.

(10:33-36) Again, the cloud lead the people carrying the Tabernacle, and the rest of the people followed wherever they were led.

Numbers 11: The Israelites complain against God’s provision

Summary: The people are burned for complaining (11:1-3). They start to think back fondly on Egypt and all of the great food that they had (11:4-6), and they complain about the manna. It must have not tasted bland (11:7-9). Moses complains about how burdensome it is to lead the people of God (11:11). He feels like the burden of leadership is too much (11:14). God helps Moses by diversifying the leadership of Israel to 70 men (11:16-17). God also decides to give them what they asked for; it might be a case of “careful what you wish for” (11:18-20).

Moses mentions a “mixed multitude” (KJV 11:4). These are people that have one foot in the world and one foot out of the world. They aren’t in the world enough to enjoy the world, but they aren’t in with Christ enough to enjoy Christ. These people were lusting after the things in Egypt, and it spreads throughout the spiritual community.

The people complain about their ENVIRONMENT

(11:1-3) The people were only three days into their march when they started complaining (!). This also came on the one year anniversary of being saved from Egypt (Ex. 15:22-27). Allen notes, “Nothing in the first ten chapters of Numbers has prepared us for this verse.”[4]

Taberah was an inhospitable desert (modern day Et-Tih). Its name literally means “burning.”[5] Biblical writers refer back to this event—not with sympathy—but with scorn. The text doesn’t say that the people were burned—only the camp.[6] This judgment comes on the heels of Moses trying to persuade Hobab of coming to the Promised Land (10:29-32). It also begins a cycle of rebellion, repentance, and intercessory prayer. Eventually, it will reach the point where even Moses and Aaron miss their opportunity to see the Promised Land.

The people complain about the FOOD

(11:4-6) The “rabble” is probably parallel to the “mixed multitude” of Exodus 12:38). The term “craved” is emphatic, translating literally as they “craved a craving.”[7]

This parallels the people complaining about the complete lack of food earlier (Ex. 16:3). Now, they are complaining that they don’t have enough of a variety of food. The people have a false narrative in their minds of what Egypt was like: Yes, they had better food, but they also had backbreaking work, infanticide, and slavery! Is it possible that modern day Christians look back at their time in the world-system with the same nostalgia?—with the same false narrative?—with the same selective memory?

They complained about the variety of food in the desert. They forgot that—without God—there should be no food at all! Later in Numbers 21, the people complain again about the food. They didn’t learn their lesson.

Manna

(11:7-9) Moses cannot explain the exact properties of the manna (hence, manna means “What is it?”). Notice the language of simile (“It was like…”). We are familiar with coriander seed. Bdellium was a “pale yellow translucent resin.”[8] Manna had a fine, flaky substance that tasted like honey (Ex. 16:14, 31). The people could use it to bake cakes, and it gave them adequate nutrition.

Moses complains about being a LEADER

(11:10-13) Moses takes on the attitude of the people—though in a different way. He starts to complain about their complaining! Moses thinks that the problem is that he should be a transactional leader, giving the people what they want (i.e. meat). He doesn’t think about confronting their grumbling and complaining, but only giving in to their infantile temper tantrum.

(11:14-15) Being a transactional leader is exhausting, because we can never give people what they want. Note that Moses never considers suicide. Even in his depression, he asks God to take his life, rather than taking his own (cf. 1 Kings 19:4).

God’s solution?

(11:16-17) God’s solution comes in two parts. First, he gives Moses 70 other leaders to share the burden of leadership. He gives Moses relational support.

(11:18-23) Second, God gives the people what they want. This is definitely a case of “be careful what you pray for.” God will give them so much meat that it will nauseate them. God points out that no amount of food will help the people, while they are ungrateful (v.22). Allen comments, “There is a sardonic humor in this, a sense of comic justice. In effect, God says to them that he will give them all the meat they want and then some!”[9]

Moses is unbelieving that God could provide so much meat for the people (vv.21-22). This reminds us of the lesson of the feeding of the 5,000 from Jesus.

(11:24-30) Eldad and Medad begin to prophesy. Joshua—Moses’ later successor—wants Moses to stop them. The “young man” is most likely Joshua. This means that Joshua served under Moses since he was a young man, and presumably, he learned a lot from him.

Moses’ response is interesting: “Are you jealous for my sake? Would that all the LORD’S people were prophets, that the LORD would put His Spirit upon them!” (v.29) Allen writes, “Here the true spirit of Moses is demonstrated. Rather than being threatened by the public demonstration of the gifts of the Spirit by Eldad and Medad, Moses desired that all the people might have the full gifts of the Spirit. This verse is a suitable introduction to the inexcusable challenge to the leadership of Moses in Numbers 12.”[10] This foreshadows the every member ministry that God would install in the NT. No longer would there be singular leaders who serve God, but all people will have a vital role.

(11:31-35) The people were inundated with three feet mounds of quail. “Ten homers” is equivalent to 60 bushels![11] They started to kill, cook, and feast. But the result was a plague from God. Allen writes, “Before they could swallow, God made them choke.”[12] The name Kibroth Hattaavah means, “The graves of the ones who craved” (see NET note).

Numbers 12: Attack against Moses

(12:1) Miriam’s name is placed first, which implies that she was leading this attack on Moses’ leadership.[13] She is also the one who receives judgment in the form of leprosy (not Aaron). So this shows that she is the principal offender.

Why did Miriam attack Moses’ leadership? Perhaps Miriam was bitter and resentful because:

  • She was the older sister who had saved Moses’ life as an infant in the first place (Ex. 1).
  • She arranged circumstances so that Moses could be raised by his own mother as an infant, and she didn’t get any of the credit.
  • Moses was able to grow up in royalty in Egypt, while she was a measly Israelite peasant.
  • She wrote and sang the first psalm in Scripture (Ex. 15), but she was still under the leadership of her younger brother.
  • 70 other men had been given the prophetic gifting, and maybe she was jealous of this (Num. 11:24-30).

How do Miriam and Aaron attack Moses? Some texts identify Cush with Midian (Hab. 3:7), so this could refer to Zipporah. However, Allen[14] and Wenham[15] believe it’s possible that Zipporah died, and Moses had just remarried another woman.

Regardless, Miriam and Aaron target Moses’ Cushite (non-Jewish) wife. The Cushites came from the Noah’s son Ham (Gen. 10:6-7), who lived in the southern Nile Valley (modern day Ethiopia). Allen writes, “Perhaps her skin was more swarthy than the average person in Israel.”[16] If so, Moses’ wife would’ve looked different from the other Israelite people.

(12:2) There was some truth to this accusation. God had spoken through all three of them (Mic. 6:4). But Moses wasn’t alone while his leadership was being attacked: “The Lord heard it.”

(Num. 12:3) How could Moses write this, if he was more humble than all men?

(12:4) The fact that this happened “suddenly” shows that God was being uncharacteristically angry. After all, God is typically “slow to anger.” God moves quickly in judgment.

(12:5-9) God gives a formal rebuke to Miriam and Aaron. They had been questioning Moses’ leadership. Here, God questions them, “Why then were you not afraid to speak against My servant, against Moses?” God points out that Moses is an extremely privileged prophet. God could speak to prophets in various ways (v.6), but he spoke in direct, personal ways to Moses. This rebuke must’ve left Miriam and Aaron trembling.

(12:10) Leprosy would’ve made Miriam an outsider to the fellowship of Israel (Num. 5:1-4).

(12:11-13) Moses intercedes for his sister.

(12:14-15) God heals her, but first allows her to be leprous for a week. This must show that God wanted to make a statement to her—even though he would heal her in the end.

(12:16) The text concludes with the people moving to Paran. This was the location on the edge of Canaan, getting them ready to invade.

Concluding insights

There is a real lesson for us regarding leadership. If God has raised someone into leadership, it is sinful to attack them in an unrighteous way. Miriam was not correcting Moses’ errant leadership. Instead, she was simply challenging his leadership directly out of pride, bitterness, and resentment.

Numbers 13: The spies reconnoiter the land

As we enter this chapter, we would expect victory. After all, God had authenticated Moses’ leadership to the people in multiple ways. In chapter 11, he defended Moses from the people’s grumbling. In chapter 12, he defended Moses from Miriam and Aaron’s coup. The people were moving on in the camp, and now, they are on the precipice of taking over the land.

But our expectations are wrong, as we will see. We should never underestimate the power of unbelief…

(13:1-2) Moses later reflected on this event in Deuteronomy. There, he had told the people, “the LORD your God has placed the land before you; go up, take possession, as the LORD, the God of your fathers, has spoken to you. Do not fear or be dismayed” (Deut. 1:21). However, it was the idea of the people that they should first send spies to the land. Moses later lamented, “All of you approached me and said, ‘Let us send men before us, that they may search out the land for us’” (Deut. 1:22). Moses capitulated to their idea (Deut. 1:23).

In our estimation, the idea came from the people, but God later allowed this. After all, Moses initially told them just to go in and take over (Deut. 1:21), but then the people suggested the spies. This is almost like getting a prenuptial agreement before marriage. Or it’s like hiring a private investigator before deciding to get married: “I love you and want to marry you… but I just wanted to hire an investigator to research you a little bit first.” In our estimation, this whole endeavor was doomed from the start. After all, the people had God’s promises, and they didn’t need to think these to death before entering the land.

