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Bible Commentaries

Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible
Numbers

Chapter 1 Chapter 2 Chapter 3 Chapter 4
Chapter 5 Chapter 6 Chapter 7 Chapter 8
Chapter 9 Chapter 10 Chapter 11 Chapter 12
Chapter 13 Chapter 14 Chapter 15 Chapter 16
Chapter 17 Chapter 18 Chapter 19 Chapter 20
Chapter 21 Chapter 22 Chapter 23 Chapter 24
Chapter 25 Chapter 26 Chapter 27 Chapter 28
Chapter 29 Chapter 30 Chapter 31 Chapter 32
Chapter 33 Chapter 34 Chapter 35 Chapter 36

Book Overview - Numbers

by Peter Pett

COMMENTARY ON THE BOOK OF NUMBERS

By Dr.Peter Pett BA BD (Hons-London) DD

The Book of Numbers.

Introduction.

The Book of Numbers is one of the most carefully constructed records in the Old Testament. It consists of a number of chiastic frameworks in sequence, into which have been fitted smaller sections, also composed chiastically. (A chiasmus is the inversion in the second section of the order followed in the first section). This conclusively demonstrates the unity of the narrative. Any literary analysis which ignores this fact cannot be taken seriously. For evidence of this see below.

But the title is deceptive. It is not really a book about numbers. The idea of numbers comes from the numbering of the men of Israel at two points in the book. It is rather a book written in order to prepare for Israel’s entry into the land promised to them by God, and is an interesting commentary on man’s constant failure and God’s continuing mercy. It is a description of their advance towards living under Yahweh’s Kingly Rule, towards the earthly ‘Kingdom of God’. It could well have been entitled ‘God Brings About His Purposes And Brings His People Into the Kingdom of God Against All Odds’ or alternately ‘Israel: Its Commissioning, Failure, Resultant Death, and New Beginning Ready For The Kingdom of God’, for those are its central themes. While Exodus is the book which describes deliverance, Numbers is the book which describes the grace of God active and successful in spite of man’s continual failure. And yet they are in a sense one book, for Numbers 1:1 deliberately takes up the theme of Exodus.

We must beware here. We must not forget that Israel were already under the Kingly Rule of God. That was evidenced at Sinai. But they were moving from the temporary phase to the theoretical final stage. That that final stage failed was due to the unbelief of the people which resulted in the prophets speaking of the coming of a future everlasting Kingdom of God, and the New Testament of that everlasting Kingdom as being heavenly and not earthly.

It may be argued that there is no mention in Numbers of the Kingdom of God. But there can really be no doubt that that is what lies behind the whole of its message. The whole aim behind it was to establish the Kingdom of God in Canaan, with Yahweh ruling from His Dwellingplace. This is made explicit in Exodus 19:5-6. Compare Numbers 23:21; Deuteronomy 33:5; 1 Samuel 8:7. Furthermore the land is always depicted as Yahweh’s, and the people as responsible to Him for it as His subjects. Those who submitted to the covenant in faith (Numbers 14:11; Numbers 20:12) and obedience (Numbers 14:24) were to be welcomed. Those who turned away from the covenant were to be cut off from among the people (Numbers 19:20) or to be barred from the land (Numbers 32:11).

Thus the book commences with the mobilisation of Israel, and after revealing Yahweh’s requirements for them and their subsequent experiences, ends with the triumphant description of the initial inheritance of the land by the daughters of Zelophehad as a symbol of what will be for the whole of Israel as they stand poised on the edge of the promised land. The double mention of the daughters of Zelophehad (Numbers 27:1-11; Numbers 36:1-12) confirms that they were seen as conveying an important message to Israel.

From a Christian point of view it is a vivid depiction of the Christian life (1 Corinthians 10:1-13). First comes deliverance and entry under the Kingly Rule of God, then commissioning in Christ’s service, then failure to trust and obey, then a recognition of the need for the ‘old man’ to die, then spiritual renewal, and then being brought to the borders of the heavenly Kingdom.

Numbers is also a book which indicates that even the best will die because of man’s sinfulness. It stresses that no one is fully worthy of the service of God, whether it be the whole people of God, Miriam, Aaron or Moses. In the first four chapters Israel are commissioned and numbered for war ready for entry into the promised land. They are given every opportunity for success (Numbers 5-10). But through unbelief, disobedience and sin they fail and the whole nation is sentenced to death in the wilderness (Numbers 14:35; Numbers 26:64-65). Only Joshua and Caleb, who remain constant in faith and obedience, are to inherit the land. Israel are then replaced by a new generation which is also commissioned for war (Numbers 26). And they, through faith and obedience, and God’s mercy, will inherit the land, while judgment comes on those who disobey.

Numbers takes up from Exodus where Moses is the great leader, Aaron is his ‘voice’ and High Priest (Exodus 4:14-16; Exodus 4:30; Exodus 7:1-2; Exodus 28:1-4 etc) and Miriam is the inspiration of the womenfolk (Exodus 15:20-21), but it makes clear that all in the end sin and prove their unworthiness. All die in the wilderness. All are in the end lacking in faith and obedience (Numbers 20:12). For in Numbers Miriam is replaced as the inspiration of the womenfolk of Israel by the daughters of Zelophehad (Numbers 27:1-7), who through faith and obedience inherit the land (Numbers 36:1-12), Aaron is replaced by Eleazar, his son, and Moses is replaced by Joshua. And all is due to sin, and a new beginning resulting from God’s mercy. It is firmly established that were it not for God’s continuing mercy we would all be without hope, but that through all that occurs, His purposes go on, so that through continuation in faith and obedience those who trust Him may ‘inherit the land’.

It must be recognised that Numbers does not deal with the question of the eternal destiny of those involved. Such a concept is outside its purpose. It is rather dealing with the question of God sovereignly bringing about His purposes regardless of the desert of the people, with the aim of establishing His people under His Kingly Rule.

The title ‘Numbers’ arose simply because the first four chapters deal with the numbering of Israel preparatory to going forward from Sinai with a view to advancing on Canaan. But otherwise the book describes a mixture of history and ritual requirements. The Hebrew name is ‘In the wilderness’, which is actually a much more suitable title as long as you include within the term ‘wilderness’ the semi-desert and pasture land areas on the borders of Moab and Edom, and in the plains of Moab, for it brings God’s people from Sinai through the land of wandering to the borders of the land of Canaan.

But numbers, (which is the Greek name), are only in fact dealt with at the commencement and near the end of the book, when describing the mobilising of the fighting men in Israel, firstly at Sinai in the wilderness (Numbers 1-3), and secondly in the Moabite plain in Transjordan (Numbers 26) nearly forty years later, when a new Israel was commissioned. This last confirmed that they had left the wilderness as numerous as when they entered it, but totally renewed.

For the book as a whole is rather a skilful combination of history and ritual dealing with events prior to reaching the promised land, combined with specific teaching on aspects of religious ritual associated with Israel’s future. It is carefully constructed on a chiastic pattern.

Summary of the Book.

The book continues on from where Exodus and Leviticus left off. The impression intended to be given by the first part is that having delivered His people from Egypt (Exodus 1-19), and having established His covenant with them at Sinai (Exodus 20-24; Leviticus), and having set up His permanent earthly residence among them in His Tabernacle, His Dwellingplace (Exodus 25-40), Yahweh was now ready to move forward with them from Sinai to the conquest of Canaan. And it depicts how in the face of all man’s failure, God accomplishes His purpose to bring them to the borders of the land He had promised to their fathers, ready for its final conquest.

Yet while the Hebrew title ‘In The Wilderness’ may be seen as a fair description of the period to which its contents refer, we must recognise that relatively few actual events in the wilderness are described. For while it commences in the wilderness at Mount Sinai, moving on to their failure to enter the land in unbelief, this is then followed by thirty eight years in the wilderness, and almost nothing of what happened during that period is described. For the Book of Numbers is not so much a description of what happened during those thirty eighty years, most of which is ignored, but a theological preparation for entering the land. It is written very much with the second entry into the land under Joshua in view.

It thus begins with the mobilisation (numbering) of the army at Sinai (Numbers 1-4), and a demand for purity in the camp (Numbers 5:1 to Numbers 7:88), followed by a promise of Yahweh’s watch over Israel (7:89-9:14). After that the commencement of their forward march is catered for (Numbers 9:15 to Numbers 10:36), and is followed by indications of discontent among the people and God’s answer to it (11), and the similar discontent of Moses’ sister Miriam and Aaron (Numbers 12), and leads up to the first abortive failure to enter Israel (Numbers 13-14). The people were at that stage revealed as not yet ready to enter God’s holy land!

This is then followed by the period of wandering in the Wilderness which was the result of God’s judgment on them for their refusal to enter the land (Numbers 15-19) during which God confirms that He has not rejected Israel completely. He promises that once the generation that sinned has died He will go before them into Canaan. The certainty of this is evidenced by briefly describing the ritual system (Numbers 15:1-29), which will apply ‘once they have come into the land which they are due to inhabit’ (15:2), a system which, when partaken in with a genuine heart, will ensure their continuing forgiveness for their failures by God (Numbers 15:22-29). In it He gives a warning against high-handed sin (Numbers 15:30-36); and provides for a ‘uniform’ by which Israelites would in future be recognisable (15:37-41) and which would remind them of the covenant requirements. Subsequent to this God forcefully confirmed restriction of the priesthood to His chosen ‘sons of Aaron’ (Numbers 16-17), ensured provision for those whose responsibility it was to be to maintain the continuing holiness of His Dwellingplace (Numbers 18) and made further provision for the holiness of the camp, securing it against the taint of death (Numbers 19 compare Numbers 5-10). Rather than be the place of death it was to be the place of life.

We should note here God’s concern for the holiness of the whole camp. The sacrificial system was not just designed to ensure the purity of the Dwellingplace, but of the whole camp and its people (Numbers 15:26-29). It is possibly significant that while chapters 5-9 stress the purity of the camp it is not until Numbers 19 that the actual water for purification from contact with sin (Numbers 8:7) and death is described (although it is probably assumed in Numbers 8:7). Make no mistake, such purification was necessary from the first (Numbers 5:2; Numbers 8:7) but it was not until the first generation had died in the wilderness that such purification was actually brought to the forefront in the book. This was presumably because the first generation were seen to be a generation under sentence of death. For them there was no release. We should note that it is the impression rather than the chronology that is in mind here. All had in fact to constantly purify themselves from such impurity from the beginning (Numbers 5:2). But what Yahweh offered was life, not death (Deuteronomy 5:33; Deuteronomy 8:1; Deuteronomy 16:20; Deuteronomy 30:6), and only the new generation were able to purify themselves with continuing ‘life’ in view. The older generation had in view the fact that they must die in the wilderness.

Numbers 20 then commences the forward movement of the new generation towards the promised land, which starts appropriately enough with drought conditions which also symbolise the condition of the people, and describes the death of Miriam (Numbers 20:1), who had previously revealed her unfitness to enter the land (Numbers 12). This was a death which symbolised the need for the death of the first generation, and we learn further of the unfitness of Moses and Aaron to take the people into the land (Numbers 20:1-13). The great lesson is being brought home that ‘all have sinned and come short of the glory of God’ (Romans 3:23) and that ‘the wages of sin is death’ (Romans 6:23) and that outside His gracious compassion, and apart from those whom He chooses, none are fit to enter the place where He dwells.

This is then followed by repudiation by their brother nation Edom (Numbers 20:14-21), and further murmuring which produces judgment and repentance (Numbers 21:5-10). But this then in its turn reveals God’s graciousness and results in the movement on to abundant streams of water (Numbers 21:11-20), ever a picture of God’s blessing. This provision of abundant water significantly followed the death of Aaron and appointment of a new ‘Priest’ (20:22-29) and a firstfruits victory over the Canaanites (Numbers 21:1-4). The consequence was the defeat of a succession of enemies and capture of large swathes of territory (Numbers 21:21 to Numbers 24:25), some remarkable prophecies concerning their future by Balaam (Numbers 23-24), and advance to the plain of Moab opposite Jericho, where again some in Israel sinned grievously and were plagued (Numbers 25).

Following the encouragement given by coming across abundant streams of water, in such contrast to the dryness in the wilderness, and by the defeat of both Canaanites and Amorites, and the encouragement of Balaam’s prophecies (which they probably learned about after defeating the Midianites - 31), the remaining chapters are an encouragement for the final push into Canaan. They begin with the mobilisation of the new army and provisions for allocation of the land (Numbers 26:1 to Numbers 27:11), preparation for the death of Moses and his replacement by the new commander-in chief Joshua (27:12-23), and provisions concerning the continuing need for rededication illustrated by the feasts to be observed on entering the land (Numbers 28-29) and the similar importance of keeping oaths (Numbers 30), with an important reservation with regard to young unmarried women and wives (which in itself stresses the inviolability of an oath properly made to God in other cases). Proper worship and complete faithfulness to His promises are thus seen to be an essential for those who would enter the land.

