Introduction

Numbers

Introduction to Numbers

This fourth book of the Pentateuch gets its name from the two “numberings” of the children of Israel. The first census was taken soon after the escape from Egypt and the giving of the law (Numbers 1–4). The second occurred as they were nearing the end of the forty-year sojourn in the wilderness and the new generation was preparing to enter the promised land. Numbers 5–25 recounts a number of experiences of the Israelites in their wilderness wanderings, along with additional instructions given by God through Moses during that time. This section ends with their remarkable encounters with the false prophet Balaam (Numbers 22–25). After the second census, the last ten chapters (Numbers 27–36) gives further instructions concerning offerings and feast days, as well as other events occurring as Israel was getting ready to invade Canaan.

The wilderness wanderings occurred during the period from approximately 1447 B.C. to 1407 B.C., assuming the chronology accepted by most conservative scholars is correct. The book of Numbers records events from the wilderness period. Despite the obvious Mosaic authorship (the book contains at least eighty statements to the effect that “the LORD spake unto Moses”), liberals still allege that most of it was written by priests living after the Babylonian exile. There is no proof whatever for such an assumption. All the internal evidences of the book itself, as well as its correlation with what is known archaeologically about this period, fit the wilderness period much better than the post-exilic period.

l:1 spake unto Moses. Like Leviticus, the book of Numbers includes many actual statements of God, recorded by Moses after God spoke to him in the tabernacle. This statement–“the LORD spake”–is found eighty or more times in the book.

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