(13:3-15) Moses sends twelve young men to spy out the land. Allen comments, “Presumably they left in confidence, with a spirit of divine adventure; but they returned in fear, groveling before men, no longer fearful of God.”[17]

(13:16) Why did Moses change Joshua’s name from Hoshea to Joshua? The name Hoshea means “salvation,” but Joshua means, “Yahweh saves.”[18] Perhaps, Moses wanted Joshua to remember this as he entered into the land. As Francis Schaeffer wrote elsewhere, “Joshua learned [an] important lesson through the conflict with the Amalekites: Power is not merely the power of the general and the sword, but power is the power of God.”[19]

(13:17-20) Moses gives the spies a list of what to discover: the land, the people, the cities, and even the produce.

(13:21) The journey from Zin to Lebo-hamath is 250 miles in each direction,[20] and it took them 40 days to complete (v.25).

(13:22) This location is where Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Rebekah, Jacob and Leah were buried (Gen. 13:14-18; 14:13; 23:1; 25:9; 35:27-29; 50:13). It’s interesting that the spies take no notice of this. Wenham writes, “It was near Hebron that God first promised Abraham that he would inherit the land (Gen. 13:14–18).”[21] Instead of realizing that they were inheriting the promises of their forefathers, they trembled in fear.

Caleb later drove out these giants from their city (Anakites; Josh 15:14). He’s already sizing them up for the fight he’s going to have with them.

(13:23-24) The valley of Eschol means “the valley of the cluster.”[22] This should have encouraged the people of what God had promised them.

The report from the spies

(13:25-28) The spies admit that it was a land flowing with “milk and honey” (cf. Ex. 3:8), just as God had promised. But they didn’t take this as confirmatory: “Up to this point the phrase a land flowing with milk and honey has always been coupled with the promise that God would give the land and its inhabitants… The spies question this conclusion. They look on the presence of these other nations as an insurmountable obstacle to entry, not as a confirmation of God’s purpose.[23]

Note how they talked about the land: “The land where you sent us…” rather than saying, “Our future land…” or “The land God promised us…”

None of what the spies reported was new information. God had already told them who was living there, and that they were smaller by comparison (cf. Deut. 7:1).

These people could have really been this big. Remember, David fought Goliath, and he was a massive champion: “A champion came out from the armies of the Philistines named Goliath, from Gath, whose height was six cubits and a span” (1 Sam. 17:4). This would be over nine feet tall! This guy would make Yao Ming look like Jackie Chan. Goliath would definitely be an NBA prospect if he were alive today…

Likewise, King Og of Bashan had a bed that was “thirteen feet long and six feet wide” (Deut. 3:11). Even God himself said that Israel would face “seven nations greater and stronger than you” (Deut. 7:1).

(13:29) Joshua had already seen Moses defeat the Amalekites (Ex. 17:8-16), and God had promises to “send terror ahead of [the Israelites] to drive out the Canaanites and Hittites” (Ex. 23:28).

Caleb’s response

(13:30) Caleb told the people to be quiet. He knew that God was with them.

Ten terrified spies

(13:31-33) The spies took some true information and exaggerated it for effect, scaring all of the people. They even personify the land as “eating its inhabitants” (v.32). This is rhetoric to gain allegiance—not factual reporting.

These ten spies don’t get the final word: each of them died by a plague (Num. 14:37). As for the people, the “fate they feared they would meet in Canaan actually overtakes them in the desert (14:3, 29-34).”[24]

Concluding insights

Note that a few unbelieving people can affect the entire group in a negative way.

Many Christians fail to enter into the blessings God has for them. They’re constantly in Romans 7, but never enter into Romans 8. Their walk becomes endurance—not enjoyment. The key here was faith (14:11).

Numbers 14: The people listen to the spies

(14:1-2) The people weep and wail, totally controlled by their fear. They bring up dying in Egypt as a better alternative to entering the Promised Land. By wanting to return to Egypt, the people were “thereby completely rejecting the whole plan of redemption.”[25]

They seemed to have forgotten God’s destruction of Egypt and their deliverance from Egypt—the most powerful nation on Earth. If God could bring Egypt to its knees, why would they worry about the Canaanites?

Regarding their desire to “die in this wilderness,” this is a case of literary foreshadowing. They should have chosen their words more carefully.

(14:3) They were panicking over their children, but ironically, only their children would survive—not themselves (vv.31-33). The people weren’t just grumbling against Moses and Aaron (v.2), but with God himself.

(14:4) Didn’t they learn anything from the lesson of Miriam in the previous chapter?

Summary: The people’s perspective

They had realistic fears. Their plan wasn’t ideal, but more realistic than Joshua and Caleb’s plan. They even held the majority view. But, they forgot one thing: They didn’t allow God to figure into their analysis! Background information is important to making a cost-benefit analysis, and by discounting the power and promises of God, they made a huge error.

Moses and Aaron’s reaction

(14:5) Why did Moses and Aaron fall to the ground? Allen comments, “In this posture they symbolized their awareness that the anger of the Lord was likely to burst on the people in a moment.”[26] Wenham concurs, “Moses and Aaron, sensing the presence of God, fall to the ground in fear at what he is about to do.”[27] In other words, they hit the deck so that they wouldn’t be collateral damage!

Joshua and Caleb’s reaction

(14:6-9) Joshua and Caleb weep over the nation for her lack of faith. They continue to plead their case—not giving up. The emphasis on the “Lord being pleased with us” is the key: If the people changed the hearts, God would be pleased with their reaction and they could make it in. Notice how many times Joshua and Caleb refer to God, his promises, or his power. Notice how many times they do not mention the size or power of the Canaanites.

(14:10) Losing small battles of belief escalates quickly. The Israelites started with common-sense observations, but ended up plotting to murder Moses! Hardened hearts are this way. Arguing against God’s word in one area will carry over into every area. If one compromise makes sense, why not another?

God showed up just in the nick of time to protect his faithful servants: Moses and Aaron.

God’s reaction

(14:11) God didn’t agree that the people were simply rebelling against Moses, but that they were rebelling against Him. He marvels that they could so quickly forget his miracles and protecting hand in Egypt.

Moses’ intercession

(14:12-16) God tells Moses that he could start over with him, and Moses intercedes for the people. This is similar to Exodus 32:10ff. Moses doesn’t want the inflated ego of being the new father of the nation (i.e. “the sons of Moses”). Instead, he is more focused on the promises of God and how the nations would view him (i.e. evangelism).

(14:17-19) Moses appeals to God’s own character of love (“The Lord is slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness,” cf. Ex. 34:6-7). Allen writes, “Moses reminds us that while the wrath is real, it is long delayed. The most remarkable thing about the wrath of God is how much provocation he tolerates before he finally acts in righteous judgment.”[28]

God’s response

(14:20-21) God pardons the people because of Moses’ intercessory prayer.

(14:22-23) God swears that “all” of the people will never see the land. The “ten” rebellions could be a number referring to many rebellious acts, or a round number describing how many times the people disobeyed.[29]

(14:24) Caleb had to wait 45 years to inherit this promise (Josh. 14:10).

(14:25) Since the people forfeited God’s promise, they needed to retreat before the Canaanites heard about them and attacked them. Wenham notes the irony that they people would need to return to the Red Sea—the very place that God had saved them.[30]

God’s response is repeated

(14:26-35) This is similar to Genesis 1 and 2. This account is a “dissimilar” but “complementary” account of the earlier section.[31] God’s passive wrath judges the people over the age of 20 (v.29). Only Moses, Aaron, Caleb, and Joshua will make it into the land, because of their faith (v.30). The judgment of 40 years is based on the 40 days of the spies (v.33).

The ten spies were instantly killed

(14:36-38) The ten spies didn’t face passive wrath, but active wrath, dying by a plague. However, Joshua and Caleb were spared. This shows that God is concerned with the individuals in a group—not just judging indiscriminately.

Phony repentance

(14:39-45) The people appear to have a change of heart, but their “repentance” is not elaborated upon. We can tell that this was a faulty repentance because they were actually going against God’s command (again!). God had told them to leave (v.25). Therefore, their act of courage and bravery only further showed their disobedience to God’s leadership. Consequently, they died by the hands of the Canaanites. This shows the instability of the person who doesn’t have faith. They end up doing what God wants, but not for the right reasons. Thus God doesn’t empower them.

The unbelief of the people is picked up by the author of Hebrews, applying it to believers today (Heb. 3:12, 14).

Numbers 15: Offerings for when the kids come in

Why does the account jump from Israel’s apostasy, faithlessness, and divine judgment to laws about the Levites? It could be that Moses is offering a contrast between false faith and “spiritual propriety.”[32]

(15:1-16) This section describes sacrificial offerings—animal, flour, or drink offerings. It prescribes a unity of offerings for the native-born Israelite and the foreigner who joins into Israel.

(15:17-21) This section describes the offering of the first fruits.

