04: Numbers: The Book of Discipline

This book takes its name from the two censuses taken at Sinai and at Moab. These “numberings” were necessary to discern how many men were fit to serve as soldiers. The saga in Numbers begins thirteen months after the Exodus from Egypt, with the old generation still encamped at Sinai (Ch. 1-12). It proceeds to record key events throughout the 40-year transition period in the wilderness (Ch. 13-20). It concludes with the new generation camped at Moab near the Jordan River (Ch. 21-36). The book spans a period in Israeli history from about 1440 B.C. to 1400 B.C.

Numbers explains why the Israelites did not attempt to conquer Canaan immediately after leaving Egypt. The pivotal point in the book is the nation’s rebellion at Kadesh and their refusal to enter the Promised Land (Ch. 14). Because of their disobedience, the generation that left Egypt would not be the generation that vanquished Canaan. They are sentenced to wander aimlessly for forty years. Their harsh desert life and the lessons they learn prepare them for the battles to come. Numbers describes the consequences of unbelief, but also displays God’s justice, holiness, grace, patience, and sovereignty.

Essay Questions

1. Using Bible maps, sketch the journey from Sinai to Moab.

2. From each of the following chapters, describe what the people complained about and God’s response to each situation.

Chapter 11– the situation at Kibroth-hattaavah
Chapter 12 – the situation concerning Miriam and Aaron
Chapter 13-14 – the situation at Kadesh-barnea
Chapter 16 – the situation regarding Korah
Chapter 20 – the situation concerning what the people lacked
Chapter 21 – the situation regarding the manna

3.  Describe the victories of Israel over the nations listed in Chapters 21 and 31.

4. Draw a diagram of the tabernacle. With the top of your paper as North,
which three tribes encamped East of the tabernacle, which three on the West, which three on the South, and which three on the North? What can we learn about God from this order?

5. Do a character sketch of Caleb, describing his attitude and fortitude.

6. Out of the original generation that left Egypt, name the only two men who entered the Promised Land. Write a summary paragraph stating why.

7. Describe manna. For how long was it supplied? How much was supplied each day? On which day of the week did manna not fall and why?

8. What did Moses fail to do in Chapter 20? What was his punishment?

9. Describe the incident concerning Balaam and Balak (Ch. 22-25).

10. Describe the noble act of Phinehas in Chapter 25. What resulted from his actions?

11. After taking the second census, what was the size of the Israeli army? (Ch. 26)


Maxim of the Moment

If you risk nothing, you risk everything. - Geena Davis