The Book of Numbers tells of the forty years during which the Israelites wandered in the deserts between Egypt and Palestine. The book is named among the Hebrews, as are the other "fifths" of The Law, by its opening words, and is called Vayedabber, which means
"And spake," or sometimes B’midhbar, meaning "in the wilderness."
God Commands Moses to Take a Census
Numbers 3:14, The Eberler Bible, c 1464
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Why Does Moses Have Horns?
Artists of old drew their inspiration from other artists, as they sometimes do even today. Like the Saints and Jesus with golden halos, Moses was painted with rays of light emitting from his head from his encounter with God, often mistaken as horns by other artists.
The English title, Numbers, is taken from the Greek version and refers to the counting or numbering of the people. This is recorded in the early chapters, as taking place, at the beginning of their wanderings, and then they are renumbered toward the close of the book, when their journeying draws to an end.
The title is perhaps less happy than those of the earlier books of The Law, for this section treats of many things besides the recording of the numbers, names and families of the Israelites. Its chief theme seems to be the narrative of the events of all the years in the wilderness which followed after the first year spent at Sinai and the establishment of the Covenant.
The book, however, is not wholly narrative. Frequent announcements of laws are interspersed amid the story, as though implying that these laws were promulgated at intervals during the forty years.
This section of the Pentateuch has thus, superficially at least, less the appearance of unity than the earlier books. Its main divisions are as follows: The first ten chapters tell of the numbering of the people, their arrangement in marching order, and the preparations for their journey, the account being interrupted, especially in chapters five and six, by the recording of certain laws.
Chapters eleven through fourteen tell of the first, confident advance toward the promised land; of the fear that made the people lose trust in God when they learned the strength of their enemies; of the Divine anger that followed, and the condemnation of the distrustful and rebellious Israelites to their years of punishment in the desert.
Chapters fifteen through nineteen are devoted mainly to priestly laws, but include a few scattered incidents of the thirty-eight years between the first and the last. Then chapter twenty begins the story of the final year. Moses leads the Israelites once more toward Palestine; again they complain and rebel, until even Moses cries out in anger against them and in despair; and for this distrust of God, he also is condemned not to enter the land of promise.
Miriam’s death is followed by Aaron’s. The Israelites in their advance come in contact with the peoples round about Palestine, and defeat them one after another; the victorious warriors fall into sin and are reproved; a few further laws are proclaimed, and then Moses appoints Joshua as his successor and arranges for the division of the promised land among the Israelites. The close of the book leads up to the solemn discourses which Moses delivered to his people just before his death.
The book of Numbers thus tells of many scattered matters, bringing everything forward to Deuteronomy, the next and final section of The Law.
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Moses Striking The Rock, Pieter de Grebber, 1630
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"Because all those men which have seen my glory, and my miracles, which I did in Egypt and in the wilderness, and have tempted me now these ten times, and have not hearkened to my voice; Surely they shall not see the land which I sware unto their fathers, neither shall any of them that provoked me see it."
Numbers Chapter 1
God commands Moses to number the people 1-43. Levites not numbered 47-54.
Numbers Chapter 2
The order of the tribes in their tents.
Numbers Chapter 3
The sons of Aaron, The Levites taken instead of the first-born 1-13. The Levites numbered by their families, their duties 14-39. The first-born are numbered 40-51.
Numbers Chapter 4
The age and time of the Levites’ service 1-3. Duties 4-33. The office of the priests.
Numbers Chapter 5
Restitution is to be made in trespasses 1-10. The trial of jealousy 11-31.
Numbers Chapter 6
The law of the Nazarites 1-21. The form of blessing the people 22-27.
Numbers Chapter 7
The offering of the princes at the dedication of the tabernacle 1-9. The offerings of the princes at the dedication of the altar 10-89.
Numbers Chapter 8
How the lamps are to be lighted 1-4. The consecration of the Levites, the age and time of their service 5-26.
Numbers Chapter 9
Keeping of the Passover 1-14. The cloud guides the coming and goings of the Israelites 15-23.
Numbers Chapter 10
The silver trumpets 1-10. The Israelites leave Sinai to Paran 11-28. Hobab entreated by Moses to continue 29-32. The blessing pronounced by Moses 33-36.
Numbers Chapter 11
Burning at Taberah 1-3. The people lust for flesh and loathe manna 4-9. Moses complains of his charge 10-15. Elders appointed, flesh meat promised 16-23. The Spirit rests on the elders 24-30. Quails are given 31-35.