This is followed by the crushing of the Midianites who had made Israel sin (Numbers 31 compare Numbers 25), and the redemption of their younger womenfolk who would marry Israelites and be brought within the covenant. This remarkable example of judgment of idolaters, and of mercy shown to those who could be redeemed, brings out the future purposes of God in all He was doing. Judgment leads on to mercy.

Numbers 32 onwards cover all the things to be taken into account on entering and possessing the land, so demonstrating conclusively that it was not just a possibility but a certainty. These included the handing over of Transjordan to two and a half tribes with the proviso that their fighting men go over into the land (Numbers 32), the description of the journey made to bring Israel to the place in which they now were (Numbers 33:1-49), the warning to remember to drive out the Canaanites (Numbers 33:50-56), the description of the land to be taken and provision for its division (Numbers 34), the importance of establishing cities for the Levites to ensure that God’s Instruction was known to the people, and of cities of refuge in order to maintain the purity of the land (Numbers 35), and final provisions ensuring the maintenance of the God-ordained division of the land in cases where women inherited. This last was also provided as an example of how resolute faith would triumph as with the daughters of Zelophehad (Numbers 36).

The whole atmosphere of the book is therefore of a people poised to enter the land, their initial failure and judgment, and God’s merciful restoration and provision for the future. And that is what the book itself claims to portray. It claims to have been mainly composed in that period. There are no genuine provable grounds for seeing otherwise. All opposition to this view is in the end based on supposition, not on facts, and that includes arguments about its philology. We actually know nothing about the philology of Hebrew in the 12th century BC apart from what is found in the Old Testament texts, and they are insufficient to give us full answers one way or the other (while Ugarit has given us a new insight into it, its philology is probably well prior to the time of Moses and Joshua). That is not to say that every word was then written and cast in stone, nor to deny that minor ‘updating’, both geographically and philologically, may have taken place in accordance with ancient practise. But the basic book is stated to be based on the words of Moses (as recorded through his chief scribe, probably Joshua), and that is what it claims to be.

Summary.

Its main divisions are thus as follows:

Chapters 1-10 Forward To The Promised Land! Mobilising And Preparing the Army And Purification of the Camp.

Chapters 10-14 Discontent, Disobedience, Defeat and Expulsion From The Land.

Chapters 15-19 Preparation During The Period of Trial and Wandering For Entry Into Canaan So As To Be Fitted to Be in Yahweh’s Land.

The expulsion from the land after the failed attempt at invasion contrary to Yahweh’s command, was followed by the thirty eight year trial and wandering in the wilderness. Most people are probably under the impression that we are given a great deal of information about that period, but in fact that is not so. It is rather mainly totally ignored, in such a way as to demonstrate that during that period Israel’s part in the going forward of history had come to a halt, it being described mainly in terms of ritual preparation for their future in the land. The only two historical events mentioned illustrate this. Its purpose is mainly in order to demonstrate that, in spite of all, they do have a future once the old slave mentality has been removed. To this end they were even given a ‘uniform’ indicating that they were still His covenant people. This was in the form of special tassels on their clothing, which were theologically to remind them of the commandments, and practically would distinguish them in warfare so that they would not kill each other.

We know little of what happened over this period except that it was a very hard period (Deuteronomy 8:15; Deuteronomy 32:10). The only two historical events mentioned are in order to vindicate the Aaronide priesthood, and as a warning against rebellion. Otherwise we are told nothing. And then eventually they returned for the second time to Kadesh. Thirty eight blank years had been lost.

Chapter 20-25 Onwards Advance From Kadesh. Defeat of Their Enemies.

Chapters 26-36 Mobilisation and Advance on Canaan.

These remaining chapters cover the advance from Kadesh after ‘the thirty eight years’ have passed as they advanced towards the eastern borders of Canaan and the plains of Moab from where they would enter the land over Jordan. It was during this period in the plains of Moab that the events described in Deuteronomy took place.

A More Detailed Summary.

In Exodus the writer had told the story of the deliverance from Egypt, the giving of the Covenant from Mount Sinai and the establishment of the Tabernacle as Yahweh’s Dwellingplace in the camp. Now he goes on from that into the journey from Sinai through the wilderness to the edge of the promised land, using this period to teach certain theological lessons. It divides neatly into four parts, as described above, covering briefly:

1). From Sinai to Kadesh (chapters 1-14) - This includes the departure from Sinai in good order (chapters 1-4), the requirements Yahweh laid on His people and His response (5:1-9:14), guidance instructions (Numbers 9:15 to Numbers 10:10), the experiences of the Exodus generation in the short wilderness journey to Kadesh (Numbers 10:11 to Numbers 12:16), and their failure to enter Canaan through fear and disobedience (13-14). Kadesh was an oasis (or group of oases) in the wilderness south of Canaan in the Negeb. It should have been the last stop on the way to Canaan, and it was reached in a short time after leaving Sinai. But instead of obedience and triumph there was disobedience and lack of faith, which would result in a long period of trial.

2). From Kadesh, Around the Wilderness, and Back to Kadesh (chapters 15-19). These chapters ‘cover’ the whole of their subsequent ‘thirty eight year’ wanderings, but the main matters dealt with are God’s provision of, and authentification of, their means of rightness with Him; as revealed in the sacrifices, in the priesthood (as authenticated in the rebellion of Korah and the rod that budded), in the Levites and in ‘the water for uncleanness’ (15-19), and their subsequent arrival back at Kadesh (Numbers 20:1)

3). From Kadesh to the Plains of Moab (chapters 20-25). These chapters contain more history as God’s purposes again begin to advance and describe Moses’ failure at Meribah, the beginning of the new advance, dealings with Edom, the death of Aaron, their experience with fiery serpents, the defeat of the Amorites, dealings with Moab and Balaam, failure at Shittim, the disgrace of Simeon, and a plague on the people.

4). The New Generation (chapters 26-36). From this point on we have the preparation of the new generation for entry into the land including details of a ‘numbering’ confirming how Yahweh has maintained the numbers of His people and is now mobilising them again ready for them to enter the land in the present (Numbers 26), the treatment of the daughters of Zelophehad and the judgment with respect to women inheriting land in the future (Numbers 27:1-11), the solemn appointment of Joshua in the present (Numbers 27:12-23), worship in the land in the future (Numbers 28-30), judgment on the Midianites in the present (Numbers 31), agreement with Reuben, Gad and half of Manasseh about settling in Transjordan with the promise to support the invasion in the future (32), a summary of their journeying from Egypt to the plains of Moab in the present (Numbers 33:1-49), instruction concerning dividing up the land in the future (Numbers 33:50 to Numbers 35:34), including provision of cities for the Levites and the setting up of cities of refuge (Numbers 35), and finally further clarification about inheritance in the land by women, and the daughters of Zelophehad in particular, with a view to preventing tribal inheritances being diminished and demonstrating what results when His people trust Him and obey His word. The faith and obedience of the daughters of Zelophehad is the key note on which the book ends.

It will be noted that there is in this last section a pattern whereby elements dealing with the past and present are methodically and carefully interspersed with events to occur in the future. Past, present and glorious future have been, and are, and will be in the hands of Yahweh.

Thus the whole book is a carefully constructed mixture of preparation for advance, description of a few widely scattered major historical events which bring out lessons for the future, and a description of a good amount of religious ritual which will be central to their prosperity in the future, with its emphasis on continual forgiveness and deliverance from death, and the need for continual rededication. It reveals a mixture of the outward behaviour and the inward heart of Israel. We must not dismiss the ritual or sideline it. For the heart of a people is as much revealed by their living ritual as by anything else. In regard to that we can consider simplified examples: the bloodthirstiness and fierceness of the people of Ammon is laid bare by their rites concerning their bloodthirsty god, Molech; the carnality of the people of Canaan is laid bare by the sexual depravity of their rites in respect of Baal and Asherah. The truth is that the people shape their ritual and the ritual shapes the people. So it is from the ritual that we know the hearts of the people. Thus Yahweh’s requirement for the dedication and purity of His people and His provision for their restoration from sin lies at the heart of Israelite ritual.

In the modern day we separate theology from history. To the ancients history was theology revealed. Where Israel were distinctive was in the God-given nature of the revelation of their ritual through Moses which was to bring home to them the mind of God, so that while they truly responded to it they would be kept from evil. This is central to the ideas in the book. While it contains history, simply to read it as history is to miss its point, for it has only one theme. Preparation for entry into the land and dwelling there, the movement of His people towards the Kingdom of God. Its further lesson for us is what it teaches us both about God’s ways of dealing in the past and about our own journey as forgiven sinners to the heavenly kingdom of God.

The Authorship of the Book.

The basis of the book is stated to be a number of revelations made to Moses by Yahweh, most of which are headed up by the words ‘and Yahweh spoke to Moses saying’, or similar. As covenant requirements and instruction these would, in accordance with common practise in the Ancient Near East, have been noted down in writing. Some of these were then seemingly brought together in more comprehensive written documents as in for example Numbers 1:1 to Numbers 3:1. We are probably to see some of this as the work of Joshua which would explain why he remained in the Tent of Meeting for such long periods (Exodus 33:11). These were then taken by the writer and incorporated into this even larger work which is carefully constructed and is clearly a unity as its chiastic framework confirms. This was also probably the work of Joshua, as Moses’ secretary and deputy leader, or by a scribe acting under his supervision.

This is especially brought out by the fact that a clear pattern is discernible reflecting the love of the ancients for writing chiastically. That is not to deny that an occasional scribal note has been added to the text, especially with a view to updating, but these are few and far between and do not disturb the essential unity of the book. The whole construction of the book further emphasises the purpose for which it was intended. To prepare the people for entry into the land. A more detailed summary revealing this unity is now provided, but for the full picture the commentary itself will have to be consulted.

THE OVERALL PLAN OF THE BOOK.

The overall chiastic construction is drawn attention to by the letters of the alphabet which open each line.

a Mobilisation For Israel’s Advance On The Land (chapters 1-4).

b The Purifying, Dedication and Blessing of Israel Through Cleansing, Offerings and Vows (chapters 5-10).

c The Murmuring of Israel, Appointment of 70 Elders On Whom Came The Spirit, The Smiting of Miriam For Sin (chapters 11-12).

d Preparations For Advance Into The Land and Defeat By the Amorites (chapters 13-14).

e Promised Restoration, Hope and Life Offered Through The Cultus (chapters 15-19).

e Eleazar Replaces Aaron (Restoration) Resulting in Rivers of Life-giving Water (Hope and Life) (20-21:20).

d Forward Advance - The Defeat of the Amorites, as well as Balaam and Midianite Temptation (20:22-25:18).

c The Mobilisation of Israel, Appointment of Joshua on Whom Was the Spirit and the Death of Moses For Sin (chapters 26-27).

b The Dedication of Israel Through Feasts, Offerings and Vows - The Purifying of Transjordan Through Vengeance on the Midianites and Settlement of the Two and a Half Tribes (chapters 28-32).

a Description Of The Journey To The Land And Its Intended and Preliminary Occupation (chapters 33-36).

Individual sections also then follow a chiastic construction.

A. THE PREPARATIONS TO GO FORWARD FROM SINAI WITH YAHWEH’S PROVISIONS RELATED THERETO (1:1-10:10).

This section emphasises the going forward of Israel, the necessity for it to be pure and the resulting response of Yahweh.

a Preparation for Going Forward of the Men At Arms (Numbers 1-2).

b Preparation for Going Forward of the Sanctuary (Numbers 3-4)

c The Responsibility Of The People Towards Yahweh (Numbers 5:1 to Numbers 7:88).

c The Responsibility of Yahweh Towards the People (Numbers 7:89 to Numbers 9:14).

b Guidance In Respect of Going Forward describing the movement of the cloud to guide the Sanctuary (Numbers 9:15-23).

a Guidance In Respect of Going Forward for the men at arms (Numbers 10:1-10).

B. THE JOURNEY FROM SINAI TO KADESH (10:11-12:15).

This section describes the relatively short journey from Sinai to borders of the land and comprises of:

a The setting forward from Sinai and the order of the march (Numbers 10:11-33).

b The people complain and are smitten, Moses intervenes (Numbers 11:1-3)

c Murmuring for meat instead of manna (Numbers 11:4-15).

d Appointment of the seventy elders (Numbers 11:16-24).

d Enduing of the seventy elders (Numbers 11:25-30)

c The provision of meat instead of manna in the form of quails (Numbers 11:31-35).

b Aaron and Miriam complain about Moses, Miriam is smitten, Moses intervenes (Numbers 12:1-15).

a Journeying forward and arrival at the Wilderness of Paran (Numbers 12:16)

C. THE SPYING OUT OF THE LAND AND THE REFUSAL TO GO FORWARD FOLLOWED BY REJECTION AND EXPULSION FROM THE LAND (chapters 13-14).

