Lessons in the Bible began in Genesis and they continue here in the Book of Numbers. The Book of Numbers is considered to be a bridge between God’s promises in Genesis and Exodus and the entrance of Israel into the Promised Land.
Why is it Called the Book of Numbers in the Bible?
In Hebrew, the name of Numbers is B’midbar which means “in the wilderness.” The very first verse says, “God spoke to Moses in the Sinai Desert.” Rabbinic literature uses the name Chumash ha-Pekudim which means “the chronicles of the censuses” or “the chronicles of the conscriptions.” Today, we take the name from the Greek Septuagint, Numbers, which refers to the census in Chapters 1 and 26.
The book of Numbers highlights the time period prior to Israel’s entrance into the Promised Land, recording the journey as they traveled eastward through the desert and south toward the Sinai Peninsula.
Why Did the Israelites Have to Kill Everyone From Other Nations?
The Old Testament in general seems to conflict with Jesus’ message of peace, turning the other cheek, and loving our enemy. As Israel travels across the desert, they receive repeated instructions from God to kill or “destroy” nations. Is God a bloody, and vengeful God?
God is a God of love and of justice. God is love. Jesus spoke repeatedly of judgment afflicting those who reject the truth. It is self-imposed judgment. The same is true in the Old Testament. The nations Israel destroyed, or more correctly drove out, were ones whose societal and religious practices were abhorrent to God – things like sacrificing children to their gods, incest, sexual immorality, and worshipping idols.
As you read, note that God warned the Israelites repeatedly to have nothing to do with these nations because the Israelites ended up doing what they did and taking up their evil and immoral lifestyles. God warned the Israelites and the other nations. When that failed consequences were self-imposed – “For what one earns from sin is death; but eternal life is what one receives as a free gift from God, in union with the Messiah Yeshua, our Lord.” Romans 6:23 CJB
In Leviticus 18, the Laws of sexual morality are explained in detail and God names the nations that are practicing sexual immorality – Egypt and Canaan for example.
You are not to act as they do in the land of Egypt, where you used to live. Nor are you to act as they do in the land of Canaan, where I am bringing you, nor are you to walk in their customs. You are to obey My ordinances and keep My statutes and walk in them—I am Adonai your God. So you are to keep My statutes and My ordinances. The one who does them will live by them. I am Adonai. Leviticus 18:3-5 TLV
God goes on to describe the acts of immorality that violate His laws of purity. He then says that the land itself has been defiled by these practices,
“Do not defile yourselves in any of these things, for in all of these ways the nations which I am casting out before you were defiled. The land has become defiled, so I will punish its iniquity, and the land will vomit out its inhabitants. Leviticus 18:24-25 TLV
God’s Justice and Mercy
Later in the Book of Numbers, the Israelites defeat a number of Kings and their people. In Chapter 21, Israel defeats the Canaanites and King Arad, after they had started the battle. Verse 3 says that “the Lord listened to the voice of Israel and delivered up the Canaanites, and they (Israel) utterly destroyed them and their cities. So the name of that place was called Hormah.” Hormah means ‘utter destruction.’
After that, they defeated King Sihon of the Ammorites. Sihon started the battle. Next, King Of of Bashan made the same mistake and the Bible says, “So they struck him and his sons and his entire army until no survivor was left to him, and they possessed his land.” Numbers 21:35 TLV
In this timeframe, this is how battles were fought. When a King decided he wanted a city belonging to another King, he simply went in and killed and/or took captive everyone who opposed him and took over the city. So the style of warfare employed by Israel was not unusual..
As you remember, God is forming an entirely new nation of people set apart as holy unto Him. He established laws, the Torah, and a way of life they must live in order to lead toward the coming Messiah. God’s purposes are eternal. Because of this, He protected Israel and did not tolerate the horrible sins of the other nations.
What do we mean by God’s Justice? God is a just God. Justice basically means – the way things should be. Prior to Christ, death was the result of sin and unrighteousness. God set a standard of moral rightness and justice leading toward Jesus.
We long for moral justice today just as people have since the beginning of time. Without justice there is chaos. When sin entered the world boundaries, laws, moral codes, and systems of justice had to be established in order to keep us from self-annihilation.
In other words, we inflict judgment on ourselves when we fail to obey the law. This is true in the natural and in the spiritual. When Jesus came, He provided a way of escape, a way of forgiveness through faith in Him. However, we still experience the consequences of our own sin and are required to live by Kingdom standards.
God’s justice is a protection for us today just as it was for the Israelites. God didn’t desire death, it was a natural outcome of human choices to practice lawlessness. God is still a just God.
Lessons from the Book of Numbers
One of the Lessons in the Bible is that God is a God of order. He had already seen how easily mankind could descend into chaos and so He set aside one nation to live in His protection. God established the Torah and over 600 other laws. Again, we must remember that the heritage of Israel was Jesus. However, God invited everyone and every nation to live this way.