(15:22-29) This section describes the offerings required for unintentional sins. This is similar to Leviticus 4:2. Describing unintentional sins, Allen writes, “The verb šāg̱āh focuses on sins of ignorance and inadvertence.”[33] Wenham comments, “The same Hebrew phrase (bišgāgâ) is used to distinguish manslaughter from murder in 35:11, 15. Murder is planned in advance, whereas manslaughter, as defined in Numbers 35:16–28, is committed by accident or in the heat of the moment.”[34]

(15:30-36) This section describes intentional sins (i.e. “sinning with a high hand” see NET note). It gives us teaching that tells us what intentional sin looks like (vv.30-31), as well as a narrative to show what an intentional sin looks like (vv.32-36). This man was consciously and defiantly rebelling against God’s law, and he refused to repent. Remember, Leviticus 6:1-7 gives forgiveness for intentional sins, which includes public confession, full restitution, and a sacrificial offering.

(15:37-41) This section tells the Israelites to wear tassels to remind them of God’s laws (cf. Deut. 6:8-9). This could be a measure to be constantly reminded of God’s provision for them and his law—hopefully to avoid the sins listed earlier. As believers, we need to be constantly reminded of God’s goodness and his promises, and this was a tactile way for them to do so.

Numbers 16: Importance of Leadership (Korah’s Rebellion)

We would think that the suffering of Moses would be over after the Exodus from Egypt. After all, he was the courageous man of faith who led the people out from under the rule of a tyrannical dictator. But we discover that again and again that God’s own people turn against Moses.

We might compare this to the end of Star Wars: A New Hope, where the Death Star and destroyed and Darth Vader is cast into outer space… The story seems over! But the subsequent movies show the continued struggle—even after the war seems over.

Korah brings a coup against Moses and Aaron

(16:1-2) Korah was a son of Levi—a priest by office—and he gathered a cabal of 250 men to usurp Moses’ authority. These men were leaders in good standing before this event happened. Allen comments, “This was a formidable company of nobles who brought their seditious attempt to discredit Moses.”[35] We never know exactly why people hungry for leadership in an ungodly way, but it must have come down to some form of pride or ego. This coup is especially brazen in light of Miriam and Aaron’s revolt (Num. 12).

(16:3) Korah also attacks Aaron. Perhaps, Korah wanted to usurp Aaron’s role as well. Since God had doomed the people over 20 to die in the wilderness, perhaps Korah thought that a change of leadership would reverse God’s decree.[36] After all, he doesn’t refer to the people as faithless, but as “holy,” which was a direct contradiction to what God said of them. Korah could be using the law regarding the tassels (Num. 15:40) to argue that the people are holy, but Moses and Aaron are not!

Korah’s charge was that Moses and Aaron had a high view of themselves. Korah’s charge was that all the people were holy, so why did they need Moses and Aaron as leaders. However, in reality, Korah didn’t want a democracy; he wanted to take over as the new leader.

Now, Aaron was under attack, just as he had attacked Moses in Numbers 12.

(16:4) Moses doesn’t retaliate or defend himself. Instead, he takes the same posture that he did when Miriam and Aaron had attacked his leadership (Num. 14:5).

Moses’ response: a test

(16:5-7) Moses lays out a contest to decide who is really “holy.” Moses tells them to put fire in their censers and incense, and God will adjudicate the situation. Moses uses the same phrase (“you have gone too far”) that his accusers had used of him (v.3).

(16:8-11) Moses uses the plural to make a plea with all of the people—not just the ringleader, Korah. He says in effect, “Wasn’t it enough that God gave you an incredible ministry in the priesthood? Are you really demanding even more?” Moses questions why they banded together, and what Aaron had ever done to them.

(16:12-14) This confirms the thought that the rebels were disappointed in Moses’ leadership, because of God’s curse on the people to not inherit the Promised Land. Instead of taking out their anger on their own sin of faithfulness, they blamed their leader for incompetence.

(16:15) This attack of leadership led Moses to turn to God in prayer, honestly showing that he wasn’t power hungry.

The trial

(16:16-20) Moses repeats that the challengers should bring a censer of fire and incense. They had this trial right outside the Tabernacle, where God would decide who was the righteous party.

(16:21) God instantly sides with Moses and Aaron, and he threatens to wipe out the entire congregation for Korah’s sin.

Moses and Aaron intercede… for the rebels!

(16:22) Moses and Aaron pray that God wouldn’t hold the nation responsible for one man’s sin (Korah).

(16:23-27) God gives the Israelites an opportunity to stand back from the “blast radius.” This would show who was really guilty and persisting in rebellion versus those who were choosing to get out while there was still time.

(16:28-30) Moses sets forth an antithesis to prove what God is doing in the miracle: (1) If these men die natural deaths, then God is with Korah. However, (2) if these men are swallowed up by the Earth “alive,” then God is vindicating Moses.

God judges the rebellious faction

(16:31-34) Korah’s sons apparently repented and decided not to stand in rebellion with their father (Num. 26:11). This shows that the families had free will to choose to repent—even at the last moment. Korah’s sons went on to write numerous psalms (Ps. 42; 44-49; 84-85; 87-88; cf. 1 Chron. 6:33ff). Jude 11 picks up on this event as a type of judgment for false teachers. The psalmist mentions this event in Psalm 106:17-18.

(16:34) The Israelites panicked at this miraculous judgment.

(16:35) The 250 men smoking incense were themselves smoked (!!).

(16:36-40) God has the people collect the bronze censers from the burned bodies of the rebels. Then, he has them hammer out a plate that would adorn the altar (perhaps covering the golden plate at the altar? See Exodus 38:2). It would serve as a symbol to future generations, warning them of Korah’s costly rebellion.

The people continue to rebel

(16:41) We would expect that the people would’ve learned their lesson: It wasn’t Moses’ sinful leadership, but their faithlessness in God’s plan and promises. The sin of the people was that they pointed the finger at their leaders, rather than at themselves. In the Hebrew, the “you” is emphatic.[37]

(16:42-43) There is something special in the fact that Moses and Aaron took protection at the Tabernacle (i.e. God’s presence). The people backed away when they saw God’s presence manifest itself in this way.

(16:44-46) God tells Moses and Aaron that he will (again!) destroy the entire nation. And again, Moses and Aaron fall on their faces and pray that God would forgive the people.

A plague begins to spread among the people (killing 14,700). Aaron uses the censer to make atonement for them. There is irony here: The same censer that was used to challenge Moses and Aaron was the same censer that brought peace and forgiveness to the people. Allen writes, “What poetic justice! The very implement used by the enemies to force God’s hand to wrath now has to be used by his true priest to force his hand to mercy.”[38]

(16:47-50) Aaron hurries to heal the people (“ran”).

Concluding insights

(1) God defends and vindicates his leaders. As leaders, it often feels scary to be on your own. But God will vindicate us publicly.

(2) God does delegate authority to human leaders. Rebelling against godly human authority is very sinful.

Numbers 17: Aaron’s Budding Staff

This is the third time that God had authenticated Aaron’s leadership. It’s interesting that the people didn’t learn the lesson after the massive plagues and the earth swallowing up the rebels. Instead, they learn the lesson from a simple staff.

The test

(17:1-3) God further vindicates Aaron’s priesthood. He sets up a test where each of the twelve tribes write down their name on a staff, representing their tribe. Aaron would write his own name on the staff to represent the tribe of Levi (v.3).

(17:4) Moses collected the staffs and placed them in the Holy of Holies—right in front of the Ark of the Covenant.[39]

(17:5-7) The staff which sprouted would be the one that demonstrated God’s choice of priesthood. The entire purpose of this test was to silence the grumblers in Israel, showing (again!) that Aaron’s leadership should not be questioned. After all, a dead staff cannot produce life, and this would require a miracle on God’s behalf.

The outcome of the test

(17:8) The staff didn’t just sprout, but it budded and produced almonds! This was over and beyond what we would expect—similar to God’s vindication of Elijah (cf. 1 Kings 18:38).

(17:9-11) Each leader of each tribe must have hung his head as he took back his staff. But God kept Aaron’s staff in the Ark—along with the Law (Ex. 25:16) and the manna (Ex. 16:33-34). This was testimony that the people had rebelled and grumbled against God’s leadership, moral direction, and provision (cf. Heb. 9:4ff). The same is true of sinful people like us today. Allen comments, “Should anyone of a later age dare to question the unique and holy place of the Aaronic priests in the service of the Lord, this memorial of God’s symbolic choice of Aaron would stand poignantly in opposition to his audacity.”[40]

(17:12-13) The people took the lesson. What had started as grumbling and brazen rebellion ended in fear of God’s holiness and their own sin. Wenham comments, “At last they understand, they need someone to draw near to God to make atonement for their sins on their behalf.”[41] The next two chapters outline how to approach God properly.

Concluding insights

This shows that we don’t get to decide which leader we want to follow. We don’t create leaders, but only recognize whom God has chosen.

Number 18: Strict Rules for Tabernacle Worship

(18:1-7) The priests had the responsibility to serve at the altar, but the rest of the people could not approach it. Breaking the rules was a capital offense (v.3, 7).

(18:8-19) The priests were given their portion from the sacrifices to live on. Remember, the priests didn’t own any land (v.20), so they relied on a portion of the people’s offerings. The firstborn of human or animals belonged to the Levites. But they were redeemed for a certain amount of money (vv. 15-16).

(18:20-24) The Levites took a tithe (10%) to live off of. In return, the Levites would run the sacrifices. Since there were twelve tribes, a tithe was enough to live off of. They needed to live by faith in the provision from the other Israelites.