Following the arrival in the Wilderness of Paran, at Kadesh, the tribes settled down while the land ahead could be spied out. This section describes the spying out of the land and the subsequent disobedience and unbelief of the people as a whole. It consists of:

a The spying out of the land (Numbers 13:1-25).

b The scouts report on what lies ahead (Numbers 13:26-33).

c The people’s response (Numbers 14:1-10).

d The anger of Yahweh (Numbers 14:11-12).

d The intercession of Moses (Numbers 14:13-25).

c Yahweh’s response (Numbers 14:26-38).

b The people report on their plans (Numbers 14:39-43)

a The catastrophic aftermath in the land (Numbers 14:44-45)

This is then followed by:

D. SUBSEQUENT RESTORATION AND HOPE: YAHWEH’S PROVISION FOR HIS ERRING PEOPLE (chapters 15-19).

In this section, which covers the period of the ‘penal’ wandering in the wilderness subsequent to expulsion from the land of Canaan by the Amorites, Yahweh’s provision for Israel’s dealings with Him are laid bare. As a people they have been subjected to discipline and chastening, but not to rejection, and they are assured that once the first generation have died out under Yahweh’s judgment they will be able to enter the land. This is made apparent by the provisions that follow.

a Provision is made for offerings and sacrifices so that they can walk before Him as His people once they are in the land free from the taint of sin (Numbers 15).

b Provision is made for an authenticated priesthood (Numbers 16-17).

b Provision is made for the Levites to serve the Sanctuary (Numbers 18).

a Provision is made of the ‘water of uncleanness’ for cleansing from ‘death’ so they can walk before Him as His people free from the taint of death (Numbers 19).

E. FROM KADESH TO THE PLAINS OF MOAB (chapters 20-25).

There now follow a series of historical events which bring Israel to the plains of Moab. History has become important again because Yahweh’s purposes are now going forward. The first section deals with the turning point in the death of Aaron and appointment of a new High Priest (for the importance of this latter compare Numbers 34:25; Numbers 34:28). The second with victory in the Wars of Yahweh including the Battle with Balaam.

(i). The Turning Point of the Death of Aaron and the Change in the High Priesthood (20-21).

a The people suffer dire shortage of water (20:1-2a).

b The people grumble at lack of water and are sent deliverance by the water from the rock at Meribah, which causes the sin of Aaron and Moses (Numbers 20:2-13).

c Edom seek to block Israel’s way forward. They must not fight their brothers (Numbers 20:14-21).

d Aaron climbs Mount Hor to his death and is replaced by Eleazar (Numbers 20:22-29).

c The king of Arad seeks to block Israel’s way forward. The first defeat and destruction of the Canaanites (Numbers 21:1-3).

b The people grumble at lack of food and water and are sent fiery serpents followed by deliverance by the brazen serpent (Numbers 21:4-9).

a Yahweh provides abundance of water (21:10-20).

(ii). Victory In The Wars of Yahweh (21:21-25:18).

Having tasted victory against the king of Arad Yahweh now provides them with more victories. These are as follows:

a The defeat of Sihon king of the Amorites in the land of the Moabites and they dwell there (Numbers 21:21-31).

b The defeat in the north of Og, king of Bashan, by their armies, and they possess his land (Numbers 21:32-35).

c The people finally arrive at the plains of Moab and pitch their tents there (Numbers 21:31 to Numbers 22:1).

b The defeat of the evil influence of Balaam brought from the north by the Moabites (Numbers 22:2 to Numbers 24:25).

a The defeat of the evil influence of Moab and the Midianites in the land of the Moabites (Numbers 25).

F. FUTURE PROSPECTS IN THE LAND (chapters 26-36).

This is divided up into preparations for entering the land (chapters 26-32), and warning and encouragement with respect to it (chapters 33-36).

(i). Preparation for Entering the Land (chapters 26-32).

This can be divided up into:

a Numbering of the tribes for entering the land (Numbers 26:1-51).

b Division of the land (Numbers 26:52-62).

c Vengeance on those who had refused to enter the land (Numbers 26:63-65).

d Regulation in respect of land to be inherited by women (Numbers 27:1-11).

e Provision of a shepherd for the people of Israel (Numbers 27:12-23).

e Provision for future worship in the land (Numbers 28-29).

d Regulation in respect of vows especially as made by women (Numbers 30)

c Vengeance to be obtained on Midian (Numbers 31:1-24).

b Division of the spoils of Midian (Numbers 31:25-54).

a Settlement of the Transjordan tribes (Numbers 32).

(ii) Warning and Encouragement of The Younger Generation (chapters 33-36).

Finally clear instructions are given as to what must happen once the land is possessed concluding with an example of successful inheriting of the land in the persons of the daughters of Zelophehad.

a Review of the journey from Egypt to the plains of Moab (Numbers 33:1-49).

b Instruction concerning taking possession of and dividing up the land in the future (Numbers 33:50 to Numbers 34:15).

c The Leaders who will divide the land for them are appointed (Numbers 34:16-29).

d Provision of cities for the Levites. (Numbers 35:1-5)

d Provision of cities of refuge and prevention of defilement of the land (Numbers 35:6-34).

c The Leaders of the tribe of Manasseh approach Moses about the possible loss of part of their division of the land as a result of the decision about the daughters of Zelophehad (Numbers 36:1-4).

b Instruction concerning women who inherit land so as to maintain the correct dividing up of the land, and subsequently take possession of it (Numbers 36:5-12)

a Final summary of the book and colophon. The journey is over. They are in the plains of Moab opposite Jericho (Numbers 36:13).

MORE DETAILED ANALYSIS.

Having seen the chiastic formation of the main parts of the whole we may now analyse the book in even more depth, demonstrating that the chiastic pattern is also applied in more detail. These detailed formations are important for if they are correct they dispel the notion that the book is made up of interwoven narratives from different centuries. For what redactor would take such and go to the trouble of putting them into a chiastic pattern? This last suggests unity of authorship, although unquestionably based on covenant documents which had already been written down. We may see the analysis as follows:

A. THE PREPARATIONS TO GO FORWARD FROM SINAI WITH YAHWEH’S PROVISIONS RELATED THERETO (1:1-10:10).

This is divided into three elements:

1). Preparation for Travel and Invasion of the new kingdom, describing the first military ‘numbering’ and the mobilising of the people for war, and the separate ‘numbering’ of the Levites, and mobilising of them for the service of Yahweh in carrying the things of the Sanctuary (Numbers 1-4).

This in itself seems to follow a general chiastic pattern (indicated by the letters a to d), something continued on throughout the book, and can be divided up into:

a The taking of the sum of the fighting men of the tribes and their responsibility (to war) (Numbers 1:1-46).

b The Levites’ responsibility for the Dwellingplace (Numbers 1:47-54).

c Positioning and arrangements for travel of the people (Numbers 2:1-32).

d The consecration of the priests to Yahweh (Numbers 3:1-4).

d The dedication of the Levites to the priests and to Yahweh (Numbers 3:5-13)

c Positioning and arrangements for travel of the Levites (Numbers 3:14-51).

b The priests’ responsibility for the Dwellingplace (Numbers 4:1-14).

a The taking of the sum of the Levites and their responsibilities (Numbers 4:15-49).

2). The People’s Responsibility Towards Yahweh and Yahweh’s Response.

This second section can be divided up into two sections which are in a combined chiastic pattern.

i) The People’s Responsibility toward Yahweh: This deals with commands and rituals which needed to be observed in respect of the responsibility of all to maintain and advance the holiness of the camp in preparation for going forward to His kingdom. These are emphasised with regard to:

a The cleansing of the whole people (Numbers 5).

b The setting apart of dedicated ones among the people (Numbers 6:1-21).

c The function of the priests in bringing the light of Yahweh’s countenance on the people (Numbers 6:22-27).

d The response of the princes - the supreme leaders (Numbers 7:1-88).

ii) Yahweh’s Responsibility to the People: The Response of the Sanctuary (7:89-9:14).

This deals respectively with (in the reverse order to the above):

d Yahweh’s voice speaking to Moses, the Supreme Leader (Numbers 7:89).

c Aaron and the priests directing the light of Yahweh (Numbers 8:1-4).

b The setting apart and dedication of the Levites (Numbers 8:5-26).

a The coming of the whole cleansed people to Yahweh (Numbers 9:1-14).

(i) The Responsibility Of All To Maintain the Holiness of the Camp (5:1-7:88).

a Their responsibility to keep the camp ritually clean and whole by expulsion of the unclean that would defile the camp (Numbers 5:1-4), by dealing with offences that cause dissension and defile the camp (Numbers 5:5-10), and by maintaining marital relationships and removal of the defilement of secret adultery (Numbers 5:11-31).

b The responsibility for the lay people to consider the opportunity for individual dedication of themselves as Nazirites to Yahweh (Numbers 6:1-21), putting themselves on a par with the priests from a point of view of consecration to God, although not enabling them to perform priestly functions. By this they could advance the holiness of the camp and contribute to its becoming ‘a kingdom of priests’ (Exodus 19:6).

c The responsibility for the priests to dispense Yahweh’s blessing of His people with His Name (Numbers 6:22-27) as His holy people thus maintaining the holiness of the camp. One of those blessings was that the light of His face might shine on them as the lampstand shone on the showbread in the Sanctuary

d The responsibility for the princes to provide the gifts and offerings for the maintaining of the holiness of the Sanctuary and for the dedication of the altar (7:1-88) as they registered their submission to the King.

Thus it deals respectively with (1) the whole people; (2) the specially dedicated among the people (the Nazirites); (3) the priests who bring the light of His countenance to the people; and (4) those in supreme authority, the princes. These compare in the reverse order in what follows with (1) Moses the supreme authority receiving the voice of Yahweh; (2) Aaron and the priests directing the light of Yahweh; (3) the special dedication of the Levites for the performance of the service of the Sanctuary; and (4) the provision for the whole people in the Passover.

ii) Yahweh’s Responsibility to the People: The Response of the Sanctuary (7:89-9:14). This deals respectively with Moses (Numbers 7:89), Aaron and the priests (Numbers 8:1-4), the Levites (Numbers 8:5-26) and the people (Numbers 9:1-14).

d The Voice of Yahweh would speak to Moses from the Mercy Seat (Numbers 7:89), the King thus making His response to the offerings of the princes.

c The lighting of the lamps by Aaron in the Sanctuary symbolised the light of Yahweh among His people as it shone on the show bread which represented His people. Through the lampstand the light of Yahweh shone permanently on His people in accordance with the priestly blessing (Numbers 8:1-4 compare Numbers 6:25).

b The compulsory dedication of the Levites to the service of Yahweh (Numbers 8:5-26). This parallels the dedication of the Nazirites among the people for the ensuring of the holiness of the camp.

a The compulsory keeping of the Passover of deliverance by all who were clean (Numbers 9:1-14). Having cleansed the camp (compare Numbers 5:1 to Numbers 7:88) they can enjoy the intimate experience of the Passover, the proof that above all they are Yahweh’s chosen people. As their deliverance had begun with the Passover, so would their going forward begin with the Passover, a reminder that Yahweh was continually with them. Note the emphasis on cleanness.

The first part can also be analysed in more detail as follows:

a Removal of ritual uncleanness by casting it from the camp (Numbers 5:1-4).

b Removal of moral uncleanness through the activity of the priests (Numbers 5:5-10)

c Removal of sexual uncleanness. The woman’s hair is let down (Numbers 5:11-31).

c Seeking of moral and spiritual holiness. The Nazirite has to grow his hair long. Note how the long hair of the woman parallels and contrasts with the long hair of the Nazirite, because they are for a different reason (Numbers 6:1-21).

b Seeking moral and spiritual welfare through the blessing of the priests (Numbers 6:22-27)

a Seeking the people’s ritual cleanness through the dedication of the altar (Numbers 7:1-88).

Within these patterns which have just been described come other examples of chiastic formations. Chapter 5 may be analysed briefly as follows:

a Ritual cleansing of the camp from defilement by uncleanness (Numbers 5:1-4).

b Cleansing of the camp from trespasses against Yahweh and against neighbours (Numbers 5:5-10).

a Cleansing of the camp from defilement caused by secret adultery (Numbers 5:11-31).

This then splits further into:

Analysis of Numbers 5:1-4.

a Yahweh commands that the unclean be put out of the camp (Numbers 5:1-2).

b Both unclean males and females to be put out of the camp (Numbers 5:3 a).

b The purpose is that they might not defile the camp where Yahweh dwells (Numbers 5:3 b).

a The children of Israel put the unclean out of the camp as Yahweh commanded (Numbers 5:4).

