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Names of the Book


English:  Numbers
Hebrew:  בּמדבּר
Transliterated:  Bamidbar
("In the Wilderness")
Other names:  B'midbar, Bemidbar



Wrote the book:  Moses
Are the key people:  Moses, Aaron, Miriam, Joshua, Caleb, Eleazar, Korah, Balaam
Is it written to:  The people of Israel



The Journey and the trip to the Promised Land Numbers 1:1-10:10)
The Ten Spies and the first entry into the Land (Numbers 10:11-14:45)
The Wandering and the consequence of disobedience (Numbers 15:1-21:35)
The Journey Back and the opportunity for redemption (Numbers 22:1-36:13)



Was it written:  c 1450-1410 BCE
Did the events occur:  c 1475-1436 BCE
Was it canonized:  c 499-100 BCE
(see the Timeline of the Tanakh)



Was it written:  On the plains of Moab near Jericho (Deuteronomy 31:9)
Did the events occur:  Kadesh, the wilderness of Moab, the Land of Canaan



Numbers was written to inform us that:
People rebel against G-d even when He has their best interests at heart.
There is a consequence for rebellion.
There is an opportunity for redemption if we turn back to G-d.
G-d is a G-d of second chances.



The book of Numbers is a narrative history that includes the accounts of two censuses of the nation of Israel.  These are central elements in the book and it is from these events that number the tribes of Israel that the English title "Numbers" is derived. It is the Hebrew title, "In the Wilderness," however, that is more descriptive of the events in the book. Numbers relates how Israel traveled from Mount Sinai to the border of the Promised Land but refused to take possession of the Land out of fear.  As a result, G-d made them wander in the wilderness for forty years.  The central message of the book is that G-d is holy and cannot ignore rebellion or unbelief, but we also find that He faithfully keeps His covenant and patiently provides for His people. Numbers concludes with a new generation of Israelites preparing to enter and conquer the land of Canaan that G-d promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.