(18:25-32) The Levites had to tithe the tithe that they received. This showed that they also were financial givers.

Summary: God places the responsibility of the Tabernacle worship on Aaron’s descendents and the Levites (18:1-7). God goes on to explain how the Levites will get a portion of the offerings for themselves. They were fed from the offerings, because they didn’t have land of their own (v.20). Moreover, he points out that

Numbers 19: The Red Heifer

(19:1-10) The red heifer was a perfect and unused animal. This would show that the Israelites had to sacrifice their best. Allen comments, “The tendency of people presented with commands to kill animals in ritual worship would be to use that occasion to get rid of animals that are not worth the demands of their feed and care. But the demands of the Lord are quite specific: only the very finest animals, ones that ordinarily would be used for the improvement of the herd, are acceptable for him. This means a person had to have sufficient faith to believe that if one used his finest animals for sacrifice, the other animals would still improve the herd and flock—or that it would not matter, because obedience was more important than anything else.”[42]

(19:11-20) The Israelites became temporarily ceremonially unclean if they touched a dead body. They were cleansed with the ashes of the red heifer (v.17).

Numbers 20: Moses Strikes the Rock

 

Death of Miriam

(20:1) The people seemed to make Kadesh their home base during their time in the wilderness (Deut. 1:46). Later, we read that Aaron had died in the 40th year (Num. 38:38). So, considerable time has passed between the earlier events and the deaths of Miriam and Aaron.[43]

Not much is mentioned about the death of Miriam—perhaps because of her rebellion against Moses’ authority (Num. 12:1).

The people complain for water

(20:2-8) This is a repetition of the people complaining for water after the Exodus (Ex. 17:1-3). They accuse Moses. But instead of calling for his death, they call for their own (v.3). Again, Moses and Aaron fall down on their faces in front of God (Num. 14:5; 16:4, 22, 45).

Interestingly, God isn’t angry with the people. They must have really needed water being in the desert. Moses came with his staff in hand—the same one that he used to turn the Nile River to blood (Ex. 7:20) and bring water from the rock (Ex. 17:5). However, God tells Moses to speak to the rock—not to strike it, as he did before.

Moses’ sin: anger, unbelief, and self-effort

(20:9-10) God wasn’t as angry with the people as Moses was. God didn’t bring judgment on the people’s grumbling, but Moses calls them names (“rebels”) and using sarcasm. Moses was representing God as angrier than he actually is. The psalmist describes this event as well: “[Moses] spoke rashly with his lips” (Ps. 106:33).

(20:11) Next, Moses disobeys God. Instead of speaking to the rock as instructed, he strikes the Rock. Perhaps, Moses fell back into what had worked in the past (Ex. 17:5), rather than following what God was telling him in the present.

Notice, that he strikes the rock “twice.” Perhaps, God let Moses strike it once with a dull thud. Moses looked around (embarrassed!) and struck it again. He may have known right then that he had messed up, as all the people were looking on. It may have been that God didn’t allow him to enter the Promised Land because he was falling back on old methods (striking the rock), rather than trusting in God’s directions (speaking to the rock).

(20:12) Note that both Moses and Aaron are judged in this moment (“the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, ‘Because you [plural] have not believed me,’” cf. v.24). Clearly faith was the key to entering the Promised Land (“Because you have not believed me”).

(20:13) Meribah means “strife” or “quarreling.”[44] This name was used earlier regarding the first rebellion 40 years earlier (Ex. 17:7), along with Massah (“testing”).

Trying to pass through Edom

(20:14-17) Moses diplomatically reaches out to the king of Edom before crossing his land. The Edomites come from Esau, so Moses may have thought that there was a good chance that this king would be friendly to his Jewish “brothers.” Moses shares about their hardships and promises not to take anything from the land. Moses assumes that they know of their troubles (“you know…” v.14).

(20:18-22) The king of Edom refused to allow them to pass through. His response is “unusually harsh” to say the least. He threatens military attack if the Israelites even try to pass through the land. Later, God doesn’t want the Israelites to take the land of Edom (Deut. 2:4-6), because they were the Israelites’ “brothers” (Deut. 23:7).

The death of Aaron

(20:23-29) Moses now watches the death of his other sibling Aaron. God instructs Moses to take Aaron and his son Eleazar to Mount Hor[45] to make the succession of the priesthood official. The people (and surely Moses as well) wept over Aaron for 30 days.

Concluding insights

This is a chapter of death: the death of Miriam, the death of Aaron, and the death of Moses’ hope to enter the Promised Land.

It’s interesting that Aaron was judged for this event, rather than the Golden Calf (Ex. 32).

Numbers 21: Brazen Serpent

Defeating the Canaanite king of Arad

(21:1) Arad is well-known to be Tell Arad about 20 miles south of Hebron.[46] This likely refers to the region—rather than the city—of Arad.[47]

(21:2) See our earlier article, “What about the Canaanite Genocide?”

(21:3) Hormah is a noun form of the verb “utterly destroy” (ḥāram).[48]

More complaining

(21:4-5) The people started to complain right in front of the Red Sea—the place where God had earlier saved them. How quickly they had forgotten the power and protection of God. Here, they complain about his provision of manna, calling it “miserable food.” God referred to this as “food from heaven” (Ps. 78:24). The people’s complaints were ongoing and more acute. Allen rightly comments, “Rarely does a complaining person become milder in his complaints. Finally, complaining becomes self-destructive.”[49]

God’s judgment

(21:6) The “fiery serpents” were not snakes that were literally on fire. The “fire” was “in their venom.”[50] The “inflammation” of their bites led them to be called “fiery.”[51]

The bronze serpent

(Num. 21:4-9) How does the story of the brazen serpent prefigure Jesus? (cf. Jn. 3:14-15)

(21:7-9) Moses intercedes for the people, and God tells him to build a fiery snake.

Why would God tell Moses to create a snake? Not only are snakes normally feared by people, but this was also the very curse that God was bringing against them. Moreover, Satan is personified by a “serpent” earlier in the Pentateuch (Gen. 3), and the Israelites were told to treat them as “detestable” (Lev. 11:41-42). This seems like an odd sculpture to create.

Just as the people had rejected the manna as “miserable food,” the people in Jesus’ day rejected his “bread” as a stumbling block (Jn. 6:48-51). Similarly, just as the snake was a symbol of God’s curse, Jesus was cursed by God on our behalf. We have to “look” at the Curse-Bearer to be healed (Gal. 3:10-13).

This is the last recorded time that Israel grumbled about God’s provision in the Wilderness.[52]

Ironically, King Hezekiah had to destroy this Bronze Serpent, because the people of his day had begun to worship it! (2 Kin. 18:4).

(21:10-12) The people continue to move near and around the Canaanite territory.

(21:13-15) This poem or song from the non-extant “the Book of the Wars of the Lord” was written during this time.

Water

(21:16-18) At the sight of this well, the people wrote a new song. “Beer” (habbeʾēr)in Hebrew means “well.”[53] Allen thinks that this song is less a praise song, and probably closer to simply “popular music.”[54] They may have sung this as they dug the well.

(21:19-20) Later, this becomes the spot of Moses’ final moments on Earth (Deut. 34:1), as he gazed in on the Promised Land.

Fighting Sihon—the Amorite king

(21:21-23) Moses asked for peace, but Sihon brought war.

(21:24-26) If Sihon had defeated Moab and Israel had defeated Sihon, then what will happen when Israel fights Moab?

(21:27-30) The Amorites may have originally used this song against the Moabites.[55] If so, this would have been terrifying for the Moabites to hear coming from the defeaters of the Amorites.

(21:31) This shows the signs that Israel would take over Canaan when God gave them the green light.

Fighting Og—the king of Bashan

(21:32-35) Og was a man of extreme height and strength (Deut. 3:11). It’s no wonder that God tells the people to take courage to defeat him and his army. Later authors looked back on this event frequently. It must have been a serious, supernatural victory (Josh. 2:10; Neh. 9:22; Ps. 135:11; 136:19-20).

Concluding insights

We often overlook grumbling as a minor sin that everyone falls into, so it really isn’t that bad. But God doesn’t view it this way. Grumbling will persist if we do not confront it with gratitude.

The Israelites had to turn their focus off of their fears and circumstances (i.e. the snakes, the venom, etc.), and place it on God’s provision of salvation (i.e. the Bronze Serpent). Similarly, we need to get the focus off of our own fears and get it onto God where it belongs.

Numbers 22: Balaam the rotten prophet

Summary: The Israelites camp right across from Jericho, which they will later capture under Joshua’s reign (Josh. 6). Balak—the Moabite king—watches how much the Israelites had been having victory across the land (v.2). So, he tries to hire Balaam to prophesy against Israel (vv.5-6). Balaam was confronted by God not to take money to curse the people. However, God eventually tells Balaam to follow the emissaries to visit Balak, but God also told Balaam to listen to what he had to say (v.20). Immediately afterward, God gets angry that Balaam went to visit Balak (v.21). Balaam’s donkey tries to stop Balaam three times, because it can see the angel of the Lord in their path. After a brief interaction between the donkey and Balaam, the angel of the Lord tells Balaam that he would’ve killed him, if the donkey hadn’t stopped him. There is a certain irony that the donkey has more spiritual insight than the prophet Balaam. The angel repeats that Balaam is only supposed to speak what he is commanded (v.35), and Balaam concurs with this (v.38). But will he follow through?

