Numbers Graphics

Numbers Time

 Joseph diesSlavery in Egypt Exodus from Egypt  Ten Commandments
First census  First spy missionWilderness wanderings Second census, Balaam prophesies  Joshua appointed, Canaan enteredJudges begin to rule United kingdom under Saul 
 1805 B.C
(1640 B.C)

Vital statistics

 Purpose:  To tell the story of how Israel prepared to enter the Promised Land, how they sinned and were punished, and how they prepared to try again. 
 Author:  Moses
 Original audience: The people of Israel
 Date written: 1450-1410 B.C
 Where written: In the wilderness during Israel's wanderings, somewhere in the Sinai peninsula
 Setting: The vast desert of the Sinai region, as well as lands just south and east of Canaan
 Key verses: "Not one of these people will ever enter that land. They have all seen my glorious present and the miraculous signs I performed both in Egypt and in the wilderness, but again and again they have tested me by refusing to listen to my voice. They will never even see the land I swore to give their ancestors. None of those who have treated me with contempt will ever see it" (14:22, 23)
 Key people: Moses, Aaron, Mirian, Joshua, Caleb, Eleazar, Korah, Balaam
 Key places: Mount Sinai, Promised Land (Canaan), Kadesh, Mount Hor, plains of Moab.

Understanding Redemption

Key Words
Ex. 1
Enslaved in Egypt
Man needs redemption
Ex. 5–12
Plagues on Egypt
God acts to redeem
Redemption comes through death
Passover 1
Ex. 13–19
Red Sea crossed
Murmuring on way to Sinai
Redeemed people must be godly
Ex. 20–24
Ten Commandments and case law
Redeemed people must be holy, in relationship with God, other persons
Law/God’s character
Ex. 25–40
Tabernacle built
Redeemed people need cleansing
Lev. 1–17
Sacrificial system
Priesthood system instituted
Redeemed people are to worship, draw near to God
Lev. 18–27
Regulations given
Redeemed people are to live holy lives
Num. 1–20
Camp organized
People disobey God’s voice
Redeemed people are responsible to obey God
Num. 21–36
New generation wins victories
Redeemed people who obey are under God’s protection
Deut. 1–4
Moses reviews history
Redeemed people are reminded of God’s faithfulness
Deut. 5–11
Moses teaches the meaning of Law to the new generation
Redeemed people are loved—and are to be loving
Deut. 12–26
Redeemed people are to live to please God
Godly practices are taught the new generation
Deut. 27–34
Moses calls the new generation to personal decision
Redeemed people are to be fully committed to God
Richards, L., & Richards, L. O. (1987). The teacher's commentary. Includes index. (137). Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books.

A System of Restitution

Loss or theft of an animal:
(Note that in an agricultural society, livestock were central to business, therefore restitution was high; Ex. 22:1–4)
     A beast of burden (for example, an ox) killed.
     Five times the value.
     A sheep killed.
     Four times the value.
     Stolen animal alive and returnable.
     Twice the value.
     Criminal cannot repay.
     Criminal sold to make repayment.
Animal grazes in another’s field or vineyard.
Restitution made from one’s own field or vineyard (Ex. 22:5).
Causing a crop-destroying fire on a neighbor’s land.
Full restitution of the loss (Ex. 22:6).
Theft of property being held for safekeeping.
Double remuneration of the victim (Ex. 22:7–8).
Borrowed animal dies or is injured while in use (in the owner’s absence).
Payment of full value to the owner (Ex. 22:14–15).
General crimes against persons.
Full restitution plus 20 percent, payable to the victim, next of kin, or the priest (Num. 5:7–9).
Word in life study Bible . 1997, c1996 (electronic ed.) (Nm 5.7). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

What They Claimed
The Truth of the Matter
All the people were holy. Therefore Moses and Aaron had no right to superior rank (Num. 16:3).
God called Israel to be His people, “holy to the Lord” (Deut. 7:6; 14:2). But the people were not holy in and of themselves. Furthermore, God had appointed Moses to be His representative (Ex. 3:13–15; Num. 12:6–8).
Moses and Aaron were exalting themselves over the people and acting like a couple of princes (Num. 16:3, 13).
Moses and Aaron were doing their jobs. They had not abused the people (Num. 16:15). Indeed, Moses especially had shown great patience and long suffering (11:11–15; 12:3; 16:20–22).
Egypt was a land flowing with milk and honey (Num. 16:13).
Egypt had been a tortured existence for the Israelites. The Egyptians had used them as slaves and treated them cruelly (Ex. 1:8–14; 3:7).
Moses had brought the Israelites into the wilderness to die (Num. 16:13).
Moses had brought the Israelites out of bondage in Egypt and was leading them toward the Promised Land (Ex. 15:22). There was little alternative but to travel through the desert. Yet God provided for their every need (Deut. 29:5–6).
Moses had not delivered on his promise to bring the people into a land flowing with milk and honey (Num. 16:14).
Moses had brought the people to the edge of the land at Kadesh Barnea. But the people had refused to go up and take possession, having lost faith in God (Num. 13–14).
Moses was not to be trusted. He was liable to treat Korah and his followers the way conquering rulers treated their enemies—by blinding them (Num. 16:14)
Moses had repeatedly shown himself to be trustworthy as well as open to advice and even criticism (Ex. 18:24; Lev. 10:16–20; Num. 12:9–13).
Word in life study Bible . 1997, c1996 (electronic ed.) (Nm 16.31). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

