Summary: This message is an overview of the book of Numbers.
This evening we are going to explore the book of Numbers. As we address this fouth book of Moses let’s begin with some introductory matters:
I. The Title
"Numbers is the book of the numbering and wandering of the children of Israel" (Norman Geisler, A Popular Survey of the Old Testament, p.71).
"The title of the book in the Hebrew Bible is taken from its first three words: ‘in the wilderness’" (Ibid., p.71).
"The English title ‘Numbers’ comes from the Greek (LXX)" (MacArthur Study Bible), arithmai and Latin, numeri (Alan B. Stringfellow, Through the Bible in One Year, p.21).
"This designation is based on the numbers that are a major focus of chapters 1-4 and 26" (Ibid., MacArthur).
II. The Author
"The evidence that Moses was the author of Numbers is similar to that for Exodus and Leviticus. In addition, there are several lines of evidence that are distinctive to Numbers" (Ibid., Geisler, p.71).
A. The Book Claims to be Written by Moses
1. Numbers 1:1 - "Now the LORD spoke to Moses..."
2. Numbers 33:2 - Now Moses wrote down the starting points of their journeys at the command of the LORD. And these are their journeys according to their starting points.
B. Numbers Also Gives a Detailed, Accurate, Eyewitness Account Which Could be Provided Only by Someone as Familiar with the Desert as was Moses
C. A Number of New Testament Quotations Directly Cite Events in Numbers and Associate them with Moses (Acts 7; 13; 1 Cor.10:1-11; Heb.3)
D. Our Lord Quoted from Numbers and Verified that it was indeed Moses who Lifted up the Serpent in the Wilderness
1. John 3:14 - "And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up."
2. Numbers 21:9 - So Moses made a bronze serpent, and put it on a pole; and so it was, if a serpent had bitten anyone, when he looked at the bronze serpent, he lived.
III. The Date
"Numbers was written in the final year of Moses’ life. The events from 20:1 to the end occur in the 40th year after the Exodus" John F. MacArthur, Jr., The MacArthur Study Bible, (Dallas: Word Publishing) 1997.
"The book of Numbers must be dated ca. 1405 b.c., since it is foundational to the book of Deuteronomy, and Deuteronomy is dated in the 11th month of the 40th year after the Exodus (Deut. 1:3)" John F. MacArthur, Jr., The MacArthur Study Bible, (Dallas: Word Publishing) 1997.
IV. The Audience
"It is important to notice that there are at least two groups included in the Book of Numbers. The first group is the disobedient older generation who died in the wilderness because of their sin of unbelief. At the beginning of the book this group numbered 603,550 males twenty years and above (1:45-46).
A second group, those under twenty years of age at the beginning, grew up in the wilderness and later entered the promised land. By that time 601,730 males were twenty years of age and older (26:51)" (Ibid., Geisler, p.72).
V. The Theme
The theme of Genesis is "beginnings"
The theme of Exodus is "redemption"
The theme of Leviticus is "holiness"
The theme of Numbers is "testing" (David R. Shepherd, Exodus, p.3)
"A call to faithfulness to God. The failure of Israel to enter the land by faith, and the resulting waste of time and life" (Old Testament Survey-CBC).
VI. The Content (1-36)
A. Chapter 1:1-54 Records the Numbering of the People
1. God told Moses to "Take a census of all the congregation of the children of Israel, by their families, by their fathers’ houses, according to the number of names, every male individually, 3 "from twenty years old and above; all who are able to go to war in Israel" (vv.2-3).
2. Verse 4 tells us that this great task was to be accomplished by Moses and Aaron and "a man from every tribe."
3. Verses 17-18 says, "Then Moses and Aaron took these men who had been mentioned by name, 18 and they assembled all the congregation together on the first day of the second month; and they recited their ancestry by families, by their fathers’ houses, according to the number of names, from twenty years old and above, each one individually."
4. Verses 20-46 gives the results of the people being numbered "from twenty years old and above, all who were able to go to war in Israel" (v.45).
a) The tribe of Reuben - 46,500 (v.21)
b) The tribe of Simeon - 59,300 (v.23)
c) The tribe of Gad - 45,600 (v.25)
d) The tribe of Judah - 74,600 (v.27)
e) The tribe of Issachar - 54,400 (v.29)
f) The tribe of Zebulun - 57,400 (v.31)
g) The tribe of Ephraim - 40,500 (v.33)