I’m reading through the Bible in a year, and every month I (try to) post about what I’ve read. This post is continued from yesterday. Quite unintentionally, this has turned out to be a Numbers-only post. I had no idea I had so much to say about Numbers…
Numbers: I wasn’t looking forward to reading Numbers, as I thought it would be full of well, numbers. I found that there’s more narrative than counting in the book, but that didn’t make it any easier to read. To be honest, I found it to be discouraging: the Israelites complained, wailed, raised their voices, grumbled, wept aloud, mourned bitterly, gathered in opposition to Moses and Aaron, spoke against God and against Moses… (all those descriptions are straight from the Bible.) They had seen God’s awesome power at work in deliverance from Egypt, what with the Red Sea parting and all that; they’d eaten manna and seen water gushing from a rock… And all they could think of were the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic of Egypt (11:5). Of them, the Apostle Paul says that these things occurred as examples and warnings for us, that we may not set our hearts on evil things like they did (1 Cor 10:6-11).
I can’t leave it there. The best part is that God persevered with the people. To be sure, none of those who left Egypt— save Joshua and Caleb—entered the Promised Land. They paid for their sins, Moses included. But God fulfilled His promise to Abraham and brought the new generation into their home. He is a God of mercy.
Right. After that serious beginning, let me add some levity to my observations on Numbers. In chapter 1, the heads of the tribes are mentioned; I was excited to recognise Nahshon son of Amminadab. Who? you ask. He’s the guy in Jesus’ genealogies in Matthew 1:4 and Luke 3:32-33. (I was reading these novellas about the time I was in Numbers 1). I may be wrong, but it’s the first time since Genesis that a progenitor of Jesus turns up in the biblical narrative.
In Numbers 6, God gives the rules regarding Nazirites—I always assumed you had to be born one, like Samson. Good to learn something new.
From Num 8:23-25, it would seem that God is in favour of retirement—or at least as far as it applies to the Levites…
In chapter 9, a provision was made for people who were unable to celebrate the Passover at the appointed time for reasons of ceremonial uncleanness (in this case, a dead body). I wonder if Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea used this provision? How gracious of God to provide it, too!
In Numbers 11, the Israelites wail and Moses tells God that the burden is too heavy for him to bear alone. God tells him that He’ll take of the Spirit that is on Moses and put it on seventy of Israel’s leaders. When the Spirit rested on them, they prophesied (even the two guys who hadn’t come to the convocation). I see a pattern here: when God’s Spirit comes on someone and they prophesy— Saul did (1 Sam 10:10), as did the believers at Pentecost (Acts 2:11).
Numbers 16 tells us of Korah’s rebellion, and the subsequent judgment that fell on those involved. Number 26:11 states that Korah’s line did not die out. Is it possible then, that the “sons of Korah” who penned some Psalms were descendants of this man? What redemption!
Numbers 18:1 records God speaking to Aaron. I thought that was weird. That I could count, the LORD spoke exclusively to Moses 53 times (“The LORD said to Moses…”); 7 times to Moses and Aaron; 3 times to Aaron alone; once to Moses, Aaron and Miriam and once to Moses and Eleazar, Aaron’s son. And that is only what is recorded in Numbers.
Numbers 18:26 tells us that the priests tithed on the tithe they received from their brother Israelites. No exceptions in God’s books!
Balaam uses God’s covenant name, Yahweh (translated ‘the LORD’ in 22:8, 13). God talks to him. I guess we could call him a believer. But he went astray, and the NT writers caution against following in his steps (2 Peter 2:15; Jude 1:11; Revelation 2:14). It was strange to read all that praise of Israel in Balaam’s oracles in light of the preceding chapters…
Two censuses are conducted in Numbers (or two census, I couldn’t find a definitive answer as to what the plural is, other than it not being ‘censi’). Being part of the third of the human population that likes and understands graphs, I just couldn’t resist:
The Simeonites saw a 63% decrease; the descendants of Manasseh a 64% increase. Overall, however, there was a net decrease of 1820 Israelite men 20 years or more and and increase of 1,000 Levite males aged 1 month old or more. Wow, what steadiness.
Read Part 3.
Sources: Surprisingly, over 95% of this post is my own creation. Some credit goes to D.A. Carson and Mark Dever, though.