Chapter Description
1 The LORD tells Moses to take a census of the congregation of Israel, excluding the Levites.
The chapter provides the counts of the men of each tribe who are twenty years old and upward, whoever is able to go out to war.
The Levites are excluded from the census since they are in charge of tabernacle and do not go to war.
2 The LORD speaks to Moses and Aaron the numbers and arrangements of the tribes' tents around the tabernacle, excluding Levites.
3 Aaron's sons are listed.
The LORD speaks to Moses regarding the ministry and tent locations of Levites according to their families.
The Levites serve as the ransom of the firstborn males of all Israel.
4 The Levites are numbered according to their families.
Assignments are given regarding who handles which portions of the tabernacle and its furniture when it is to be moved.
5 The LORD tells Moses that lepers and those who are unclean are to be put outside the camp.
G-d provides laws regarding restitution for sins against others.
G-d gives the laws regarding a woman suspected of adultery.
6 The LORD gives Moses the laws of the Nazarite, including vows, offerings, and forbidden activities.
G-d gives Moses the blessing Aaron is to proclaim over Israel.
7 The heads of the tribes of Israel offer six covered wagons and twelve oxen to the Levites for their service.
The heads of the tribes present offerings for twelve days to dedicate the altar of the LORD.
G-d speaks to Moses from above the mercy seat on the ark of the covenant.
8 Aaron lights the menorah in the tabernacle.
The Levites wash, shave, make offerings, and are purified and consecrated to the service of the LORD.
9 The LORD speaks to Moses about celebrating the Passover.
G-d gives a "second Passover" celebration for Israelites who were travelling or unclean during the first Passover.
The pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night hovers above the tabernacle and leads Israel in their journeys.
10 The LORD speaks to Moses about silver trumpets used for summoning Israel.
The Israelites journey from Mt. Sinai to Paran.
Moses invites his father-in-law to join the Israelites.
11 The Israelites complain about food and G-d becomes angry.
G-d calls seventy elders of Israel to share Moses' burden of leadership.
G-d puts His Spirit upon the seventy.
The Israelites eat the quail that G-d provides.
G-d strikes Israel with a plague because of their greediness.
The Israelites set out for Hazeroth.
12 Miriam and Aaron speak against Moses and the LORD rebukes them.
Miriam gets leprosy but is then healed.
The Israelites move and camp in the wilderness of Paran.
13 Moses sends out twelve men to spy out the land of Canaan.
The spies return after 40 days.
Only Joshua and Caleb give a good report. The other spies gave a bad report out of fear of the inhabitants of the land.
14 The Israelites rebel against Moses.
Moses intercedes for the Israelites.
The Israelites are condemned to wander forty years in wilderness for their unfaithfulness to take the land.
15 The LORD instructs Moses regarding vows and freewill offerings.
Both the native-born and the alien follow the same rules for sacrifice.
G-d describes the offering for unintentional sin.
A man gathers sticks on the Sabbath and is stoned.
The LORD gives instructions to Israel regarding tassels on their clothes that include a thread of blue.
16 Korah, Dathan, Abiram and 250 leaders rebel against Moses.
G-d destroys them by having the earth swallow them and their families.
Israel assembles in rebellion against Moses and Aaron and G-d sends a plague among them: 14,000 die.
Aaron intercedes for Israel and the plague is checked.
17 The LORD outlines a test so everyone in Israel will know who is supposed to minister to Him as priests.
Twelve rods (one for each tribe) are brought to tabernacle.
Only Aaron's rod blossomed which signified G-d had chosen the Levites to serve Him.
18 The LORD speaks to Aaron regarding the responsibilities of the Levites and the Aaronic priests in connection with the tabernacle.
G-d excludes the Levites from inheritance in the Land but provides for them via the tithe.
19 The LORD instructs Moses and Aaron regarding the laws of the red heifer and how it is to be used to purify Israelites from their uncleanness.
20 Israel travels to the wilderness of Zin.
Miriam dies.
Moses strikes the rock twice in order to get water for Israel.
Moses is banned from entering the Land because of his indiscretion.
Edom refuses to allow Israel to travel through their land.
Aaron goes up on Mt. Hor and dies: Eleazar, his son, is made high priest.
Israel mourns for Aaron.
21 Arad attacks Israel but Israel utterly defeats them and destroys their cities.
The Israelites become impatient with their journey and G-d sends fiery serpents among them to afflict them.
Moses intercedes for Israel, fashions a bronze serpent, and puts it on a pole for the Israelites to see.
Israel encamps in several places before defeating the Amorites and the Bashan and moving into their cities.
22 Balak, king of the Moabites, fears Israel and asks Balaam to curse Israel.
Balaam's donkey speaks when Balaam strikes her when an angel bars the path.
Balaam meets Balak.
23 Balak offers sacrifices at Balaam's instruction.
Balaam seeks G-d's will and he blesses Israel although Balak wants him to curse Israel.
This happens twice.
24 Balaam does not curse Israel but blesses them.
Balak is angry and threatens not to pay Balaam.
Balaam prophesies a star out of Jacob.
Balaam and Balak part ways.
25 The Israelites commit idolatry with the Moabites and 24,000 Israelites die from a plague.
Phinehas kills Zimri & Cozbi and the LORD's wrath is checked.
26 A new census of adult male Israelites totals 601,730 not including the Levites.
The tribes, families, and number of Israelites are listed.
The land of Canaan is apportioned to the twelve tribes.
27 The daughters of Zelophehad request an inheritance even though their father is dead.
The LORD grants their request and establishes laws for land inheritance within families.
The LORD appoints Joshua as the next leader of Israel and Moses commissions him before Israel.
28 The LORD commands Moses regarding the morning and evening sacrifices, the Sabbath and monthly sacrifices, the Passover sacrifices, and the firstfruit sacrifices.
29 The LORD gives Moses the commandments for His appointed times in the seventh month: the feast of trumpets, the day of atonement, and the feast of tabernacles.
30 Moses relates G-d's commands regarding vows including vows made by young daughters or wives and the ability of fathers or husbands to void those vows.
31 The LORD commands Israel to war against Midian.
Israel kills all males & adult females, destroys the Midianite cities, and takes over their goods and livestock.
32 The men from the tribes of Reuben and Gad request land for their livestock on the east side of the Jordan.
After an initial rebuke, Moses agrees if the men enter the promised land first and help their brothers subdue it.
33 The journeys of the sons of Israel are listed from the time they came out of Egypt until they were about to enter the Promised Land.
The LORD commands Israel to take over the land of Canaan as their promised possession.
34 The LORD describes the borders of the land of inheritance.
One prince from each tribe of Israel is chosen to divide the land.
35 The LORD commands Israel to give the Levites 48 cities to live in.
He also commands them to have three cities of refuge for those who commit murder or manslaughter.
36 Concerns about the land inheritance for the daughters of Zelophehad are raised.
The LORD gives laws regarding daughters' marrying and their inheritance of land.


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Yom Sh'lishi, 13 Iyar, 5784

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