As Numbers begins, the nation of Israel was camped at the foot of Mount Sinai. The people had received God’s laws and were preparing to move. A census was taken to determine the number of men fit for military service. Next, the people were set apart for God. God was making the people, both spiritually and physically, ready to receive their inheritance.
As part of their preparations, the Lord gave strict guidelines to the Israelites regarding purity in the camp. He wanted them to have a life-style distinct from the nations around them. He wanted them to be a holy people. Similarly, we should concern ourselves with purity in the church.
The Israelites were prevented from entering the promised land because of their unbelief. Throughout history, God’s people have continued to struggle with lack of faith. We must prevent unbelief from gaining a foothold in our lives, for it will keep us from enjoying the blessings that God has promised.
When the people complained against God and criticized Moses they were severely punished. Over 14,000 people died as a result of rebellion against Moses. As a result of Korah’s rebellion, Korah, Dathan, and Abiram and their households died, along with 250 false priests. Dissatisfaction and discontent, if allowed to remain in our lives, can easily lead to disaster. We should refrain from complaining and criticizing our leaders.
The Moabites and Midianites could not get Balaam to curse Israel, but they did get him to give advice on how to draw the Israelites to idol worship. Balaam knew what was right, but he gave in to the temptation of material regards and sinned. Knowing what is right alone is never enough. We must also do what is right.
1450 – 1410 B.C.
To Whom Written:
The people of Israel. The theme of Numbers is the gradual fulfillment of the promises to Abraham that his descendants would be the people of God and occupy the land of Canaan. The book shows the reality of God’s presence with Israel in the cloud of fire over the tabernacle, but the repeated displays of unbelief by Israel delay the entry into Canaan and cost many lives. Nevertheless, by the end of the book, Israel is poised to enter the land.
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