INTRODUCTION TO NUMBERS
The Book of Numbers was written by Moses, approximately 1445 to 1405 B.C. (Num. 33:2; 36:13). The Book gets its name from the ancient Greek title of this book, ARITHMOI, from which we obviously get our English word ARITHMETIC. Later, Latin translators of the Old Testament gave the Book the title NUMERI, from which we get our English word NUMBERS. Interestingly, the word NUMBERS (or some form of it) is found 127 times in this Book, but it actually gets its name from the two numberings (censuses) of the men of war in chapters 1-4 and chapters 26-27. The first numbering or census took place the second year after the Jews’ exodus from Egypt, and the second numbering was made 38 years later, just as the nation of Israel was about to enter Canaan.
The Book of Numbers actually picks up the history of the Israelites where the Book of Exodus left off. Just one month had passed between the completion of the Tabernacle in Exodus 40:17, and God’s command to number the people in Numbers 1:1-2. During that one month period, the instruction in the Book of Leviticus was given. Whereas the Book of Leviticus deals with the believer’s WORSHIP, the Book of Numbers deals with the believer’s WALK. Whereas PURITY is the central theme of Leviticus, PILGRIMAGE is the central theme of Numbers.
The Book of Numbers has incredible implications and applications for believers today. God tells us that specifically in I Corinthians 10:1-12 and Hebrews chapters 3 and 4. In this Book we will see the nation of Israel after being gloriously delivered from the bondage of Egypt by the blood of the lamb, failing to take God at His Word, and thus, wandering in the wilderness of unbelief, rather than entering into their inheritance in Canaan.
As we have mentioned repeatedly in our 365 Days of Pursuit, don’t ever lose sight of the fact that Israel of the Old Testament is a picture of the individual believer in the New Testament. Just like Israel, after being gloriously delivered out of the bondage of Egypt (sin/world) by the blood of the Lamb, failing to take God at His Word, we too, wander in the wilderness of unbelief, rather than entering into the fullness of our inheritance in Christ. The lessons to be learned in Numbers are “numerous”!
TODAY’S READING: NUMBERS 1-4
The first numbering (census) of the Israelites; the encampment location of each tribe in relation to the Tabernacle; the census and duties of the Levites: the Kohathites, the Gersonites, and the Merarites.
HIGHLIGHTS & INSIGHTS:
As mentioned in the INTRODUCTION TO NUMBERS, the Book of Numbers picks up the narrative where the Book of Exodus left off. The last chapter of Exodus (40:17), says, “And it came to pass in the FIRST MONTH of the second year, on the first day of the month, that the tabernacle was reared up.” Numbers 1:1 says, “And the Lord spake unto Moses in the wilderness of Sinai, in the tabernacle of the congregation, on the first day of the SECOND MONTH, in the second year after they were come out of the land of Egypt.” So there was a break of just one month between the time the Tabernacle was erected at the end of Exodus, and the command to number the people at the beginning of Numbers (1:1-3) — with the Leviticus instructions coming between the two.
Note that the census that God commanded Israel to make was not of the entire nation, but only the men age 20 and above who were able to go to war. The total was 603, 550.
One of the saddest realities in the entire Bible is that of these 603,550 men, 603,548 of them would die in the wilderness, having never experienced God’s purpose for the exodus. As God made abundantly clear from the beginning, the purpose for the exodus wasn’t just to bring them OUT of EGYPT, but to bring them IN to CANAAN (Exodus 3:8; Deut. 6:23)! As God warns us to learn from Israel’s failure in the wilderness in I Cor. 10:5-6, it makes one wonder whether out of 603,550 believers today, would there be more than two who actually fulfill God’s purposes for their exodus, by allowing God to bring them into their “Canaan” (the fullness of life in Christ)? What an incredibly sobering reality! If those statistics are right, will you be one of the two? Will you trust God, not only to save you from the PENALTY of sin, but from the POWER of sin? Will you rise above the spiritual discouragement, disillusionment, defeat, and death of the wilderness, and live in the spiritual pea!
ce, prosperity, productivity, and power of Canaan?
Note also, that if there were 603,550 men at the time of the census, it would strongly suggest that Israel’s’ total population would have been between 2 and 2.5 million people! It has been estimated that it would have required nearly 50 railroad box cars of manna per day just to feed the people. The land mass needed to accommodate this multitude when they camped at night would exceed 100 square miles!
As we come through the first four chapters of Numbers, one of the things that is very apparent is that God always does things decently and in order (I Cor. 14:40). God gave specific instruction for Israel to arrange itself into an orderly camp with its mobile worship center (the Tabernacle) at the very center. God did not want Israel to be a chaotic mob in the midst of their journeys, but rather, intended Israel’s orderliness, organization, and structure to be one of the key ways His people stood out from the rest of the world, so they would have the opportunity to tell them of their God (See Num. 24:2,5).
As we journey through the midst of the chaotic world of the 21st century, with the lives of its people in such disarray, God wants the orderliness of the lives of His people, as we arrange them according to the instruction of His Word with worship at the very center, to be one of the key ways our lives stand out from the rest of the world, so we have the opportunity to tell them of our God (I Peter 3:15).
CHRIST IS REVEALED:
Through MOSES as he led the people – Num. 1:54 (John 10:14,27) Through AARON, the high priest, who was served by the Levites – Num. 3:6 (As a holy and “royal priesthood,” we serve Christ, our great high Priest – John 12:26; I Pet. 2:5-9; Heb. 4:14)