Balak—king of Moab

(22:1) The people are somewhat of a “victory march”[56] across the outskirts of Canaan. They camp in the plains of Moab right across from Jericho. Joshua would later take them into the Promised Land and conquer Jericho.

The place “Amaw” is mentioned in a 15th century BC inscription from Alalakh, and it can be placed somewhere in Syria.[57]

(22:2-3) Commentators state that the terms “greatly afraid” and “sick with fear” refer to “such violent emotion within that it may provoke one to vomit.”[58] Balak must’ve thought that Israel was coming to attack him and steal his land, when in reality they were aiming for Canaan.

(22:4) We might gloss over the fact that Moab is colluding with Midian, but this later comes back to bite Israel in chapter 25.

Balaam—the evil counterpart to Moses

(22:5-7) Balaam was an internationally known pagan prophet. Inscriptions about him have survived in Aramaic into the 6th century BC,[59] which may demonstrate his popularity.

Instead of attacking Israel with an army, the Moabites and Midianites combine their resources to pay for pagan divination. They must have sensed that the Israelites had a spiritual advantage from their deity (Yahweh), and they tried to combat it with an occult curse.

(22:8-11) A beginning reader might believe that Balaam is favorable to God by reading the narrative, but the Bible gives a universal condemnation of Balaam (Num. 31:8, 16; Deut. 23:3-6; Josh 13:22; 24:9-10; Judg. 11:23-25; Neh. 13:1-3; Mic. 6:5; 2 Peter 2:15-16; Jude 11; Rev 2:14). When God spoke to Balaam, perhaps he held out hope that he could manipulate Yahweh as a local, finite deity. Allen rightly comments, “He is a pagan, foreign national whose mantic acts center on animal divination, including the dissection of animal livers, the movement of animals, and the flight of birds. He believed that he had a way with the gods, a hold on them. To him Yahweh was not the Lord of heaven but just another deity whom he might manipulate. He was in for the surprise of his life.”[60]

(22:12-21) God tells Balaam not to go with Balak’s men, and God invokes the Abrahamic Covenant (Gen. 12:1-3). Balak keeps sending more and more important dignitaries to get Balaam to come to him.

Why does God finally allow Balaam to go? After all, this seems inconsistent with his earlier commands. Allen believes that God knew Balaam’s heart was set on going, and God sent him for his own purposes of judgment.[61] This is why “God was angry” when Balaam went (v.22).

(Num. 22:21) Why does God command Balaam to go to Balak, but then, he gets angry with Balaam for going?

God confronts Balaam… and only the donkey can see him

(22:22-28) There is serious irony here: “Balaam as a bārû prophet was a specialist in animal divination. Here his animal saw what he was blind to observe… We see the prophet Balaam as a blind seer, seeing less than the dumb animal.”[62] The great Balaam was thought to be able to curse entire nations, but he is getting directions from a donkey instead. Peter confirmed that the donkey had truly spoken to Balaam (2 Pet. 2:16).

(Num. 22:28) Talking donkeys? (cf. Gen. 3:1)

(22:29) There is irony in the fact that the angel of the Lord was carrying a “sword” (v.23), but Balaam couldn’t see it.

(22:30) The donkey doesn’t speak a prophecy—only a correction to Balaam.

(22:31-33) The words “Then the Lord opened Balaam’s eyes…” is equivalent to “Then the Lord opened the mouth of the donkey…” Both were supernatural events. Allen writes, “In some ways the opening of the eyes of the pagan prophet to see the reality of the living God was the greater miracle.”[63]

The donkey stopped Balaam from facing death from the angel of the Lord. If a donkey could do this, then how fit was Balaam in being a prophet?

(22:34-35) This seems like a pseudo-repentance. Balaam is only repentant because he is facing the angel of the Lord’s sword—not the “kindness of the Lord that leads to repentance” (Rom. 2:4). The angel of the Lord demands Balaam to speak what he is told. How different this is from a pagan prophet’s typical method of operations, where he would manipulate the local deity!

(22:36-38) The fact that Balak comes out to meet Balaam shows that he has “ants in his pants” to see Balaam curse Israel. To his surprise, Balaam had switched teams—albeit temporarily.

(22:39-41) These do not seem like godly sacrifices. Perhaps, Balak wanted to push forward as if nothing had happened.

Concluding insights

It’s interesting that people get pride when God speaks through them (1 Pet. 4:11). We shouldn’t feel this, because God can speak through a donkey if he wants to!

We shouldn’t be prideful in our spiritual abilities—especially if they are not in line with God’s will and way. Balaam was a powerful diviner, but God revealed that he was a fool.

Numbers 23: Balak tries to get Balaam to curse Israel

Balak tries to get Balaam to curse Israel three times.

Attempt #1

(23:1-6) Balaam takes control, ordering King Balak what to do. The detailed and elaborate practices stand in contrast to the meticulous practices of the Israelites.[64]

There could be some significance to the repeated use of the number seven here: seven altars, seven bulls, seven rams, etc. In the ancient Near East, the number seven was used in pagan sacrifices—especially the later Babylonians.[65] Of course, the Israelites used the number seven as well in their religious practices (Lev. 8:11; 14:7, 16; 16:14, 19) and in the days of creation (Gen. 1). It could be that Balak thought that this magic number could be used against the Israelites (?).

It’s interesting that God would condescend to Balaam’s pagan sacrifice. Of course, he condescends in order to preach a message of judgment—not blessing—as the subsequent passages make clear.

Balaam’s message

(23:7-10) Balak expected Balaam to curse Israel. After all, Balak spent lots of money to hire Balaam, build altars, and sacrifices many animals. But he didn’t get what he paid for! Instead, Balaam sided with Israel.

(23:11-12) Balak is obviously angry (v.11), but Balaam states that he needs to be careful to speak what God put in his mouth (v.12). How odd for a magic manipulator of “gods” to make such a statement!

Attempt #2

(23:13-17) Balak takes Balaam over to another set of seven altars and sacrifices, and Balak encourages him to curse Israel again. But again, Balaam spoils his expectations.

(23:18-19) Balaam was a magic manipulator of “gods,” but here, he confronts the Immovable Object and the Unstoppable Force. God cannot be manipulated to change his promises or his will.

(Num. 23:19) Does this passage forbid the possibility of the incarnation?

(23:20) Far from manipulating God, Balaam learns that he needs to follow orders.

(23:21-22) Balaam observes that God is with Israel.

(23:23) Balaam admits that his magic divination is no match for Yahweh. Allen writes, “He had come to use magic, but he could not ‘get their number’ (v.10). He had come to bring a curse, but he found them blessed. He had come to bring a divination and an augury, but he found such ineffective. God is in control, and Balaam is his puppet in this Punch and Judy show.”[66]

(23:24) Israel is pictured as a lion about to devour its prey (cf. Gen. 49:9).

Balak panics

(23:25-26) Balak seems to be saying, “Call it off! Don’t do anymore! Don’t bless or curse!” He’s trying to cut his losses, but Balaam insists that he needs to bless Israel.

Attempt #3

(23:27-30) This is the third example of Balak building altars to garner a curse against Israel. Peor was a cite of Baal worship, and it will return in Numbers 25.

Concluding insights

God cannot be manipulated—even by powerful diviners or occult practitioners like Balaam. Instead, God gets the last—and only—word.

Numbers 24: Balaam blesses Israel

(24:1-2) Balaam realizes that God was pleased that he blessed Israel, and this caused him to not want to turn to divination and “omens.” When he looks out and sees the nation as a whole, God put his Spirit on him.

Balaam’s prediction

(24:3-4) This experience “opened the eyes” of Balaam to God’s reality (cf. Num. 22:15, 31).

(24:5-6) First, Balaam acknowledges the healthy status of Israel’s condition. He might be assuming that this needed to come from God.

(24:7) Second, Balaam prophesies about the future king and kingdom of Israel, and how both will be greater than the surrounding nations. The reference to Agag could refer to the future king that faced Saul (hundreds of years later). After all, God had put his Spirit on Balaam to prophesy. On the other hand, this could simply be a common name of an otherwise unknown king (similar to the repetition of the names Abimelech and Ben-Hadad). We prefer the first view, because Balaam is predicting the kingship of Israel (cf. Gen. 17:6, 16; 35:11), which wouldn’t come for hundreds of years anyway.

(24:8) Third, Balaam acknowledges that God is the redeemer and protector of Israel. He compares God to a powerful lion (v.9a, v.24).

(24:9) Again, Balaam cites the Abrahamic Covenant (Gen. 12:2-3).

Balak’s reaction

(24:10-11) Instead of cursing them three times, Balaam blessed them three times. Balak is understandably angry because he didn’t get what he paid for! He already investing money in building three sets of altars and sacrifices. Here, Balak refuses to pay Balaam another dime.

Balaam prophesies a final time

(24:12-13) Balaam tells Balak that he had been upfront with him about not cursing Israel, which is certainly true (Num. 22:18).