Analysis of Numbers 5:5-10.

a A man or woman sins and commits a trespass against Yahweh. This is a trespass that has defrauded another and is thus a taking from Yahweh (Numbers 5:5-6).

b They must confess what they have done and give recompense to the one whom they have defrauded (Numbers 5:7).

c If the man or his kinsman is not available then he must recompense it to Yahweh (Numbers 5:8 a).

c He must offer the ram of atonement whereby atonement is made for him to Yahweh (Numbers 5:8 b).

b Every offering of holy things brought to the priest is his, (this is the offerer’s recompense to Yahweh) (Numbers 5:9).

a Every man’s ‘made holy’ thing shall be the priest’s, a giving to Yahweh (this is the exact opposite of a trespass which takes from Yahweh) (Numbers 5:10).

Analysis of Numbers 5:11-31.

A man’s wife goes aside and commits adultery secretly (Numbers 5:11-12).

b The adultery is hidden from her husband and there is no witness (Numbers 5:13).

c The spirit of jealousy comes on the man whether she is defiled or not (Numbers 5:14).

d The man brings his wife to the priest with an offering of memorial (Numbers 5:15).

e The woman brought near and the priest makes the water of testing (Numbers 5:16-17).

f The woman is made to stand before Yahweh as prepared by the priest (Numbers 5:18).

g The priest charges her with an oath to speak truly (Numbers 5:19-20).

g The priest charges the woman with an oath of cursing (Numbers 5:21-22).

f The woman is made to drink the water of testing before Yahweh (Numbers 5:23-24).

e The priest takes the jealousy offering from the hand of the woman (Numbers 5:25).

d The priest bring the man’s offering of memorial before Yahweh and makes her drink the water (Numbers 5:26).

c If the woman is defiled her body will swell and she shall be a curse (Numbers 5:27).

b If she is innocent she will be revealed as clean and shall be free of blame for hidden adultery (Numbers 5:28).

a This is the law of jealousy for when a woman goes aside and commits adultery, or is suspected of it, freeing her husband from any guilt in regard to it (Numbers 5:29-31).

Numbers 6 with respect to the Nazirite analyses as follows:

a The Nazirite’s decision to make a vow (Numbers 6:2).

b Abstinence from wine (Numbers 6:3-4).

c The hair not to be cut (Numbers 6:5).

d The taint of death to be avoided (Numbers 6:6-8).

e Sacrifices to be offered if he sins for the dead (Numbers 6:9-11).

f Consecration of the days of his separation (Numbers 6:12).

f Fulfilment of the days of his separation (Numbers 6:13).

e Sacrifices to be offered for his sins and dedication (Numbers 6:14-15).

d The death of these victims to be brought about (Numbers 6:16-17).

c The shaving of the head of the Nazirite (Numbers 6:18-19).

b The Nazirite to drink wine (Numbers 6:20).

a The law concerning the decision to make a vow (Numbers 6:21).

Analysis of Numbers 6:22-27.

a How Aaron is to bless the children of Israel (Numbers 6:22-23).

b Yahweh to bless and keep them (something done to them) (Numbers 6:24).

c Yahweh to make His face shine on them and be gracious to them (Yahweh’s attitude to be shown towards them) (Numbers 6:25).

b Yahweh to lift up His countenance on them and give them peace (something done to them) (Numbers 6:26).

a Thus will Yahweh put His name on and bless the children of Israel (Numbers 6:27).

Note in this chiasmus that it is the central point emphasised in it that is paralleled in Numbers 8:1-4.

Analysis of Numbers 7:1-88.

a Moses sets up the Dwellingplace with all its accoutrements and anoints and sanctifies them (Numbers 7:1)

b The princes bring their offering of wagons to Yahweh (as an act of dedication of the Sanctuary) (Numbers 7:2-3).

c The wagons are given to the Levites for the bearing of the Dwellinplace (Numbers 7:4-9).

d Detailed description of the offerings of the twelve princes for the Sanctuary and the altar (Numbers 7:12-83).

c The silver and golden instruments offered for the dedication of the altar (Numbers 7:84-86).

b The offerings of animals brought to Yahweh for the dedication of the altar (Numbers 7:87-88).

a Yahweh speaks to Moses from the Mercy Seat in the Dwellingplace (Numbers 7:89).

The Light from The Lampstand (Numbers 8:1-4).

Analysis of Numbers Numbers 8:1-4.

a The lamps on the lampstand were to be lit in order to give light in front of the lampstand in accordance with Yahweh’s command (Numbers 8:1-2).

b Aaron did this. He did exactly as Yahweh commanded Moses. He lighted the lamps to give light in front of the lampstand (Numbers 8:3).

a The description of the lampstand which was made in accordance with the pattern shown in the Mount (Numbers 8:4).

The Dedication of the Levites (Numbers 8:5-26).

The Levites were to stand in for the firstborn sons of Israel for the purpose of generally looking after Yahweh’s Dwellingplace. They were to be totally dedicated to Yahweh. Their careful preparation was a further reminder that Yahweh, and His holy things necessary for their approach to Yahweh, could not be dealt with lightly.

Analysis of Numbers 8:5-22.

a The command to take and cleanse the Levites (Numbers 8:5-6).

b The purifying, washing and preparation for the making of atonement (Numbers 8:7-8).

c The whole congregation assembled to do the will of Yahweh (Numbers 8:9)

d Presentation of the Levites before Yahweh at the Tent of meeting and offered as a waveoffering, with threefold repetition to stress the completeness of the offering (Numbers 8:10-15).

e The Levites wholly given to Yahweh instead of the firstborn (Numbers 8:16).

f All the firstborn were Yahweh’s because He delivered them at the Passover (Numbers 8:17).

e The Levites taken instead of all the firstborn (Numbers 8:18).

d The Levites given as a gift to Aaron, Yahweh’s representative, to do the service of the Tent of meeting (Numbers 8:19).

c All the congregation do the will of Yahweh (Numbers 8:20).

b The purifying, washing and making of atonement (Numbers 8:21).

a Yahweh’s command obeyed (Numbers 8:22).

Central to the pattern is the fact that the firstborn belonged to Yahweh because of the deliverance from Egypt, and around that is built the fact that the Levites are being taken as substitutes and prepared accordingly. Added as a kind of postscript is the information concerning the ages of commencement and retirement.

The Major Period of Service of the Levites (Numbers 8:23-26).

a From twenty five and upwards the Levites to ‘war the warfare’ in the work of the Tent of meeting (Numbers 8:23-24).

b At the age of fifty they cease to work and serve no more (Numbers 8:25).

a The retired to minister with their brethren in the Tent of meeting to guard and protect it but serve no more Numbers (8:26).

The Observance of The Passover (Numbers 9:1-14).

The observance of the Passover was the annual rededication of all the people of Israel and a recognition of their part in the great deliverance from Egypt. Having been made clean they were reminded through it that they were Yahweh’s delivered people and under His protection.

The passage follows the usual chiastic pattern.

a The Passover must be kept at its appointed time (Numbers 9:1-2).

b The Passover is to be kept according to all the statutes and ordinance (Numbers 9:3).

c The Passover was kept in the wilderness as commanded (Numbers 9:4-5).

d The approach of those who were unclean for the dead and could not eat the Passover (Numbers 9:6-7).

e Moses asks them to wait while he discovers Yahweh’s will (Numbers 9:8).

e Yahweh speaks to Moses His will (Numbers 9:9).

d Yahweh speaks concerning those who were unclean and could not eat the Passover (9:10a).

c They shall keep the Passover of Yahweh (Numbers 9:10 b).

b The Passover was to be kept as laid down (Numbers 9:11-12).

a The Passover must be kept at its appointed time (Numbers 9:13-14).

3). Guidance In Respect of Going Forward (Numbers 9:15 to Numbers 10:10).

All having been provided for the necessary means of guidance are provided.

a The cloud/fire rests on the tabernacle (Numbers 9:15-16).

b Movement forward regulated by the cloud (Numbers 9:17-23).

b Responses to be determined by the blowing of the silver trumpets (Numbers 10:1-8).

a The blowing of the silver trumpets as a memorial before Yahweh once they have rest in the land (Numbers 10:9-10)

B. THE JOURNEY FROM SINAI TO KADESH (10:11-12:15).

This section comprises of:

a The setting forward from Sinai and the order of the march (Numbers 10:11-33).

b The people complain and are smitten, Moses intervenes (Numbers 11:1-3)

c Murmuring for meat instead of manna (Numbers 11:4-15).

d Appointment of the seventy elders (Numbers 11:16-24).

d Enduing of the seventy elders (Numbers 11:25-30)

c The provision of meat instead of manna in the form of quails (Numbers 11:31-35).

b Personal complaint about Moses by Aaron and Miriam, Miriam is smitten, Moses intervenes (Numbers 12:1-15).

a Journeying forward and arrival at the Wilderness of Paran (Numbers 12:16)

But within this pattern are three clearly distinguished chiastic patterns, (with two smaller patterns which are dealt with in the commentary), the second of which is so conclusive that it cannot reasonably be denied.

The first section divides up chiastically as follow:

a The ‘setting forth’ of the children of Israel on their journeys (Numbers 10:11-13).

b The troops who are in the van (Numbers 10:14-16).

c The Levites bearing the Dwellingplace (Numbers 10:17).

d The troops who are in the centre (Numbers 10:18-20).

c The Levites bearing the holy things (Numbers 10:21).

b The troops who are in the rear (Numbers 10:22-27).

a The ‘setting forth’ of the children of Israel (Numbers 10:28).

The second section divides up as follows:

a The people murmur against Yahweh (Numbers 11:1 a).

b The anger of Yahweh is kindled and He smites them with judgment (Numbers 11:1-3)

c The rabble commence lusting and the people crave for the pleasures of Egypt which causes them to sin (Numbers 11:4-6).

d The people had gathered the manna (Numbers 11:7-8).

e The manna had fallen from heaven (Numbers 11:9).

f Moses was disturbed at the people and receives a reply (Numbers 11:10-15).

g The Spirit will come on the seventy elders (Numbers 11:16-17).

h The people will eat the flesh they craved (when they should have been craving spirit) (Numbers 11:18 a).

i The people’s craving for flesh makes them declare, ‘It was well with us in Egypt’ (Numbers 11:18).

i They will be satiated with flesh because they said, ‘Why came we forth out of Egypt?’ (Numbers 11:19-20).

h Moses puzzled how Yahweh can provide the flesh the people crave, but they will eat it (Numbers 11:21-23 a).

g The Spirit comes on the seventy elders (Numbers 11:24-26).

f Joshua was disturbed at the two elders and receives a reply (Numbers 11:27-30).

e The quails fall from heaven (Numbers 11:31).

d The people gather the quails (Numbers 11:32 a).

c The people’s craving for the quails causes them to sin (Numbers 11:32 b).

b Yahweh’s anger is kindled and the plague comes from Yahweh so that the people are smitten (Numbers 11:33).

a The malcontents and lusters are buried in the Graves of craving (Numbers 11:34).

The third section divides up as follows:

a They journey from Kibroth-hattaavah to Hazeroth (Numbers 11:35).

b Miriam and Aaron turn against Moses (Miriam named first) (Numbers 12:1-2).

c Moses is the meekest man on earth (Numbers 12:3).

d Yahweh speaks to Moses, Aaron and Miriam and calls them into His presence (Numbers 12:4).

e The cloud comes down to the door of the Dwellingplace (Numbers 12:5).

f Yahweh’s definition of a prophet (Numbers 12:6).

f Yahweh’s declaration about Moses (Numbers 12:7-8).

e The cloud departs from the Dwellingplace leaving Miriam leprous (Numbers 12:9-10).

d Aaron pleads with Moses to go into Yahweh’s presence on Aaron and Miriam’s behalf (Numbers 12:11-13).

c Miriam is as one whose father spits in their face (Numbers 12:14).

b Miriam is cast out of the camp for seven days (Numbers 12:15).

a They journey from Hazeroth to the wilderness of Paran (Numbers 12:16).

C. THE SPYING OUT OF THE LAND AND THE REFUSAL TO GO FORWARD FOLLOWED BY REJECTION AND DISASTER (chapters 13-14).

Following the arrival in the Wilderness of Paran, at Kadesh, the tribes settled down while the land ahead could be spied out. This section consists of:

a The spying out of the land (Numbers 13:1-25).

b The scouts report on what lies ahead (Numbers 13:26-33).

c The people’s response Numbers (14:1-10).

d The anger of Yahweh (Numbers 14:11-12).

d The intercession of Moses (Numbers 14:13-25).

c Yahweh’s response (Numbers 14:26-38).

b The people report on their plans (Numbers 14:39-43)

a The catastrophic aftermath in the land (Numbers 14:44-45)

This is then divided up as follows:

1). The Sending Out of the Scouts (Numbers 13:1-16).

The first section from Numbers 13:1-16 basically covers the sending out of the scouts:

a Yahweh’s command to send out men to spy out the land (Numbers 13:1-2 a).

b The spies to be sent out one for each tribe (Numbers 13:2 b).

c Moses at Yahweh’s command sends out spies (Numbers 13:3).

b The names of those sent, one for each tribe (Numbers 13:4-15).

a These are the names of those sent out to spy out the land (Numbers 13:16).