Numbers Chapter 12
God rebukes the murmuring of Aaron and Miriam 1-9. Miriam struck with leprosy, and healed at the prayer of Moses 10-16.
Numbers Chapter 13
Twelve men sent to search the land of Canaan, their instructions 1-20. Their proceedings 21-25. Their account of the land 26-33.
Numbers Chapter 14
The people murmur at the account of the spies 1-4. Joshua and Caleb labor to still the people 5-10. The Divine threatening, the intercession of Moses 11-19. The murmurers forbidden to enter the promised land 20-35. Death of the evil spies 36-39. Defeat of the people, who now would invade the land 40-45.
Numbers Chapter 15
The law of the meat-offering and the drink-offering, the stranger under the same law 1-21. The sacrifice for the sin of ignorance 22-29. The punishment of presumption, the sabbath-breaker stoned 30-36. The law for fringes on garment 37-41.
Numbers Chapter 16
The rebellion of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram Korah 1-11. Disobedience of Dathan and Abiram 12-15. The glory of the Lord appears, the intercession of Moses and Aaron 16-22. The earth swallows up Dathan and Abiram 23-34. The company of Korah consumed 35-40. The people murmur, a plague sent 41-50.
Numbers Chapter 17
Twelve rods laid up before the Lord 1-7. Aaron’s rod buds 8-13.
Numbers Chapter 18
Charge of the priests and Levites 1-7. The priests’ portion 8-19. Levites’ portion 20-32.
Numbers Chapter 19
The ashes of a heifer 1-10. Used to purify the unclean 11-22.
Numbers Chapter 20
The people come to Zin, murmur for water, Moses smites the rock, the infirmity of Moses and Aaron 1-13. The Israelites refused passage through Edom 14-21. Aaron reigns the priest’s office to Eleazar, and dies in mount Hor 22-29.
Numbers Chapter 21
The Canaanites of Arad destroyed 1-3. The people murmuring, are plagued with fiery serpents, They repenting, are healed through the brazen serpent 4-9. Further journeys of the Israelites 10-20. Sihon and Og overcome, their land possessed 21-35.
Numbers Chapter 22
Balak’s message for the Balaam 1-14. Balaam and Balak meet 36-41.
Numbers Chapter 23
Balak’s sacrifice, Balaam pronounces a blessing instead of a curse 1-10. Balak’s disappointment, and second sacrifice, Balaam again blesses Israel 11-30.
Numbers Chapter 24
Balaam prophesies the happiness of Israel and the Star of Jacob 1-9. Balak dismisses Balaam in anger 10-14. Balaam’s prophecies 15-25.
Numbers Chapter 25
The Israelites enticed by the daughters of Moab and Midian 1-5. Phinehas puts Zimri and Cozbi to death 6-15. The Midianites to be punished 16-18.
Numbers Chapter 26
Numbering of Israel in the plains of Moab 1-51. The division of the land 52-56. Number of the Levites 57-62. None remaining of the first numbering 63-65.
Numbers Chapter 27
The daughters of Zelophehad apply for an inheritance, the law of inheritances1-11. Moses warned of his death 12-14. Joshua appointed to succeed Moses 15-23.
Numbers Chapter 28
Offerings, the daily sacrifice 1-8. The offering on the sabbath and new moons 9-15. Offerings at the passover, and on the day of first-fruits 16-31.
Numbers Chapter 29
The offering at the feats of trumpets, and on the day of atonement 1-11. Offerings at the feast of tabernacles 12-40.
Numbers Chapter 30
Vows to be keptVerse 1,2. The cases wherein vows might be released 3-16.
Numbers Chapter 31
The destruction of the Midianites 1-6. Balaam slain 7-12. Purification of Israel 39-24. Division of the spoil 25-47. Offerings 48-54.
Numbers Chapter 32
The division of the Land East of Jordan. The Reubenites and Gadites sue for their inheritance.
Numbers Chapter 33
Encampments of the Israelites 1-49. The Canaanites to be destroyed 50-56.
Numbers Chapter 34
The bounds of the promised land 1-15. Those appointed to divide the land 16-29.
Numbers Chapter 35
The cities of the Levites 1-8. The cities of refuge, the laws about murder 9-34.
Numbers Chapter 36
The inheritance of the daughters of Zelophehad 1-4. The daughters of Zelophehad are to marry in their own tribe 5-12. Conclusion 13.
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