(24:14-16) Balaam signals that God is going to prophesy through him again about the future (“in the days to come”). This phrase can either refer to the future in general (Jer. 23:20) or to the end of history (Isa. 2:2; Dan. 8:19). Wenham[67] believes that this must refer to the end of history: For one, there must be a gap in this prophecy because it refers to the future kingship of David, which is several hundred years in the future. However, David and his line never lived up to these descriptions, and therefore, the ultimate fulfillment would be seen in the future Messiah.

(24:17) Interpreters grumble that this passage could be messianic, because it was spoken by a Pagan prophet. But Allen argues for a high view of inerrancy: “The truth of the Scripture could never be dependent on the worthiness of the writer or the personal piety of the speaker. Else we would have gradations in inspiration and shadings in trustworthiness. I say this reverently but strongly; the words of Balaam the pagan mantic, when he was speaking under the control of the Holy Spirit of God were as sure as the words of the Savior Jesus in a red-letter edition of the NT.”[68]

Jewish interpreters held these passages to be messianic. Wenham writes, “in early Jewish literature the prophecies of Balaam were often interpreted messianically. For example the Dead Sea scrolls (c. 1st century bc) take the star and the sceptre as the messiahs of Aaron and Israel, i.e. the priestly and kingly messiahs. Rabbi Akiba, hailing the leader of the second Jewish revolt (ad 132–135) as the messiah, called him Bar-Kocheba, i.e. Son of the star. Similarly the foreign nation oracles were given an eschatological interpretation. Targum Onkelos (cf. Dan. 11:30) takes 24:24 as a description of the Romans attacking Mesopotamia, while Josephus (Antiquities xiii. 6.7.) identified Asshur with the Seleucid empire of Antiochus Epiphanes.”[69]

(Num. 24:17) Does this passage predict Jesus?

(24:18-19) The prediction of the Messiah continues to describe the places that will be under his authority.

(24:20) This is a striking reversal: Amalek wanted to curse Israel, but it would face destruction instead. The Amalekites were defeated by Saul and David (1 Sam. 15:18; 30:17), and they were completely destroyed in Hezekiah’s day (1 Chron. 4:43).

(24:21-22) Asshur could refer to the “Assyrians.”[70] It could also refer to a local tribe at the time (Gen. 25:3, 18; 2 Sam. 2:9; Ps. 83:8).[71]

(24:23) Balaam affirms that the nations rise or fall by God’s sovereignty—not their own might.

(24:24) The name “Kittim” could refer to Cyprus or Rome.[72]

(24:25) At this point, there was nothing else to say. Balaam and Balak went their separate ways.

Concluding insights

Why is this account recorded in the Bible? For one, it shows how a prophet is not like an ancient Near Eastern magician. Yahweh doesn’t work that way.

You can’t twist his arm like the other deities. Balaam is killed with these Pagan kings later in the chapter: “They killed the kings of Midian along with the rest of their slain: Evi and Rekem and Zur and Hur and Reba, the five kings of Midian; they also killed Balaam the son of Beor with the sword” (Num. 31:8). Why does Balaam die in this way, if he blessed Israel? Peter considers Balaam a type of false prophets, who desire to get rich off of false teaching (2 Pet. 2:15; c.f. Jude 11; Rev. 2:14).

Numbers 25: Midian seduces Israel

The Israelites have made it to the end of their 40 year wandering. But they have one more terrible moral fall right before the end of the line. Regarding this section, Wenham writes, “The Bible startles its readers by the way it juxtaposes the brightest of revelations and the darkest of sins. The lawgiving at Sinai was followed by the making of the golden calf (Exod. 20–32), the ordination of Aaron by the disobedience of his sons (Lev. 8–10), the covenant with David by the Bathsheba affair (2 Sam. 7–12), Palm Sunday by Good Friday. Here we have another classic example of this pattern, the wonderful prophecies of Balaam are succeeded by the great apostasy at Peor. In this way Scripture tries to bring home to us the full wonder of God’s grace in face of man’s incorrigible propensity to sin.”[73]

Remember that Paul tells us that these things were written as warnings for us today not to fall into immorality and idol worship (1 Cor. 10:6-8).

Moab seduces Israel

(25:1) Shittim was nearby Jericho (Num. 33:49; Josh. 2:1), so this was right on the border of Canaan.

Regarding the “harlotry,” Wenham writes, “Sacred prostitution was a common feature of Canaanite religion; through it some of the Israelites were allured to participate in pagan sacrifices and bowed down to their gods.”[74]

Later we learn that Balaam was responsible for inciting this sexual-religious worship of Baal (Num. 31:8, 16). In other words, Balaam knew that he could curse Israel, but he could get Israel to curse itself. Here, the women of Moab did what he men could not.

(25:2) Elsewhere, we read that the people “ate sacrifices offered to the dead” (Ps. 106:28).

(25:3) Peor was a name of the mountain where the Jews had been attacked before by the Midianites. Here, the people “joined” or “yoked” (ṣāma) themselves with Baal—the fertility God (cf. Deut. 22:10; 2 Cor. 6:14).

(25:4-5) God commanded a corporate capital punishment for the men who participated.

(Num. 25:5, 8) Why is this punishment so severe?

The zeal of Phineas

(25:6) The “weeping” could refer to (1) Moses and the godly men or to (2) the couple who were fornicating. The NIV and NLT understand this to refer to Moses and the godly people weeping. As they were weeping over Israel’s sin, this couple was engaging in immorality right in front of them. Allen rights, “What they did was before Moses, in his presence—under his nose! And what they did was to engage in a sexual embrace in the manner of Baal worship—right at the entrance of the holy Tent of God!”[75]

(25:7-8) Phineas was the grandson of Aaron (Ex. 6:25). While everyone else was in shocked silence, Phineas took action, stabbing them in one stroke through the bellies of both of them. The fact that Phineas could do this shows, in part, that the couple was completely unaware of their surroundings—being totally focused on fornication. If Phineas didn’t take action, this theological and ethical corruption would’ve continued. Thus, we read that “the plague on the sons of Israel was checked” (cf. v.11).

(25:9) Before Phineas took action, God judged 24,000 of the Israelites.

(Num. 25:9) Were there 23,000 or 24,000 slain (cf. 1 Cor. 10:8)?

(25:10-11) God speaks to show that he was siding with Phineas.

(25:12-13) God confirms his covenant with the priesthood of Aaron. Allen writes, “In the case of Phinehas, he was already chosen by God; but in his action, God’s covenant with him is confirmed.”[76]

(25:14) Phineas had killed a man of reputation in Israel. Regardless of the man’s prominence, Phineas carried out justice.

(25:15) “Cozbi” means “my lie” or “deception.”[77]

Declaration of war against Midian

(25:16-18) God calls on Moses to declare war against the Midianites.

Numbers 26: The second census

(26:1-4) Since the plague took the lives of 24,000 people, God told Moses and Eleazar to take another census before the people went into Canaan.

(26:5-11) This is the census for the tribe of Reuben.

(26:12-14) This is the census for the tribe of Simeon.

(26:15-18) This is the census for the tribe of Gad.

(26:19-22) This is the census for the tribe of Judah.

(26:23-25) This is the census for the tribe of Issachar.

(26:26-27) This is the census for the tribe of Zebulun.

(26:28-34) This is the census for the tribe of Manasseh.

(26:35-37) This is the census for the tribe of Ephraim.

(26:38-41) This is the census for the tribe of Benjamin.

(26:42-43) This is the census for the tribe of Dan.

(26:44-47) This is the census for the tribe of Asher.

(26:48-50) This is the census for the tribe of Naphtali.

(26:51-56) The total number came to 601,730. The larger tribes would receive a larger inheritance.

(26:57-62) The Levites didn’t own any land, so they were numbered separately.

(26:63-65) These are the numbers of those who survived after the original generation had died off in the 40 year wilderness wandering.

Numbers 27: Women’s Rights

The daughters of Zelophehad

(27:1-2) The women traced their ancestry to Zelophehad (in the tribe of Manasseh). It would’ve taken a lot of “courage, conviction, and faith”[78] for these women to approach the leaders of Israel. They walked right up to the tent of meeting, which was usually dominated by men.

(27:3-4) The women agreed with the judgment that fell on their father (“he died in his own sin”). They also had faith that the Israelites would take over the land; otherwise, they wouldn’t have come forward at all.

(27:5-11) This shows how Moses would judge cases: He would listen to the case, and then he would bring it to God. In this patriarchal society, it was not usual for women to receive the inheritance—only the men. In this case, the women asked for land for themselves (v.4), but God gave them land to inherit for their children—just like men would inherit it.

This individual “court case” set up a legal precedent for all of Israel (v.11). Wenham writes, “From a legal point of view the case of the daughters of Zelophehad is extremely interesting. It shows how many of the laws in the Bible came to be enacted. When a problem arose without previous precedent, it was referred to Moses, who then sought the Lord’s direction. The decision then became a precedent for future similar cases (cf. 15:32–36; Lev. 24:10–23). It seems likely that many of the case laws in the Old Testament originated in a similar way.”[79]

Moses glimpses the land

(27:12-14) God lets Moses get a sneak peek of the land, but he is not allowed to enter, because of his sin at Meribah (Num. 20). What was Moses feeling when he looked out at the land? It must have been a bittersweet experience. Apparently, Moses pled with God to enter, but God would not entertain the conversation (Deut. 3:23-26).