2). The Activity and Return of the Scouts (Numbers 13:17-25).

The scouts then went out in accordance with Moses’ command, investigated the land and returned. This can be outlined as follows:

a The scouts sent out to spy the land (Numbers 13:17).

b The land to be thoroughly investigated for its goodness (Numbers 13:18-20 a).

c It was the time of firstripe grapes (Numbers 13:20 b).

d They search the land up to Rehob and Labo of Hamath (Numbers 13:21).

d They ascend by the South and come to Hebron (Numbers 13:22).

c At Eshcol they cut down grapes, pomegranates and figs (Numbers 13:23).

b The goodness of the land revealed in its being called Eshcol because of the wonderful grapes (Numbers 13:24).

a They returned from spying after forty days (Numbers 13:25).

3). The Scouts Report Back (Numbers 13:26 to Numbers 14:1).

Once the scouts arrived back they immediately reported to Moses. What resulted can be summarised as follows:

a The scouts report back to Moses, Aaron and ‘all the congregation’ (Numbers 13:26)

b The scouts describe the land and the awesome sons of Anak (Numbers 13:27-29).

c Caleb stills the people (Numbers 13:30 a)

c Caleb says, ‘let us go forward’ (Numbers 13:30 b).

b The scouts report evil of the land and the awesome sons of Anak (Numbers 13:31-33).

a ‘All the congregation’ lift up their voice and cry and weep (Numbers 14:1).

4). The People Murmur Against Moses And Are Spared At His Intercession (Numbers 14:2-25).

a The people murmur against Moses and long to return to Egypt and decide to choose a leader to take them back to Egypt (Numbers 14:2-4).

b Moses and Aaron fall on their faces before the assembly (Numbers 14:5).

c Joshua and Caleb extol the good of the land (Numbers 14:6-9).

d The congregation commands to stone them with stones (Numbers 14:10 a).

d The glory of Yahweh appears among the congregation (Numbers 14:10 b)

c He determines to disinherit them from the good land and destroy them (Numbers 14:10-12).

b Moses pleads with Yahweh on behalf of the people (Numbers 14:13-19).

a Yahweh pardons the people, describes what He had done in Egypt and, swearing that they will not see the land, sends them back on the way to the Reed Sea (Numbers 14:20-25).

5). Yahweh Confirms The Future of the Current Generation of Israelites And How Their Children Must Suffer With Them (Numbers 14:26-35).

Yahweh came to Moses again and detailed out the position He was now taking up.

a Because of their murmuring the children of Israel will die in the wilderness (Numbers 14:26-30).

b Their little ones will be brought in and know the land (Numbers 14:32).

b But first they will wander in the wilderness for forty years for the sake of their fathers’ behaviour (Numbers 14:33-34).

a The evil congregation will die in the wilderness (Numbers 14:35).

6). The Aftermath (Numbers 14:36-45).

A number of things followed on Yahweh’s words.

a The men who brought the evil report died, while Joshua and Caleb lived (Numbers 14:36-38).

b Moses told the children of Israel of what Yahweh had said and they mourned greatly (Numbers 14:39)

b The people declared that they would go forward after all but Moses told them not to go up, for Yahweh would not be among them (Numbers 14:40-43).

a Those who listened to the evil report yet still went forward were smitten down and driven out of the land (Numbers 14:41-45).

This is then followed by:

D. SUBSEQUENT RESTORATION AND HOPE: YAHWEH’S PROVISION FOR HIS ERRING PEOPLE (chapters 15-19).

In this section, which covers the period of the ‘penal’ wandering in the wilderness subsequent to expulsion from the land of Canaan by the Amorites, Yahweh’s provision for Israel’s dealings with Him are laid bare. They have been subjected to discipline and chastening, but not to rejection, and this is made apparent by the provisions that follow. The people of the first generation are thrust aside as provision is made for the new generation.

a Firstly provision is made for their walk before Him as His people, once they are in the land, through offerings and sacrifices and the wearing of clothing marking them off as members of the covenant (Numbers 15).

b Then is confirmed the provision of an authenticated priesthood, demonstrated by the attempted coup of Korah and the rod that budded (Numbers 16-17).

b Then is confirmed the provision of the Levites to serve the Sanctuary with their presence in the land very much in mind (Numbers 18).

a Then comes the provision of ‘water of uncleanness’ for cleansing from contact with death so that they might walk before Him (Numbers 19).

Involved in this provision is a description of rebellion against the duly appointed priesthood and an attempted coup against the leadership, and how Yahweh dealt with both, again presented chiastically. However apart from this nothing of Israel’s experiences in the wilderness during that time is described. The thirty eight years are otherwise blotted out. As far as God’s purposes were concerned it was lost time, except as a preparation for the future.

The ritual situation described is basically laying out the parameters for the future, because in spite of their failure the future was yet Israel’s, although belonging to their sons.

Provisions For Israel’s Dealings with Yahweh.

These can be divided into four sections:

1). Marking Israel as His and Calling for a Commitment To Keep His Commandments (Numbers 15).

This is accomplished by:

a Offerings to Yahweh - a commitment to keeping His commandments (Numbers 15:1-21).

b Dealing with unwitting sin (Numbers 15:22-31).

b Dealing with presumptuous sin (Numbers 15:32-36).

a Wearing tassels on the fringes of their garments - a commitment to keeping His commandments (Numbers 15:37-41).

2). The Service of The Priests (Answering the Question Who Has The Right To Approach Yahweh).

This can be looked at from two angles,
(a). Who has the right to offer incense fire to Yahweh?
(b). Who has the right to enter the Sanctuary?

(a). Who Has The Right To Offer Incense Fire Before Yahweh? (Numbers 16)

This is evidenced by the rebellion of Korah, Dathan and Abiram, and its aftermath (Numbers 16). As well as dealing with the question as to who has the right to offer incense before Yahweh we have here a further example of presumptuous sin and the cutting off of those involved, thus directly connecting with Numbers 15. It is divided into two:

i). The Competition between Aaron and the followers of Korah (Numbers 16:1-21).

a Korah and his followers dispute the positions of Moses and Aaron as those uniquely approved of Yahweh (Numbers 16:1-3).

b The Challenge of the Censers, that they burn incense before Yahweh (Numbers 16:4-7).

c Moses Charge against Korah and his band of Levites that they seek to go beyond their status over against Aaron (Numbers 16:8-11).

d Korah’s Reubenite followers refuse to respond to Moses’ plea to them (Numbers 16:12-14).

d Moses prays that Yahweh will refute them (Numbers 16:15).

c Moses calls on Korah and his band of Levites to respond to his challenge and test their status in contrast with Aaron (16:16-17).

b All carry out the Challenge of the Censers and burn incense at the door of the Tent of meeting, and in the presence of the congregation (16:18-19).

a Moses and Aaron to separate themselves from the congregation of Israel as those uniquely approved of Yahweh (16:20-21).

ii). God’s Judgment on Korah, Dathan and Abiram, and the People (Numbers 16:22-50).

a Moses and Aaron pray that Yahweh will spare the congregation of Israel (Numbers 16:22)

b Yahweh threatens the people and commands them to depart from Korah, Dathan and Abiram (Numbers 16:23-27)

c The Pit swallows up Dathan and Abiram and their fellow rebels (Numbers 16:28-34).

d Fire consumes the offerers of the incense, Korah and his band of Levites (Numbers 16:35).

d The metal of the false censers of those sinners to be used to cover the altar as a testimony against false offerers of incense (Numbers 16:36-40).

c The congregation blame Moses and Aaron for killing the people of Yahweh (Numbers 16:41-43)

b Yahweh reveals His wrath on the people (Numbers 16:44-45)

a At Moses’ word Aaron stays the plague by offering incense on his censer (Numbers 16:46-50)

(b). Who Has The Right To Enter The Sanctuary? - Issues of Life and Death Evidenced By The Rod That Budded (Numbers 17).

Here those with the right to enter the Sanctuary are determined once and for all as the sons of Aaron.

a Yahweh commands each tribe to lay a rod before Him in the Tent of Testimony one for each head of their father’s house (Numbers 17:1-3).

b The rods to be laid up in the Tent of meeting before the Testimony (Numbers 17:4).

c The rod of the chosen one will bud and murmuring will cease (Numbers 17:5).

d All the chieftains give rods including Aaron (Numbers 17:6).

d The chieftains’ rods are placed in the Tent of Testimony (Numbers 17:6-7).

c Aaron’s Rod buds and flowers in the Tent of Testimony, and the budded and unbudded rods are revealed to all the people who look on them (so that murmuring will cease) (Numbers 17:8-9).

b Aaron’s rod is laid up ‘before the Testimony’ (Numbers 17:10)

a The people recognise that none but Aaron’s house may enter the Tabernacle for they alone can enter the Sanctuary and live, and the rod which is evidence for the fact is laid up before the Testimony (Numbers 17:12-13).

3). The Service of the Levites (Numbers 18).

The priesthood being finally vindicated, the service of the Levites is then dealt with. They will live among the people and make His ways known to them.

a Aaron and his sons to be before the Tent of the Testimony and the Levites to have the charge of the Tent (Numbers 18:1-3)

b The Priests to have the charge of the Sanctuary and the altar (Numbers 18:4-7)

c Provision for the Priests - the heave offerings and the firstfruits are their inheritance (Numbers 18:8-20).

c Provision for the Levites - the tithes are their inheritance (Numbers 18:21-24).

b The Priests to receive a tithe of the tithes for their service at the Sanctuary and the altar (Numbers 18:25-29)

a The Levites to receive the remainder of the tithes to eat ‘in every place’ (Numbers 18:30-32).

These inner sections are themselves dealt with chiastically.

Numbers 18:1-7 analysis.

a The priests to bear the iniquity of the Sanctuary and the priesthood (Numbers 18:1).

b The Levites brought near to be their servants and to keep the charge of the Tent (Numbers 18:2 a).

c The priests to be before the Tent of the testimony (Numbers 18:2 b).

d The Levites to keep the charge of all the Tent (18:3a).

e The Levites not to come near to the vessels of the Sanctuary and the altar (Numbers 18:3 b).

d The Levites to keep the charge of the Tent of meeting, for all the service of the Tent. No stranger to come near (Numbers 18:4).

c The priests to keep the charge of the sanctuary and the altar (Numbers 18:5).

b The Levites are a gift to the priests to do service at the Tent of meeting (Numbers 18:6).

a The priesthood reserved entirely for the priests (Numbers 18:7). No stranger to come near.

Note the repetition in the second half of ‘no stranger to come near’. This interesting phenomenon of repetition in the last half of a chiasmus is also found in Numbers 18:23-24 and in Exodus 18:21-22; Exodus 18:25-26.

Numbers 18:8-20 analysis.

a The holy things are given to Aaron and his sons (Numbers 18:8-10).

b The contribution/heave-offerings to be for their whole families (Numbers 18:11).

c The firstfruits of grain, oil and vintage to be for the priests and shared by their households (Numbers 18:12-13).

d Everything ‘devoted’ in Israel to be the priests (Numbers 18:14).

c The firstfruits among living creatures to be for the priests (Numbers 18:15-18).

b The contribution/heave-offerings to be for their whole families (Numbers 18:19).

a Yahweh Himself (the Most Holy) is the priests’ portion and inheritance (Numbers 18:20).

Numbers 18:21-24 analysis.

a The tithe of Israel to be the Levites’ inheritance in return for their service (Numbers 18:21).

b The children of Israel not to come near to the Tent of meeting from now on lest they bear sin (Numbers 18:22)

b The Levites are to do service in the Tent of meeting, and bear their iniquity (Numbers 18:23). Among the children of Israel they shall have no inheritance.

a The tithe is to be their inheritance. Among the children of Israel they shall have no inheritance (Numbers 18:24).

Note within the chiastic order the ‘out of harmony’ double reference to ‘among the children of Israel they shall have no inheritance’. This parallels the same feature earlier with regard to ‘no stranger coming near’ in Numbers 18:4; Numbers 18:7; (see also Exodus 18:21-22; Exodus 18:25-26) and is clearly intended in emphasis.

Numbers 18:25-32 analysis.

a The Levites to set aside a tithe of their tithe for the priests (Numbers 18:25-26)

b The contribution to be reckoned as though it were the corn of the threshing-floor and the fullness of the winepress as provided by the Levites (Numbers 18:27).

c The contribution to be offered to Yahweh and given to Aaron the priest (Numbers 18:28).

c The contribution offered to Yahweh to be from the best, the most hallowed parts (Numbers 18:29).

b The remainder to be accounted to the Levites as the increase of the threshing-floor and the increase of the winepress (Numbers 18:30).

a Once they have tithed it the Levites may eat their own tithe in every place which is clean (Numbers 18:31-32).

4). The Water of Uncleanness - Provision for Israel’s Dealings With Yahweh and Removal Of Uncleanness (Numbers 19).