Censuses Mentioned in the Bible

By Moses and Aaron in the wilderness (Ex. 30:11–16)
     Taxation of the Israelites for resources to build the tabernacle and to remind the people of their need for atonement (see “Atonement Money” at Ex. 30:12–16).
     No numbers given, but the people gave more than enough for the tabernacle (Ex. 36:4–7).
By Moses in the Wilderness of Sinai (Num. 1:2–3)
     Assessment of Israel’s military strength in preparation for the conquest of Canaan.
     Administered by leaders from each of the tribes.
     Count totaled 603, 550, not including Levites (Num. 1:46–53).
By Moses in the plain of Moab (Num. 26:2)
     A second registration of Israel’s warriors following the wilderness experience of forty years.
     Results used to apportion land in Canaan.
     Managed by Eleazar.
     Count totaled 601, 730 (Num. 26:51)
By David (2 Sam. 24:1–10; 1 Chr. 21:1–6)
     Administered by David’s military leaders.
     Took almost two years to complete.
     Involved sin on David’s part and led to a plague (2 Sam. 24:15; 1 Chr. 21:14).
     Totals given as 1. 3 million (2 Sam. 24:9) and 1. 57 million (1 Chr. 21:5), probably due to different modes of reckoning.
By Solomon (2 Chr. 2:17–18; compare 1 Kin. 5:13–18)
     A census of aliens living under his rule.
     Patterned after David’s census.
     Used to conscript labor for the construction of the temple and other projects (1 Kin. 5:13; 9:21).
     Count totaled 153, 600 (2 Chr. 2:17).
By Ezra and Nehemiah (Ezra 2)
     Taken upon the return of Jews from exile in Babylon.
     May have been used to verify those released for the return.
     Involved a freewill offering from each family for the building of a temple (Ezra 2:68–69).
     Count totaled 42, 360 Jews, 7, 337 servants, and 200 singers (Ezra 2:64–65).
By Augustus (Luke 2:1–3)
     Ordered by the Romans at the time of Jesus’ birth (see “The Census” at Luke 2:1–3).
     Probably used to inventory resources and needs of the empire, to raise money through taxation, and to determine where to allocate troops.
     Total count not given in Scripture.
Word in life study Bible . 1997, c1996 (electronic ed.) (Gn 1.1). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

Israel's Complaining

 Complaint   Sin Result 
 11:1  About their hardships  Complained about their problems instead of praying to God about them Many were destroyed when God sent a plague of fire to punish them
 11:4  About the lack of meat Lusted after things they didn't have God sent quail; but as the people began to eat, God struck them with a plague that killed many
 14:1-4   About being stuck in the wilderness, facing the giants of the Promised Land, and wishing to return to Egypt  Openly rebelled against God's leaders and failed to trust in his promises All who complained were not allowed to enter the Promised Land, being doomed to wander in the wilderness until they died
 16:3  About Moses' and Aaron's authority and leadership  Were greedy for more power and authority the families, friends, and possessions of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram were swallowed up by the earth. Fire then burned up the 250 other men who rebelled 
 16:41  That Moses and Aaron caused the deaths of Korah and his conspirators  Blamed others for their own troubles  God began to destroy Israel with a plague. Moses and Aaron made atonement for the people, but 14,700 of them were killed
 20:2, 3  Abut the lack of water Refused to believe that God would provide as he had promised Moses sinned along with the people. For this he was barred from entering the Promised Land
 21:5  That God and Moses brought them into the wilderness  Failed to recognize that their problems were their own disobedience  God sent poisonous snakes that killed many people and seriously injured many others   

High Priests is Israel's History

Numbers 35:25-28 mentions the death of a high priest. each new high priest had to come from the lineage of Aaron. Listed here are some who are mentioned elsewhere in the Bible.