Incidentally, Moses doesn’t enter Israel until he is seen there with Jesus Christ! (Mt. 17; Mk. 9; Lk. 9)

Moses asks God for a successor: Joshua

(27:15-17) Moses starts to think of the people, and their need for leadership. Moses doesn’t pick his own heir, or insert his son into the role. Instead, he asks God to replace him.

The theme of Israel as sheep without a shepherd is repeated throughout the Bible (1 Kgs 22:17; Ezek. 34:5; Matt. 9:36).

(27:18-23) Joshua is an obvious choice. He had studied under Moses since he was a youth (Num. 11:28), and he had incredible faith (Num. 13-14). He was also led by the Holy Spirit (v.18). Moses laid hands on him publicly to show that there was no mistake as to who the next leader was. Later, God himself confirmed Joshua as the next leader through the cloud of his presence (Deut. 31:14-15, 23).

Number 28: Offerings, the Passover, and the First fruits

(28:1-8) This section describes daily offerings.

(28:9-10) This section describes weekly offerings.

(28:11-15) This section describes monthly offerings.

(28:16-25) This section describes the yearly Passover. See comments on Exodus 12:1-22.

(28:26-31) This section describes the offering of the first fruits. See “Foreshadowing in the Festival System.”

One of the themes that comes up throughout this section is the importance of rest. Repeatedly, we see that these feasts and festivals were supposed to accompanied by taking time off work.

Numbers 29: Feasts and festivals

(29:1-6) This was a festival for blowing trumpets and making additional sacrifices.

(29:7-11) This was a festival for the Day of Atonement. See “Foreshadowing in the Festival System.”

(29:12-40) This was the Feast of Booths.

Numbers 30: Rules for Vows

(30:1-2) The people should be careful about making vows. After all, if they made a vow, they needed to follow through with it (cf. Deut. 23:21-23; Eccl. 5:1-7)

(30:3-5) Young women (who lived at home) could have their vows overruled by their fathers. Allen writes, “We may presume that this and the following law were designed for the protection of the woman, who in ancient Near Eastern society was subject to strong societal pressures, some of which would leave her without defense.”[80]

(30:6-8) Likewise, husbands could overrule the vows of their new wives. This was a “protective clause”[81] to keep new husbands from having to fulfill vows that they never agreed to.

(30:9) Widows or divorcees had to keep their vows.

(30:10-16) The silence of the husband meant that he implicitly agreed with the vow.

Numbers 31: Destruction of the Midianites

Attack on Midian

(31:1-2) The attack on Midian was not initiated by Moses, but by God. The word “vengeance” is literally “avenge an avenging”[82] for emphasis.

(31:3-4) Moses raised a sizeable army (12,000 men total).

(31:5-6) Phineas is specifically mentioned, because of his zeal in the earlier account (Num. 25:8).

(31:7) For insights into the ethical dimensions of this war, see “What about the Canaanite Genocide?” However, in addition, notice that the Midian men must have stayed to fight, rather than flee. This implies a hard core remnant of Midianite soldiers who refused to repent from attacking Israel—not an innocent people group.

(31:8) “Zur” was the father of “Cozbi,” who was the woman who seduced one of the men in Israel. It might have been the case that Zur prostituted his daughter to seduce the Israelite men.

“Balaam” faced capital punishment because Balaam was the mastermind behind the Midianite seduction of Israel (v.16). As we noted earlier, Balaam knew that he couldn’t curse Israel, but he devised a plan for them to curse themselves.

(31:9) The (innocent) women and the children were spared.

(31:10-12) The Israelites demolished the cities and plundered the goods. This new generation was “not like their parents who could not win wars against their enemies; with only a small fraction of the entire army, they had been able to win a great victory.”[83]

(31:13-18) Moses and Eleazar the new high priest rebuke the men for sparing the seducing women and the young male children (!). The reason for the women being killed is because they seduced the Israelites into idolatry—a serious sin.

(Num. 31:18) Why were the virgins spared from being killed?

Purification for the soldiers

(31:19-20) The soldiers were unclean for a week because they had contact with dead bodies (Num. 19:11-13).

(31:21-24) Eleazar—the newly inaugurated high priest—had the people ceremonially clean the war goods.

The sharing of the spoils of war

(31:25-54) Some of the spoils went to the sacrificial offerings (v.29). Some went directly to the people (v.42ff). The rest was given to the soldiers who had fought in the war (v.53).

Numbers 32: Reuben and Gad came to Mannaseh

The Reubenites and Gadites want to stay behind and settle

(32:1-5) The Reubenites and Gadites asked Moses for land in the Transjordanian region (Gilead). Wenham writes, “These high lands (c. 2500 ft) overlooking the Jordan valley enjoy a good rainfall and are therefore very fertile.”[84]

The names reverse in order from verse 1 to verse 2, which may show that they both had this idea—not necessarily one group prompting the other. With all of the flocks taken from the Midianites, these two tribes wanted to settle down.

This request seems polite and gracious, but it was actually really cowardly and faithless. They were politely and graciously being unbelieving of God’s promise to inherit Canaan! While their fathers had been openly rebellious, these men were being “nice” but nonetheless faithless. Allen writes that it was as if they were saying, “We have ours, good luck with yours.”[85]

Moses rebukes them

(32:6-7) Moses was probably angry because (1) these tribes were being cowardly, (2) these tribes could be “discouraging” the others from moving forward, and (3) these tribes didn’t want God’s promise, while Moses wanted to inherit the promise, but God had blocked him. Most likely, Moses was angry that the tribes would repeat history and not inherit the land like their fathers had failed to do. In fact, many of the words in this section (i.e. “cross over” “go over” “pass through” “disobeying” “children”) are similar to the language used in the first failure at Kadesh Barnea (Num. 13-14).[86]

(32:8-13) Moses reminds them of the faithlessness at Kadesh Barnea. Allen comments, “This is the hidden horror in Numbers. What if the new generation is no better than their fathers and mothers? Will God then give a third generation an opportunity? Will God keep waiting until he finally has a people who will act on his word? Or is it possible that God can be spurned one time too many, and the Land of Promise will revert to its present, wicked inhabitants? These may be the strong emotions that course through the mind of Moses as he preaches this homily.”[87]

(32:14-15) Moses directly compares these men to their faithless fathers, calling them a “brood of sinful men” (cf. Mt. 3:7; 12:34). How will the Reubenites and Gadites respond to this rebuke?

The response of the Reubenites and Gadites

(32:16-19) These two tribes tell Moses that they are ready to fight for the land, but they want to settle in this region. It’s as if they are saying, “We will fight with you to take over the land, but we want to come back here to live.”

Moses’ response

(32:20-22) Moses seeks a compromise: If the men come to fight alongside their brothers, then he will allow them to come back and settle in Transjordan.

(32:23) However, Moses is cautious of their motives: If they wimp out at the last minute, Moses warns them that their “sin will find you out.”

(32:24-30) The two tribes promise to fight (v.25), and Moses allows for this. Moses tells Eleazar and Joshua about this agreement (v.28), because he knows that he himself will not be alive when the war with the Canaanites finally happens.

(32:31-32) Again, the two tribes agree to fight the war in Canaan.

(32:33-42) The rest of the chapter details the places that the Reuben, Gad, and Manasseh would have for their inheritance.

Concluding insights

The Reubenites and Gadites were willing to “settle” for what God had promised them (note the pun). Similarly, believers will settle for what God has promised them—not taking up his promises in faith.

There is an openly rebellious way to say No to God, and there is a polite and gracious way. But no matter how we say it, it is still saying No!

Numbers 33: Summary of their Exodus from Egypt

(33:1-2) Moses recaps (and writes down?) the entire story of the Exodus. The reason for thinking that these were written down is because God told him to “record” the places mentioned.

(33:3-4) The plagues of Egypt were an execution of judgment on the firstborn, but also the “gods” of Egypt. This was a theological demonstration.

(33:5-38) Moses gives a detailed description of the various places that they travelled. Apparently, they travelled all over, but returned to Kadesh Barnea, where Aaron died (after 40 years of Wandering).

(33:39) Aaron lived to the age of 123 years (!). Aaron was three years older than Moses (Ex. 7:7).

(33:40) The Canaanites knew that the Israelites were coming.

(33:41-49) Moses describes more of their travel before they entered the Promised Land under Joshua.

(33:50-53) When the Israelites entered the land, they were to destroy all of the false idols (cf. v.4).

(33:54) The Israelites were to use lots to divide up the land, so it would be fair.

(33:55-56) This language of “drive out” implies that the Canaanites could freely leave.

Numbers 34: Geographical boundaries of their new land

(34:1-5) This describes the southern border.

(34:6) This describes the eastern border.

(34:7-9) This describes the northern border.

(34:11-12) This describes the southern border.

(34:13-14) The two and a half tribes (Reuben, Gad, Manasseh) had already received their inheritance in Giliead in the Transjordanian region.

(34:15-29) Moses lists the leaders of each tribe.

Numbers 35: Cities of refuge

(35:1-5) The Levites didn’t need land to grow crops, but they needed land for their animals and towns to live in. They received 1,000 yards outside of each town to feed their animals.