This is describing ‘the water for uncleanness’, the water sprinkled with the ashes of a heifer for the removal of uncleanness, the means of keeping Israel free from the taint of death (and sin - 8:7) and able to have dealings with Yahweh.

a The perpetual statute of the slaughter of the red heifer and storing of the ashes (Numbers 19:1-10).

b The application of the ashes on those who have touched the dead to make them clean (Numbers 19:11-12).

c Judgment on those who refuse the use of the ashes (Numbers 19:13).

d The description of what is unclean (Numbers 19:14-16).

d The application of the ashes to the unclean through the ‘water of uncleanness’ (Numbers 19:17-19).

c Judgment on the one who refuses to be cleansed (Numbers 19:20 a).

b Those who have not had the ashes applied to them and on whom the water of uncleanness has not been sprinkled are still unclean (Numbers 19:20 b).

a All this is stated to be a perpetual statute. Those who touch the water of uncleanness, containing the ashes applied to the one who has touched the dead, are to purify themselves and all who have touched the unclean person to be unclean until the evening (Numbers 19:21-22).

Numbers 9:1-10 can be analysed further into:

The Slaughter of the Red Heifer and Storing of the Ashes (Numbers 19:1-10).

Firstly the procedures for the slaughter of the red heifer and the preparation of the ashes from which the water of uncleanness could be made, are described.

Analysis.

a The red heifer to be selected, free from blemish and never yoked (Numbers 19:1-2).

b The red heifer to be brought outside the camp by Eleazar and slain before him (Numbers 19:3).

c Eleazar to apply the blood of the red heifer by sprinkling towards the front of the Tent of meeting seven times (Numbers 19:4).

d The remains of the heifer to be totally burnt before his eyes (Numbers 19:5).

c Eleazar to cast the cedar wood, hyssop and scarlet into the burning remains of the heifer (Numbers 19:6).

b Eleazar to wash his clothes and bathe and return to camp and to be unclean until the evening (Numbers 19:7).

a The one who burns the heifer to wash his clothes and bathe and to be unclean until the evening, and the one who gathers the purifying ashes to store them outside the camp and then cleanse himself (Numbers 19:10)

Numbers 9:21-22 can be split into:

· The one who sprinkles the water shall wash his clothes (21b).

· The one who touches the water will be unclean until the evening (21c).

· Whatever the unclean person touches shall be unclean (22a).

· Whoever touches it will be unclean until the evening (22b).

E FROM KADESH TO THE PLAINS OF MOAB (chapters 20-25).

Provision for the maintenance of the holiness of Israel having been made, the move forward towards the promised land can once again commence. There now follow a series of historical events which bring Israel to the plains of Moab. History has become important again because Yahweh’s purposes are now going forward.

These are split into two sections. The first section deals with the turning point in the death of Aaron and appointment of a new High Priest (for the importance of this latter compare Numbers 34:25; Numbers 34:28). The second with victory in the Wars of Yahweh including the Battle with Balaam.

(I). The Turning Point of the Death of Aaron and the Change in the High Priesthood (chapters 20-21).

This section commences with shortage of water and terrible thirst, with abundance of water provided (Numbers 20:1-13), and ends with even greater abundance of water (Numbers 21:11-20), with the death of Aaron and appointment of Eleazar coming between (Numbers 20:22-29). It is not just a coincidence that in Deuteronomy 10:6-7, when referring to the death of Aaron and appointment of Eleazar in his place, Moses in the same way preceded the incident with being at the springs of the sons of Yaakan, leading on to Moserah (chastisement), and followed it with arrival at Yotbathah, a land of ‘brooks of water’. In both cases his aim is to bring out that through this change of High Priest, which was no doubt filled the people with foreboding, God was going to bring even greater blessing. It was symbolic of the renewal of the whole people as the wilderness generation died out.

We may see this whole section as follows:

a The people suffer dire shortage of water (Numbers 20:1-2 a).

b The people grumble at lack of water and are sent deliverance by the water from the rock at Meribah, which causes the sin of Aaron and Moses (Numbers 20:2-13).

c Edom seek to block Israel’s way forward (Numbers 20:14-21).

d Aaron climbs Mount Hor to his death and is replaced by Eleazar (Numbers 20:22-29).

c The king of Arad seeks to block Israel’s way forward (Numbers 21:1-3).

b The people grumble at lack of food and water and are sent fiery serpents followed by deliverance by the brazen serpent (Numbers 21:4-9).

a Yahweh provides abundance of water (Numbers 21:10-20).

The subdivisions all follow the same pattern.

1). The Waters of Meribah (Numbers 20:1-13).

The first incident occurs through lack of water (Numbers 20:1-13). Shortage of water had been a continuing problem throughout the wilderness journey and it raises its head seemingly for the last time.

Analysis.

a ‘The children of Israel’ come into the wilderness of Zin and dwell in Kadesh (qdsh) (Numbers 20:1 a).

b Miriam (mrym) dies there and the people strive (ryb) with Moses and Aaron for lack of water (Numbers 20:1-3).

c The people complain because they are excluded from the pleasures of Egypt and Moses and Aaron intercede before Yahweh (Numbers 20:4-6).

d Yahweh promises water from a rock at the voice of command (Numbers 20:7-8).

d Water gushes out when Moses strikes the rock in anger (Numbers 20:9-11)

c Yahweh complains at Moses and Aaron because they have not sanctified Him in the eyes of Israel and He punishes them by exclusion from the land (Numbers 20:12).

b The place is called the waters of Meribah (mrybh) because water is provided in the face of the people’s striving (ryb) (Numbers 20:13 a).

a ‘The children of Israel’ strove (ryb) there with Yahweh and He was sanctified (yqdsh) in them (Numbers 20:13 b).

2). The Appeal to Edom (Numbers 20:14-21).

The incident at Meribah is followed by an appeal to Edom to be allowed right of passage to use the King’s Highway through their territory, which is refused. They have to skirt the territory and are not allowed through, but must not war with their brother tribe (this principle is later emphasised in Deuteronomy 2).

a The request to be allowed through peaceably (Numbers 20:14-17).

b Edom’s refusal and threat (Numbers 20:18).

c Terms of passage laid out (Numbers 20:19).

b Edom still refuses and make clear their threat (Numbers 20:20).

a The request being refused and Israel turn away peaceably (Numbers 20:21).

3). The Death of Aaron (Numbers 20:22-29).

As a result of his sins over the Cushite wife of Moses (Numbers 12:11) and at Meribah (Numbers 20:12) Aaron is to die and be replaced by his son. It is noteworthy that he dies on a mountain. Such a deliberate death must not take place in the holy Sanctuary or the holy camp, but must take place honourably in a clean place near to heaven (The same will be true of Moses - 27:12-13; Deuteronomy 32:48-52; Deuteronomy 34).

a Aaron to die and not to enter the land (Numbers 20:22-24).

b Aaron to be stripped of his garments on Mount Hor and Eliezer, his son, appointed (Numbers 20:25-26).

c Moses obeys Yahweh’s command and ascends with them into Mount Hor in the sight of the people (Numbers 20:27)

b Aaron is stripped of his garments and Eliezer, his son, appointed (Numbers 20:28).

a Aaron seen to be dead and mourned for (Numbers 20:29)

4). The Canaanites under Arad Defeated (Numbers 21:1-3).

The second attempt to obtain for Israel the right of passage now follows, but this time it is followed by glorious victory, for it is the firstfruits of the destruction of the Canaanites.

a Arad learns through scouts of Israel’s approach and defeats them and takes prisoners (Numbers 21:1).

b Israel vows that if they can defeat them they will devote them to Yahweh (Numbers 21:2).

a Arad in turn is defeated and totally destroyed and the place is called Hormah - ‘devoted’ (Numbers 21:3).

5). The Brazen Serpent (Numbers 21:4-10).

As a result of further people dissatisfaction Yahweh teaches them a further lesson.

a The people journey by Edom (Numbers 4).

b The people murmur against God and against Moses (Numbers 5).

c Yahweh sends ‘fiery serpents’ among them (Numbers 6).

d The people ask Moses to plead for forgiveness for them (Numbers 7 a).

d Moses pleads for forgiveness for the people (Numbers 7 b).

c Yahweh says that ‘a fiery serpent’ is to be set up on a pole so that he who looks may live (Numbers 8).

b The brazen serpent is set up and the people who turn from their murmuring to God and look to it live (Numbers 9).

a The people journey to Oboth (Numbers 10)

6). Journey from Oboth to the Pisgah Looking Towards Jeshimon (Numbers 21:11-20).

a The people journey to the southern border of Moab - the Valley of the Zered - and then pass on to their northern border, ‘on the other side of the Arnon’ (Numbers 21:10-13), into ‘the wilderness’.

b A song from the Wars of Yahweh referring to water at Arnon (Numbers 21:14-15)

c The people come to the well where Yahweh promises water (Numbers 21:16)

b A song of the well as water is obtained (Numbers 21:17-18 a)

a The people journey from ‘the wilderness’ to the Pisgah - north of Moab - with the land in sight from the Pisgah (Numbers 21:18-20).

(II). Victory In The Wars of Yahweh (21:21-25:18).

Having tasted victory against the king of Arad Yahweh now provides them with more victories. These are as follows:

a The defeat of Sihon king of the Amorites in the land of the Moabites and they dwell there (Numbers 21:21-31).

b The defeat of Og, king of Bashan, who comes from the north, by their armies, and they possess his land (Numbers 21:32-35).

c The people finally arrive at the plains of Moab and pitch their tents there (Numbers 21:31 to Numbers 22:1).

b The defeat of the evil influence of Balaam brought from the north by the Moabites (Numbers 22:2 to Numbers 24:25).

a The defeat of the evil influence of Moab and Midian in the land of the Moabites (Numbers 25).

These can be further divided as follows:

1). Battles with the Amorites (Numbers 21:21-35).

i). The Defeat of Sihon, King of the Amorites (Numbers 21:23-31).

a Plea to Sihon to be allowed to pass through the land of the Amorites (Numbers 21-22).

b Sihon refuses and belligerently faces up to Israel (Numbers 21:23).

c Sihon is defeated and his land possessed up to the borders of Ammon (Numbers 21:24).

c The cities of Sihon which were once Moab’s are possessed (Numbers 21:25).

b Sihon’s belligerency against Moab (the song of Heshbon) (Numbers 21:26-29).

a Israel taunt Sidon and settle in the land of the Amorites (Numbers 21:30-31).

ii). The Defeat of Og, King of Bashan (Numbers 21:32-35).

a Moses spies out Jazer (Numbers 21:32 a).

b He defeats the Amorites there and captures their cities (Numbers 21:32 b).

c Og, king of Bashan, comes out to face up to Israel (Numbers 21:33).

c Yahweh assures Moses of victory (Numbers 21:34).

b He defeats Og and they possess his land (Numbers 21:35)

a They journey to the plains of Moab (Numbers 22:1).

2). Battles Against Evil Influence.

i). The Defeat of the Evil Influence of Balaam (Numbers 22:2 to Numbers 24:25).

This can be summarised in terms of:

· Balak’s First Entreaty To Balaam (Numbers 22:2-14).

· Yahweh’s Threefold Dealing With Balaam Through His Ass (Numbers 22:15-40).

· Balaam’s Threefold Dealing With Yahweh Through Sevenfold Sacrifices (Numbers 22:41 to Numbers 24:12).

· Balaam’s Final Response to Balak By Prophecies Concerning The Future (Numbers 24:13-25).

This now divides up into:

Balak’s First Entreaty to Balaam (Numbers 22:2-14).

a Balak, king of Moab, is afraid of the children of Israel and fears that they will spoil Moab (Numbers 22:2-4)

b He sends messengers to Balaam describing ‘the people who have come from Egypt’ (Numbers 22:5)

c He calls for him to come and curse Israel and drive them from the land (Numbers 22:6)

d The elders leave with rewards in their hand to persuade Balaam to curse Israel (Numbers 22:7)

e Balaam tells them to wait while he obtains a word from Yahweh. (Numbers 22:8)

e The word of God comes to Balaam, ‘What men are these? (Numbers 22:9)

d Balaam says that Balak sent them, and wanted Israel cursed (Numbers 22:10-11)

c God tells him not to go and not to curse Israel (Numbers 22:12)

b Balaam tells the messengers to return home (Numbers 22:13)

a The noble messengers return. Balaam will not come. (Numbers 22:14)

Balak’s Second Entreaty to Balaam - The Threefold Activity of Balaam’s Ass (Numbers 22:15-40).

Analysis.

