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by L.M. Grant
Numbers is the book of Israel's wilderness wanderings. A journey that normally would take 11 days (Deuteronomy 1:2) was stretched out to nearly forty years because of Israel's faithless disobedience. Genesis is the book of life, that is, God's beginning His work with mankind in vital, living power. Exodus is the book of redemption, with God's authority established among the redeemed people. Leviticus then brings those people into the presence of God, for it is the sanctuary book which lifts us altogether above the level of the world. However, Numbers brings our feet down to earth again, where we are tested by the experiences of the wilderness. Four is the number of testing, so Numbers is the fourth book of scripture, and Israel's forty years in the desert emphasize this lesson.
During Israel's years of slavery their enemy was Egypt, typically the world. When eventually they came into the promised land, their enemies were the Canaanites, etc., who are symbolical of satanic opposition to the truth of God. But in the wilderness, the enmity came from the flesh within them, not from without. This is seen in their incessant complaining against Moses and Aaron and therefore against God. If there had been faith to fully judge the flesh earlier, they might not have taken so long to learn the needed lessons of the wilderness. But all the generation of people over 20 years who came out of Egypt died before Israel entered the land, except for Joshua and Caleb (Numbers 14:29-30). Therefore, though it was the same nation that entered Canaan, yet it was a numbering the people, in chapter 1:2-46 and chapter 26:4-65.
The New King James Version is generally used in this commentary, but occasionally the translation of J. N. Darby is used, indicated by the initials (JND), or if other translations are used, this will be indicated.
the Fifth Week after Easter