Priest  Importance Reference 
 Aaron Moses' brother and first priest. Exodus 28:1-3
 Eleazar Watched two of his brothers die in a fire from God because they did not follow God's instructions. He obeyed God and became chief leader of the Tabernacle. Leviticus 10
 Numbers 3:32
 Phinehas  Executed a young Israelite idol worshiper  and his Midianite mistress to end a plague. e was then promised that his priestly line would never end.  Numbers 25:1-15
 Ahijah  A priest during King Saul's reign. 1 Samuel 14:3
 Zadok  A faithful high priest under King David. He and Nathan anointed Solomon as the next king. 2 Samuel 8:17
 1 Kings 1:38, 39
 Ahimaaz  Carried the message of Absalom's death to King David but was apparently afraid to tell about it. 2 Samuel 18:19-29
 Azariah  High priest under King Solomon   1 King 4:2
 Azariah  High priest under Uzziah. He rebuked the king for burning incense himself. 
When Hezekiah became king, he reopened the Temple. Azariah again served as high priest. 
 2 Chronicles 26:17-21
 2 Chronicles 31:9-10
 Amariah King Jehoshaphat appointed him to judge religious disputes.   2 Chronicles 19:11
 Hilkiah  Found the Book of the Law during Josiah's reign.   2 King  22:3-13
 2 Chronicles 34:14-21
 Azariah  Probably one of the first ti return to Israel from Babylon. 1 Chronicles 9:10, 11
 Seraiah  The father of Ezra. Ezra 7:1-5

Eight words for Law

Hebrew law served as the personal and national guide for living under God's authority. It directed the moral, spiritual, ans social life. Its purpose was to produce better understanding of God and greater commitment to him.

 Word Meaning  Examples Significance 
 Torah Direction, Guidance, Instruction Exodus 24:12 Need for law in general; a command fro a higher person to a lower 
 Mitswah  Commandment, Command Genesis 26:5
 Exodus 15:26; 20:2-17
 God's specific instruction to be obeyed rather than a general law; used of the Ten Commandments 
 Mishpat Regulations, Judgment, Ordinance Genesis 18:19
 Deuteronomy 16:18; 17:9
 Refers to the civil, social, and sanitation laws
 Eduth  Testimony, Truth Exodus 25:22 refers to God's law as he deals with his people
 Huqqim  Statutes, Laws Leviticus 18:4
 Deuteronomy 4:1
 Dealt with the royal pronouncements; mainly connected to worship and feasts 
 Peqqudim Orders, Commandments  Psalms 19:8; 103:18  Used often in the Psalms to describe God's orders and assignments  
 Dabar  Word, Terms Exodus 34:28
 Deuteronomy 4:13 
 Used to indicates divine oracles or revelations of God
 Dath Royal Edict, Public Law Ezekiel 7:26
 Daniel 6:8, 12
 Refers to a public law or Jewish religious tradition

The Blueprint


  1. The first census of the nation

  2. The role of the Levites

  3. The purity of the camp

  4. Receiving guidance for the journey

 As part of their preparations, the Lord gave strict guidelines to the Israelites regarding purity in the camp. He wanted them to have a lifestyle distinct from the nations around them. He wanted them to be a holy people. Similarly, we should concern ourselves with purity in the church.


  1. The people complain

  2. Miriam and Aaron oppose Moses

  3. The scouts incite rebellion  

 The israelite were prevented from entering the Promised Land because of their unbelief. Throughout history, God’s people have continued to struggle with lack of faith. We must prevent unbelief from gaining a foothold in our lives, for it will keep us from enjoying the blessings that God has promised.


  1. Additional regulations

  2. Many leaders rebel against Moses

  3. Duties of priest and Levites

  4. The new generation

 When the people complained against God and criticized Moses, they were severely punished. Over 14,000 people died as a result of rebellion against Moses. As a result of Korah’s rebellion, Korah, Dathan, and Abiram and their households died, along with 250 false priest. Dissatisfaction and discontent, it allowed to remain in our lives, can easily lead to disaster. We should refrain from complaining and criticizing our leaders.    


  1. The story of Balaam

  2. The second census of the nation

  3. Instructions concerning offerings

  4. Vengeance on the Midianites

  5. The Transjordan tribes

  6. Camped on the plains of Moab

 The Moabites and Midianites could not get Balaam to curse Israel, but they did get him to give advice on how to draw the Israelites to idol worship. Balaan knew what was right, but he gave in to the temptation of material rewards and sinned. Knowing what is right alone is never enough. We must also do what is right.

Numbers Overview