(35:6-8) The Levites received 48 towns total, and six of these would be cities of refuge. This is where a person could seek protection if they were being accused of murder.

(35:9-15) Blood feuds were common during this time. If a person was killed, the family would return and kill someone from the other family (similar to the Hatfield’s and the McCoy’s). These cities of refuge were for people who had committed unintentional manslaughter (v.15). There were three towns on each side of the Jordan, so that the people could find close protection (v.14). The accused person would stand trial (v.12), rather than face vigilante justice.

(35:16-24) However, if a person was guilty of murder, then they would face capital punishment. The accuser had to kill the person that they accused (v.19). However, there were stringent rules on how the “avenger” could execute the murderer.

(35:25) People could flee to cities of refuge for the lifespan of the high priest, but no longer.

(35:26-30) The person who seeks protection in a city of refuge needed to stay in the city; otherwise, it was legal for them to be killed.

(35:31-34) This may imply that a ransom could be used for the other laws, but certainly not for murder, because the life of a person is invaluable.

Numbers 36: Zelophehad’s Daughters and Inheritance

(36:1-4) This explains the rights of women in holding land. It is an addendum to chapter 27, regarding Zelophehad’s daughters.

(36:5-12) The women had to marry within their family tribe. But as the NET note states, the term “uncle” can have a broad semantic range. The point was to keep the land equal between the tribes, rather than allowing certain tribes to annex more and more land.

(36:13) The book ends by affirming the fact that God had been speaking through Moses. We are left with a cliffhanger as to when and how the Israelites would enter Jericho.

[1] Archer, G., Jr. (1994). A survey of Old Testament introduction (3rd. ed., p. 262). Chicago: Moody Press.

[2] Wenham, G. J. (1981). Numbers: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 4, p. 21). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[3] Archer, G., Jr. (1994). A survey of Old Testament introduction (3rd. ed., p. 265). Chicago: Moody Press.

[4] Allen, R. B. (1990). Numbers. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers (Vol. 2, p. 786). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[5] Allen, R. B. (1990). Numbers. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers (Vol. 2, p. 787). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[6] Wenham, G. J. (1981). Numbers: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 4, p. 120). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[7] Allen, R. B. (1990). Numbers. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers (Vol. 2, p. 790). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[8] Wenham, G. J. (1981). Numbers: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 4, p. 121). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[9] Allen, R. B. (1990). Numbers. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers (Vol. 2, p. 793). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[10] Allen, R. B. (1990). Numbers. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers (Vol. 2, p. 794). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[11] Allen, R. B. (1990). Numbers. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers (Vol. 2, p. 795). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[12] Allen, R. B. (1990). Numbers. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers (Vol. 2, p. 795). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[13] Allen, R. B. (1990). Numbers. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers (Vol. 2, p. 797). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[14] Allen, R. B. (1990). Numbers. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers (Vol. 2, p. 798). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[15] Wenham, G. J. (1981). Numbers: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 4, p. 125). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[16] Allen, R. B. (1990). Numbers. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers (Vol. 2, p. 797). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[17] Allen, R. B. (1990). Numbers. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers (Vol. 2, p. 805). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[18] Allen, R. B. (1990). Numbers. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers (Vol. 2, p. 806). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[19] Francis Schaeffer, Joshua and the Flow of Biblical History (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2004), 16.

[20] Allen, R. B. (1990). Numbers. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers (Vol. 2, p. 809). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[21] Wenham, G. J. (1981). Numbers: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 4, p. 133). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[22] Allen, R. B. (1990). Numbers. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers (Vol. 2, p. 810). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[23] Wenham, G. J. (1981). Numbers: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 4, p. 134). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[24] Wenham, G. J. (1981). Numbers: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 4, p. 135). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[25] Wenham, G. J. (1981). Numbers: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 4, p. 135). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[26] Allen, R. B. (1990). Numbers. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers (Vol. 2, p. 815). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[27] Wenham, G. J. (1981). Numbers: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 4, p. 136). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[28] Allen, R. B. (1990). Numbers. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers (Vol. 2, p. 819). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[29] Allen, R. B. (1990). Numbers. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers (Vol. 2, p. 820). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[30] Wenham, G. J. (1981). Numbers: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 4, p. 138). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[31] Allen, R. B. (1990). Numbers. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers (Vol. 2, p. 821). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[32] Allen, R. B. (1990). Numbers. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers (Vol. 2, p. 824). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[33] Allen, R. B. (1990). Numbers. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers (Vol. 2, p. 829). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[34] Wenham, G. J. (1981). Numbers: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 4, p. 146). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[35] Allen, R. B. (1990). Numbers. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers (Vol. 2, p. 835). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[36] Allen, R. B. (1990). Numbers. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers (Vol. 2, p. 835). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[37] Allen, R. B. (1990). Numbers. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers (Vol. 2, p. 843). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[38] Allen, R. B. (1990). Numbers. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers (Vol. 2, p. 844). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[39] Allen, R. B. (1990). Numbers. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers (Vol. 2, p. 847). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[40] Allen, R. B. (1990). Numbers. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers (Vol. 2, p. 848). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[41] Wenham, G. J. (1981). Numbers: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 4, p. 156). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[42] Allen, R. B. (1990). Numbers. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers (Vol. 2, pp. 858–859). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[43] Wenham, G. J. (1981). Numbers: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 4, pp. 167–168). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[44] Allen, R. B. (1990). Numbers. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers (Vol. 2, p. 869). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[45] We are uncertain which mountain this refers to. Wenham, G. J. (1981). Numbers: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 4, p. 172). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[46] Allen, R. B. (1990). Numbers. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers (Vol. 2, p. 874). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[47] Wenham, G. J. (1981). Numbers: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 4, p. 174). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[48] Allen, R. B. (1990). Numbers. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers (Vol. 2, p. 874). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[49] Allen, R. B. (1990). Numbers. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers (Vol. 2, p. 876). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[50] Allen, R. B. (1990). Numbers. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers (Vol. 2, p. 876). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[51] Wenham, G. J. (1981). Numbers: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 4, p. 176). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[52] Wenham, G. J. (1981). Numbers: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 4, p. 176). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[53] Allen, R. B. (1990). Numbers. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers (Vol. 2, p. 880). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[54] Allen, R. B. (1990). Numbers. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers (Vol. 2, p. 881). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[55] Allen, R. B. (1990). Numbers. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers (Vol. 2, p. 883). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[56] Allen, R. B. (1990). Numbers. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers (Vol. 2, p. 885). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[57] Wenham, G. J. (1981). Numbers: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 4, p. 191). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[58] Allen, R. B. (1990). Numbers. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers (Vol. 2, p. 886). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[59] Allen, R. B. (1990). Numbers. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers (Vol. 2, p. 887). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[60] Allen, R. B. (1990). Numbers. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers (Vol. 2, p. 888). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[61] Allen, R. B. (1990). Numbers. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers (Vol. 2, p. 889). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[62] Allen, R. B. (1990). Numbers. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers (Vol. 2, p. 893). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[63] Allen, R. B. (1990). Numbers. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers (Vol. 2, p. 894). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[64] Allen, R. B. (1990). Numbers. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers (Vol. 2, p. 895). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[65] Wenham, G. J. (1981). Numbers: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 4, p. 193). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[66] Allen, R. B. (1990). Numbers. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers (Vol. 2, p. 902). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[67] Wenham, G. J. (1981). Numbers: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 4, p. 200). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[68] Emphasis his. Allen, R. B. (1990). Numbers. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers (Vol. 2, p. 909). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[69] Wenham, G. J. (1981). Numbers: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 4, pp. 205–206). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[70] Allen, R. B. (1990). Numbers. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers (Vol. 2, p. 912). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[71] Wenham, G. J. (1981). Numbers: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 4, p. 204). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[72] Allen, R. B. (1990). Numbers. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers (Vol. 2, p. 913). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[73] Wenham, G. J. (1981). Numbers: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 4, p. 206). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[74] Wenham, G. J. (1981). Numbers: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 4, p. 208). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[75] Allen, R. B. (1990). Numbers. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers (Vol. 2, p. 919). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[76] Allen, R. B. (1990). Numbers. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers (Vol. 2, p. 922). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[77] Allen, R. B. (1990). Numbers. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers (Vol. 2, p. 923). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[78] Allen, R. B. (1990). Numbers. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers (Vol. 2, p. 942). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[79] Wenham, G. J. (1981). Numbers: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 4, p. 215). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[80] Allen, R. B. (1990). Numbers. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers (Vol. 2, p. 959). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[81] Allen, R. B. (1990). Numbers. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers (Vol. 2, p. 960). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[82] Allen, R. B. (1990). Numbers. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers (Vol. 2, p. 962). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[83] Allen, R. B. (1990). Numbers. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers (Vol. 2, p. 965). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[84] Wenham, G. J. (1981). Numbers: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 4, p. 238). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[85] Allen, R. B. (1990). Numbers. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers (Vol. 2, p. 976). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[86] Allen, R. B. (1990). Numbers. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers (Vol. 2, p. 978). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[87] Allen, R. B. (1990). Numbers. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers (Vol. 2, p. 978). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.