The Book of Numbers (from Greek Ἀριθμοί, Arithmoi; Hebrew: בְּמִדְבַּר, Bəmiḏbar, “In the desert [of]”) is the fourth book of the Hebrew Bible, and the fourth of five books of the Jewish Torah. The book has a long and complex history, but its final form is probably due to a Priestly redaction (i.e., editing) of a Yahwistic source made some time in the early Persian period (5th century BCE).
Numbers begins at Mount Sinai, where the Israelites have received their laws and covenant from God and God has taken up residence among them in the sanctuary. The task before them is to take possession of the Promised Land. The people are numbered and preparations are made for resuming their march. The Israelites begin the journey, but they “murmur” at the hardships along the way, and about the authority of Moses and Aaron. For these acts, God destroys approximately 15,000 of them through various means. They arrive at the borders of Canaan and send spies into the land, but upon hearing the spies’ fearful report concerning the conditions in Canaan the Israelites refuse to take possession of it, and God condemns them to death in the wilderness until a new generation can grow up and carry out the task. The book ends with the new generation of Israelites in the Plain of Moab ready for the crossing of the Jordan River.
Numbers is the culmination of the story of Israel’s exodus from oppression in Egypt and their journey to take possession of the land God promised their fathers. As such it draws to a conclusion the themes introduced in Genesis and played out in Exodus and Leviticus: God has promised the Israelites that they shall become a great (i.e. numerous) nation, that they will have a special relationship with Yahweh their god, and that they shall take possession of the land of Canaan. Numbers also demonstrates the importance of holiness, faithfulness and trust: despite God’s presence and his priests, Israel lacks faith and the possession of the land is left to a new generation.
To continue reading this Bible article, click here.
Keywords: Book of Numbers, Bamidbar, Num, Numb, Number, Numbers
Bible reference(s): Numbers 1
Source: This article uses material from the Wikipedia article “Book of Numbers,” which is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.
Page indexed by: inWORD Bible Software.