Here in Numbers, He establishes order for the trip back to the Promised Land. God created a system of order for the procession in Chapter 2 and the duties of the Levites as they served in the Tabernacle in Chapters 3-4. Chapters 5-8 involve more instruction regarding being clean or unclean and God established the law of the Nazarite. Jesus was The Nazarite.
The Journey Back
In Chapter 9, the second Passover was celebrated and in Chapter 10, the journey from the Sinai began in the orderly manner God had created. By Chapter 11, the people are already murmuring against Moses and in Chapter 12 Miriam and Aaron also speak out against Moses. For this reason, God sets them apart as an example and Miriam is afflicted with leprosy. Aaron sees this and begs for mercy. Miriam is healed after 7 and they are both forgiven. But, it is a lesson in order.
The actions of Aaron and Miriam demonstrate the consequences of stepping outside of the Kingdom Standards which were there to protect them. God’s order extends to all His people throughout every generation.
A second Lesson in the Bible is found In Chapter 13 where God told Moses to send spies out into the land of Canaan, one man from every tribe. They were sent out from the land of Paran, up into the mountains Canaan to look over the place where His people would dwell. Upon returning, here is their report:
Forty days later, they returned from reconnoitering the land and went to Moshe (Moses), Aharon (Aaron) and the entire community of the people of Isra’el at Kadesh in the Pa’ran Desert, where they brought back word to them and to the entire community and showed them the fruit of the land. What they told him was this: “We entered the land where you sent us, and indeed it does flow with milk and honey — here is its fruit! However the people living in the land are fierce, and the cities are fortified and very large. Moreover, we saw the ‘Anakim (giants) there. ‘Amalek lives in the area of the Negev; the Hitti, the Y’vusi and the Emori live in the hills; and the Kena‘ani live by the sea and alongside the Yarden.” Numbers 13:25-29 CJB Words in parentheses were added by the author of the blog.
In contrast, here is Caleb’s answer to Moses, “Let us go up at once and take possession, for we are well able to overcome it.” Numbers 13:30 NKJV. The spies retorted, “There we saw giants (the descendants of Anak came from the giants); and we were like grasshoppers in their sight.” Numbers 13:33 NKJV.
As if things weren’t bad enough, the people, after hearing this, refused to enter the Promised Land of Canaan. There was no faith found in the spies or the people. Moses, Caleb, and Jacob alone had the kind of faith in their God that the entire nation should have had by now, especially after all they had seen and experienced.
Later, in Chapter 20, we see the mistake that cost Moses his entrance into the Promised Land – a failure to obey God’s instructions because of his anger. Again, faith faltered and the consequences came.
The third Lesson in the Bible comes through Balaam. Balaam is the perfect example of disobedience, manipulation, and the humiliation that follows pride. Balaam was a prophet. A ruler named Balak was trying to get Balaam to come and curse his opponents and sent messengers out to communicate with Balaam. God told Balaam not to curse them because they were blessed and that he should not go with the messengers back to Balak. Balaam then told the messengers that “the Lord has refused to give me permission to go with you.” He twisted and left out some important details.
When a Donkey Talks
Later, God speaks to him again telling him to go with the messengers who have come after Balak’s second appeal to Balaam. God tells Balaam to “do only what I tell you.” Balaam left on his little donkey to see Balak. On the way, an angel of the Lord appeared to block his way because God needed to talk to him. He could not see the Angel but the donkey could. The donkey refused to keep going and Balaam struck him repeatedly.
God gave the donkey the ability to speak and he did!. Finally, God opened Balaam’s eyes to see the Angel and God spoke saying, “I have come out here to bar your way, because you are rushing to oppose me.” The God who always looks at the heart, had seen Balaam’s heart of deception and disobedience. Balaam repents and goes on to see Balak. Later, we will see that Balaam even resorted to divination.
Let’s put this in modern-day terms. God tells you to talk to someone and tells you exactly what to say. As you’re driving there, you decide to change the message a little so that you don’t offend anyone. You’re on the freeway when suddenly your car dies and you have to coast off to the side. You try and try to get it to start but it won’t and you get out and start pounding on it, when your car starts talking to you!
People are driving by slowly, staring at you and then, God starts talking and exposing your deceptive and unfaithful heart!
It’s embarrassing and you look dumber than your car because, after all, your car knew what to do and could see an angel when you couldn’t. You were blinded by your own deception.
Disobedience starts in the heart and ends with a choice to repent or to suffer the consequences as we see in the life of Balaam.
In the last few chapters, we see laws being reviewed, battles won, and the tribe settling East of the Jordan. Aaron dies as does the entire generation that came out of Egypt. God gives instructions through Moses on how to conquer the enemies in the Promised Land.
Numbers is a book of adventure and 3 very important lessons in Order, Faith, and Obedience. Enjoy the book and see all the ways in which God was leading the world toward His son.
SYBN uses verses from different Bible translations. To see more information about the copyright for each one, please visit this page – Scripture Citations.