Note the threefold consecutive pattern in the middle which is also repeated in the next series. There could have been no more emphatic way than this to indicate that Balaam was behaving like his ass when he three times sought to use his powers against Israel. To retain the perfect chiastic pattern the threefold activity g h, g h, g h could be treated as one, as one large g. The threefoldness is inserted for the purposes of emphasis and in order to indicate completeness.

a Chieftains are sent from Balak (Numbers 22:15).

b They bring Balak’s word to Balaam (Numbers 22:16).

c He offers great reward which Balaam is not convinced by (Numbers 22:17-18).

d Balaam tells the men to wait while he receives Yahweh’s word (Numbers 22:19).

e Yahweh permits Balaam to go but is angry at his willingness to do so (Numbers 22:20-21).

f Balaam meets the angel of Yahweh in the way (Numbers 22:22).

g The ass sees the angel and refuses to move forward (Numbers 22:23 a).

h Balaam beats the ass (Numbers 22:23 b)

g The ass again sees the angel of Yahweh and cowers into a wall (Numbers 22:24-25 a)

h Balaam beats the ass again (Numbers 22:25 b)

g The ass collapses to the ground in fear before the angel of Yahweh because there is nowhere to turn (Numbers 22:26-27 a)

h Balaam berates and beats the ass for refusing to move forwards and is answered (Numbers 22:28-30).

f Balaam’s eyes are opened and he is aware of the angel of Yahweh in the way (Numbers 22:31-33).

e Balaam admits his guilt and is permitted to go forward (Numbers 22:34-35).

d Balaam meets Balak and receives Balak’s word (Numbers 22:36).

c Balak points out he can give Balaam great reward (Numbers 22:37).

b Balaam says that he can only speak Yahweh’s word (Numbers 22:38).

a Balak sends provisions to Balaam and the chieftains (Numbers 22:39-40).

The Threefold Activity of Balaam (22:41-24:12).

Here we have a triad of attempts to curse Israel which all follow the same pattern sandwiched between Balaam going with Balak and Balaam returning home.

a Balaam goes with Balak (Numbers 22:41)

b Balaam builds seven altars and offers sacrifices (Numbers 23:1-3)

c Yahweh speaks to Balaam and he prophesies favourably to Israel (Numbers 23:4-10)

d Balak is angry and asks him to try again (Numbers 23:11-13).

b Seven more altars and seven more sacrifices (Numbers 23:14-15).

c Yahweh speaks to Balaam and he again prophesies favourably (Numbers 23:16-24)

d Balak requests that Balaam ceases either blessing or cursing and asks that he try again (Numbers 23:25-26).

b Seven more altars and seven more sacrifices (Numbers 23:27-30)

c Balaam blesses Israel (Numbers 24:1-9).

d Balak is angry with Balaam (Numbers 24:10-11).

a Balak tells Balaam to return home (Numbers 24:12)

The Prophecies of Balaam (Numbers 24:13-25)

a Balaam says he will return home having prophesied (Numbers 24:13-14)

b Balaam prophesies concerning Israel (Numbers 24:13-19)

c Balaam looks on and prophesies concerning the wandering Amalek (Numbers 24:20)

c Balaam looks on and prophesies concerning the wandering Kenites (Numbers 24:21-22)

b Balaam prophesies concerning Eber (including Israel) (Numbers 24:23-24)

a Balaam returns home (Numbers 24:25).

ii). The Defeat of the Evil Influence of Moab (Numbers 25).

Israel sin at Shittim resulting in the death of a Simeonite chieftain and a plague on the people.

a Israel sin at Shittim in regard to Baal-peor (25:1-3a)

b Yahweh is angry with Israel and demands their punishment. Moses calls on the judges to slay those who worshipped Baal-peor (25:3b-5)

c A Midianitish woman brought into the camp by a Simeonite chief for evil purposes (25:6).

d Phinehas, son of Eleazar slays the chieftain and the woman (25:7-8a).

e As a result of his action judgment by plague is stayed (25:8b).

e Those who died in the plague are enumerated (25:9)

d Phinehas confirmed in the priesthood for his action (25:10-13).

c The chieftain and the woman are identified (25:14-15).

b Yahweh demands the punishment of Midian (25:16-17)

a The punishment is in respect of the sin regarding Baal-peor (25:18)

F. FUTURE PROSPECTS IN THE LAND (chapters 26-36).

This is divided up into preparations for entering the land (chapters 26-32), and warning and encouragement with respect to it (chapters 33-36). It commences with the renumbering of the tribes after the first generation had passed away (Numbers 26:1-51 compare Numbers 1 & Numbers 2)).

(I). Preparation for Entering the Land (chapters 26-32).

This can be divided up into:

a Numbering of the tribes for entering the land (Numbers 26:1-51).

b Instructions concerning division of the land (Numbers 26:52-62).

c Vengeance on those who had refused to enter the land (Numbers 26:63-65).

d Regulation in respect of land to be inherited by women (Numbers 27:1-11).

e Provision of a new dedicated shepherd for the people of Israel (Numbers 27:12-23).

e Provision of a dedicated people and for future worship in the land (Numbers 28-29).

d Regulation in respect of dedication by vows especially as regards women (Numbers 30)

c Vengeance to be obtained on Midian (Numbers 31:1-24).

b Instructions concerning division of the spoils of Midian (Numbers 31:25-54).

a Settlement of the Transjordan tribes (Numbers 32).

This can be subdivided into:

1) Initial Preparations for Entering the Promised Land from the East (Numbers 26:1 to Numbers 27:23).

Analysis.

a The second ‘numbering’ of the army in readiness for entry into the land (Numbers 26:1-51).

b Provision for the possession of the land (Numbers 26:52-62).

c The men of the previous generation not to enter the land and inherit it (Numbers 26:63-65).

c Faithful men to be allowed to inherit in the land posthumously through their daughters and relatives (Numbers 27:1-11).

b Moses ‘possesses’ the land by viewing it but is not to enter the land (Numbers 27:12-14)

a The solemn appointment of Joshua as Commander-in-chief ready for entry into the land (Numbers 27:15-23).

Which can be further split into:

The Numbering of Israel and Allocation of the Land (Numbers 26:1-65).

a After the plague Yahweh commands the numbering of Israel for service (Numbers 26:1-2).

b Moses and Eleazar command the numbering of the serving soldiers as Yahweh commanded Moses and the people who came forth from the land of Egypt ‘in the plains of Moab by the Jordan opposite Jericho’ (Numbers 26:3-4).

c The numbering of the fighting men of Israel for warfare (Numbers 26:5-51).

d The land to be divided up between them as an inheritance according to their number depending on whether more or fewer (Numbers 26:52-54).

d The land to be divided by lot as an inheritance between the more and the fewer (Numbers 26:55-56).

c The numbering of the Levites for their service (Numbers 26:57-62).

b These are those who were numbered by Moses and Eleazar ‘in the plains of Moab by the Jordan opposite Jericho’ but among them was no one previously numbered at Sinai (i.e. of those who came forth from the land of Egypt) (Numbers 26:63-65 a).

a No one of the previous generation was left except Caleb and Joshua (the final ones dying in the plague?) (Numbers 26:65 b).

The Provisions For Inheritance Where There Was No Male Heir: An Example of Trust In Yahweh (Numbers 27:1-11).

An example of trust and courage is now given in order to provide inspiration to Israel as they go forward and which confirms that the land is to be theirs.

Analysis.

a The daughters of Zelophehad draw near for a judgment by Moses, Eleazar the Priest, the princes and the congregation at the door of the Tent of Meeting (Numbers 27:1-2).

b The case is put of their father who has died having no sons before he has received his portion of land, the portion which would be granted to his family on possessing the land (Numbers 27:3).

c The daughters request their inheritance of his portion, granted to him posthumously, among their father’s brothers (Numbers 27:4).

d The case is brought before Yahweh (Numbers 27:5).

d Yahweh answers the case to Moses (Numbers 27:6).

c The daughters to receive their inheritance among their brothers (Numbers 27:7).

b Provisions concerning what is to happen when a man dies having no son (Numbers 27:8-11 a).

a The judgment is established as Yahweh commanded Moses (Numbers 27:11 b).

Moses Told To Prepare Himself For Death After First Seeing The Land. He Pleads For A New Shepherd For The People (Numbers 27:12-17).

Analysis.

a Moses to ascend a mountain to see the land after which he will be gathered to his people (Numbers 27:12-13).

b It was because he rebelled against Yahweh’s command in the strife of the people (meribah) to sanctify Him (qdsh) in the eyes of the people at the waters (Numbers 27:13 a).

b These waters were the waters of Meribah (strife) of Kadesh (qdsh) in the wilderness (Numbers 27:13 b).

a Moses pleads for a man to replace him lest they be as sheep without a shepherd on his departure (Numbers 27:14-17).

The Appointment Of A New Shepherd (Numbers 27:18-23).

Analysis.

a Moses to take Joshua and lay his hands on him (Numbers 27:18).

b Moses to set him before Eleazar and the congregation and give him his charge (Numbers 27:19).

c Moses’ honour to be put on him so that all the people obey him (Numbers 27:20).

c Enquiry of Yahweh by Eleazar with Urim and Thummim results in all who go out and come in doing so at his word (Numbers 27:21).

b Joshua set by Moses before Eleazar and the congregation (Numbers 27:22).

a Moses lays his hands on him and gives him his charge (Numbers 27:23).

2) Provision for Future Worship in the Land and For The Continuing Dedication of All Israel (chapters 28-30).

There now follow the details of the special offerings to be made at the feasts once they have entered the land in order continually to rededicate themselves to Yahweh and to express their worship and obtain atonement, and the stress on the importance on their being faithful to the expression of their dedication in their oaths, with provision made for over-enthusiasm without proper authority. Note how the offerings described are for the large part dedicatory offerings, followed by a chapter on dedicatory vows. Dedication to Yahweh must be at the centre of the new advance.

The whole section can be analysed as follows:

a The continual daily offerings and sabbath and new moon offerings indicating the continual dedication of the people (Numbers 28:1-15).

b Passover and the Seven Day Feast of Unleavened bread (Numbers 28:16-25).

c The One Day Feast of the Firstfruits (Numbers 28:26-31).

d The One Day Feast of the blowing of trumpets (Numbers 29:1-6).

c The One Day Feast of the Day of Atonement (Numbers 29:7-11).

b The Seven Day Feast of the Harvest Moon - Tabernacles (Numbers 29:12-40).

a The continual making and confirmation of dedicatory vows (with their accompanying peace/wellbeing offerings - see 29:39) indicating continual dedication of the people (Numbers 30).

That the making of vows is a part of this overall pattern is confirmed by 29:39. It is probable that we are to see 28:1-2a and 29:39-40 as a kind of ‘envelope’ containing the individual chiasmas or sequences that follow.

The section now splits up as follows:

i). The Continual Daily Offerings (Numbers 28:1-8).

a Command to offer an oblation as a pleasing odour to Yahweh (Numbers 28:1-2).

b The offering by fire to Yahweh of he-lambs of the first year, two each day, together with the grain offering (Numbers 28:3-5).

b The offering of the continual whole burnt offering which is an offering made by fire to Yahweh together with the drink offering (Numbers 28:5-7).

a The evening lamb to be offered as a pleasing odour to Yahweh (Numbers 28:8).

ii). The Sabbath and New Moon Offerings (Numbers 28:9-15).

a The offering of two he-lambs on the sabbath as a whole burnt offering ‘besides the continual whole burnt offering and the drink offering thereof’ (Numbers 28:9-10).

b Every new moon a whole burnt offering to be offered to Yahweh (Numbers 28:11).

c The grain offering to be offered for the two ox bulls and the ram and the seven he-lambs (Numbers 28:12-13).

c The drink offering to be offered for ox bulls, ram and lambs (Numbers 28:14 a).

b This is the whole burnt offering to be offered every new moon throughout the year (Numbers 28:14 b).

a The offering of one he-goat as a purification for sin offering ‘besides the continual whole burnt offering and the drink offering thereof’ (Numbers 28:15).

iii). The Special Offerings (Numbers 28:16 to Numbers 29:40).

As we go through these in detail it will be noted that all follow the same general repetitive pattern within their feasts, (following the example given in the threefold Balaam incantations in Numbers 23:1 to Numbers 24:10), although as regards the whole burnt offerings (when all of the offering is offered up and none eaten) the number of young ox bulls offered varies. These whole burnt offerings, together with a he-goat for a purification for sin offering, are offered on top of the continual daily offering at all feasts.

In the regular Sabbath offerings no young ox bulls were offered as whole burnt offerings (Numbers 28:9-10) only two he-lambs, nor was there then a purification for sin offering. On New Moon days, the days of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, and the Day of the Firstfruits the whole burnt offering consists of two young ox bulls, a ram and seven he-lambs, along with the he-goat for a purification for sin offering. On the day of the feasts of Trumpets and the Day of Atonement in the seventh month it is one young ox bull, a ram and seven he-lambs, along with the purification for sin offering. And on the seven days of the Feast of Tabernacles the young ox bulls offered vary downwards from thirteen to seven, along with two rams and fourteen he-lambs, along with the he-goat for the purification for sin offering. On the eighth day it is back to one young ox bull, one ram and seven he-lambs, along with the he-goat for the purification for sin offering.

Passover and Unleavened Bread (Numbers 28:16-25).

It will be noted from this point on that Unleavened Bread, Firstfruits, Blowing of Trumpets and Day of Atonement all follow the same general pattern, while maintaining their distinctive feature.

a On the fourteenth day of the month is Yahweh’s Passover, from the fifteenth day unleavened bread to be eaten for seven days, on the first day a convocation, you shall do no servile work (Numbers 28:16-18).

b Whole burnt offerings to be offered as an offering made by fire (Numbers 28:19).

c Grain offerings to be offered with the whole burnt offerings (Numbers 28:20-21).

b A he-goat to be offered as a purification for sin offering to make atonement (Numbers 28:22).

a These to be offered as well as the continual whole burnt offering of the morning. This is the way that offerings shall be offered for seven days, on the seventh day a holy convocation, you shall do no servile work (Numbers 28:23-25).

Feast Of The Firstfruits (Numbers 28:26-31).

a In the day of the firstfruits a new grain offering to be offered to Yahweh (Numbers 28:26).

b Whole burnt offerings to be offered to Yahweh for a pleasing odour (Numbers 28:27).

c The grain offerings to be offered with them (Numbers 28:28-29).

b One he-goat to be offered to make atonement as well as the continual whole burnt offering (Numbers 28:30-31 a).

a They are to be offered with its grain and drink offerings, the whole to be without blemish (Numbers 28:31 b).

Feast of the Blowing of Trumpets (Numbers 29:1-6).

a In the seventh month the first day of the month (the new moon day) to be a holy convocation, a day of no servile work and of the blowing of trumpets (Numbers 29:1).

b Whole burnt offerings to be offered as a pleasing odour to Yahweh (Numbers 29:2).

c The varied grain offerings to be offered with the whole burnt offerings (Numbers 29:3-4).

b A he-goat to be offered as a purification for sin offering to make atonement (Numbers 29:5).

a This to be besides the new moon whole burnt offering with its grain offering, and the continual daily whole burnt offering with its grain and drink offerings, for a pleasing odour, an offering made by fire to Yahweh (Numbers 29:6).

The Day of Atonement (Numbers 29:7-11).

a The tenth day of the seventh month to be a holy convocation for affliction of their souls and no manner of work (Numbers 29:7).

b Whole burnt offerings to be offered to Yahweh as a pleasing odour (Numbers 29:8).

c The grain offerings to be offered with the whole burnt offerings (Numbers 29:9-10).

b A he-goat to be offered as a purification for sin offering (Numbers 29:11 a).

a This to be offered beside the purification for sin offering of atonement, and the continual whole burnt offerings, with their grain and drink offerings (Numbers 29:11 b).

The Feast Of The Harvest Moon - Tabernacles (Numbers 29:12-40).

Each of the days of this Feast follow the same pattern as the other feasts.

Day One.

a The fifteenth day of the seventh month to be a holy convocation with no manner of work and a feast to be kept for seven days (Numbers 29:12).

b Whole burnt offerings to be offered of thirteen young ox bulls and two rams and fourteen he-lambs to Yahweh as a pleasing odour (Numbers 29:13).

c The grain offerings to be offered with the whole burnt offerings (Numbers 29:14-15).

b A he-goat to be offered as a purification for sin offering (Numbers 29:16 a).

a This to be offered beside the continual whole burnt offering with its grain and drink offering (Numbers 29:16 b).

Day Two.

a On the second day (Numbers 29:17 a).

b Whole burnt offerings to be offered of twelve young ox bulls and two rams and fourteen he-lambs to Yahweh (Numbers 29:17 b).

c The grain offerings to be offered with the whole burnt offerings (Numbers 29:18).

b A he-goat to be offered as a purification for sin offering (Numbers 29:19 a).

a This to be offered beside the continual whole burnt offering with its grain and drink offering Numbers (29:19b).

Day Three.

a On the third day (Numbers 29:20 a).

b Whole burnt offerings of eleven young ox bulls and two rams and fourteen he-lambs to be offered to Yahweh (Numbers 29:20 b).

c The grain offerings to be offered with the whole burnt offerings (Numbers 29:21).

b A he-goat to be offered as a purification for sin offering (Numbers 29:22 a).

a This to be offered beside the continual whole burnt offering with its grain and drink offering (Numbers 29:22 b).

Day Four.

a On the fourth day (Numbers 29:23 a).

b Whole burnt offerings of ten young ox bulls and two rams and fourteen he-lambs to be offered to Yahweh (Numbers 29:23 b).

c The grain offerings to be offered with the whole burnt offerings (Numbers 29:24).

b A he-goat to be offered as a purification for sin offering (Numbers 29:25 a).

a This to be offered beside the continual whole burnt offering with its grain and drink offering (Numbers 29:25 b).

Day Five.

a On the fifth day (Numbers 29:26 a).

b Whole burnt offerings to be offered of nine young ox bulls and two rams and fourteen he-lambs to Yahweh (Numbers 29:26 b).

c The grain offerings to be offered with the whole burnt offerings (Numbers 29:27).

b A he-goat to be offered as a purification for sin offering (Numbers 29:28 a).

a This to be offered beside the continual whole burnt offering with its grain and drink offering (Numbers 29:28 b).

Day Six.

a On the sixth day (Numbers 29:29 a).

b Whole burnt offerings to be offered of eight young ox bulls and two rams and fourteen he-lambs to Yahweh (Numbers 29:29 b).

c The grain offerings to be offered with the whole burnt offerings (Numbers 29:30).

b A he-goat to be offered as a purification for sin offering (Numbers 29:31 a).

a This to be offered beside the continual whole burnt offering with its grain and drink offering (Numbers 29:31 b).

Day Seven.

a On the seventh day (Numbers 29:32 a).

b Whole burnt offerings to be offered of seven young ox bulls and two rams and fourteen he-lambs to Yahweh (Numbers 29:32 b).

c The grain offerings to be offered with the whole burnt offerings (Numbers 29:33).

b A he-goat to be offered as a purification for sin offering (Numbers 29:34 a).

a This to be offered beside the continual whole burnt offering with its grain and drink offering (Numbers 29:34 b).

Day Eight.

a On the eighth day, a solemn assembly, no servile work (Numbers 29:35)

b Whole burnt offerings to be offered of one young ox bull and one ram and seven he-lambs to Yahweh (Numbers 29:36).

c The grain offerings to be offered with the whole burnt offerings (Numbers 29:37).

b A he-goat to be offered as a purification for sin offering (Numbers 29:38 a).

a This to be offered beside the continual whole burnt offering with its grain and drink offering (Numbers 29:38 b).

The whole is then completed with a summary which may be paralleled with Numbers 28:1.

iv). The Continual Making and Confirmation of Dedicatory Vows (with their peace/wellbeing offerings) (Numbers 30:1-16).

This follows the pattern earlier established whereby sequences can be introduced into an overall chiasma (compare Numbers 22:15-38; Numbers 23:1 to Numbers 24:12; Numbers 28:1 to Numbers 29:40). This could be seen as abcddcba or as abcdbcda. It may be analysed as follows.

a Moses speaks to the heads of the tribes of the children of Israel issuing Yahweh’s command concerning vows (Numbers 30:1)

b A man’s vow to be unbreakable and to be performed (Numbers 30:1-2).

c A young unmarried woman’s vow has to be ratified by her father, but if he says nothing when he hears of the vow it stands. If he disavows it the vow does not stand, and Yahweh will forgive her because her father disallowed it (Numbers 30:3-5).

d A woman’s vows made prior to marriage have to be ratified by her husband on marriage, but if he says nothing when he hears of the vow it stands. If he disavows it the vow does not stand, and Yahweh will forgive her because her husband disallowed it (Numbers 30:6-8).

or d The vow of a widow or a divorced woman stands (30:9).

c A married woman’s vows after marriage have to be ratified by her husband on marriage, but if he says nothing when he hears of the vow it stands. If he disavows it the vow does not stand, and Yahweh will forgive her because her husband disallowed it (Numbers 30:10-12).

or b A husband may make any vow made by his wife void as longs as he does it immediately on hearing of it. But if he says nothing it stands. If he then disavows it he bears her iniquity. The mention of the penalty suggests that this means that the husband had delayed his disavowal (Numbers 30:13-15).

a These are the statutes which Yahweh commanded Moses (concerning disallowing or maintenance of vows) between a man and his wife, and a father and his unmarried daughter (Numbers 30:16).

3). The Divine Sentence On Midian (Numbers 31:1-54).

The dedication of Israel to Yahweh having been emphasised in 28-30 judgment now comes on those who had sought to interfere with that dedication. One blot still remained on the horizon. Balaam and the Midianites had deliberately plotted to bring down Israel’s dedication to Yahweh by leading them astray after false gods, and as a result a goodly number of Israelites had been executed or had died in the plague. It remained therefore for justice to be brought on the murderers and idolaters responsible. The new land had to be cleansed by the death of the idolatrous murderers.

The principle here follows a similar principle to that which demanded the destruction or driving out of the Canaanites. All who could lead Israel astray from Yahweh must be removed. But it carries it a stage further, for these Midianites (not the whole of Midian but this particular clan) would clearly never cease to be a thorn in the sides of Israel. There was therefore no alternative but to destroy them. Had they left Israel alone, they would have been left alone. And the parallel below also suggests that this extirpation was to be seen as a cleansing for Israel. Blood had been spilled in the land and so the murderers had to be brought to justice.

The chapter splits into two sections, the carrying out of the sentence on Midian (Numbers 31:1-24) and the division of the spoils (Numbers 31:25-54).

i). The Carrying Out of The Sentence on Midian (Numbers 31:1-24).

Analysis.

a Israel to avenge the children of Israel who had died because of Midian (to make Israel clean) (Numbers 31:1-2).

b A proportion of the men armed and to go to war (Numbers 31:3-5).

c Phinehas goes with them with the vessels of the Sanctuary and the trumpets for alarm (Numbers 31:6).

d They warred against Midian and slew every male (Numbers 31:7).

e They slew the kings of Midian (Numbers 31:8 a).

f They slew also Balaam of Peor (Numbers 31:8 b).

g They took captive all their women, children, beasts and spoil (Numbers 31:9).

h All their cities and encampments were burned with fire as Yahweh’s judgment (Numbers 31:10).

i They took all the spoil both of man and beast (Numbers 31:10-11).

i They brought all the captives prey and spoil to Moses and Eleazar and the congregation in the camp (Numbers 31:12).

h Moses, Eleazar and chieftains go out to meet the victorious army which had exercised Yahweh’s judgment (Numbers 31:13)

g Moses was angry because all the women were spared (Numbers 31:14-15).

f These were the women who through the counsel of Balaam led Israel astray (Numbers 31:16)

e They were to slay all the male children and all the married women (who caused Israel to sin through the command of the kings) (Numbers 31:17).

d They were to keep alive all young unmarried women who could not have been involved in their seduction (Numbers 31:18).

c The men to purify themselves seven days and all garments (to make them fit to approach the Sanctuary and its vessels) (Numbers 31:19-20).

b All spoils to be purified by fire or by water of uncleanness (Numbers 31:21-23).

a The men to wash on seventh day and be clean and enter the camp (Numbers 31:24).

ii). The Division of the Spoils (Numbers 31:25-54).

a The sum of the prey that was taken and the levies commanded (Numbers 31:25-31).

b Division between the men of war, Yahweh (the priests), the people and the Levites (Numbers 31:32-47).

a The sum of the men of war and their freewill gift to the Sanctuary (Numbers 31:48-54)

These can then be analysed as follows:

a). The Sum of The Prey That Was Taken and The Levies Commanded (Numbers 31:25-31).

a Yahweh speaks to Moses. With Eleazar he is to take the sum of the prey which has been captured (Numbers 31:25-26).

b The prey to be divided into two parts between the men who went to war and the remainder of the congregation (Numbers 31:27).

b A levy to be made on the soldiers’ share for Yahweh and given to Eleazar the Priest as a contribution offering and a levy to be made on the congregation’s share for the Levites who keep the charge of the Dwellingplace (Numbers 31:28-30).

a Moses and Eleazar do as Yahweh commanded (Numbers 31:31).

b). The Division Between the Men of War, Yahweh (the Priests), the People and the Levites (Numbers 31:32-47).

This is based on a sequential pattern rather than a chiastic pattern.

a The sum of the prey assessed (Numbers 31:32-35).

b Sum of the half which belongs to the soldiers and to Yahweh’s tribute (Numbers 31:36-40).

c Yahweh’s tribute given to Eleazar the Priest (Numbers 31:41).

a The congregation’s half divided from the men that warred (Numbers 31:42).

b Sum of the half which belongs to the congregation (Numbers 31:43-46).

c The Levites share given to the Levites (Numbers 31:47).

c). The Sum of The Surviving Men of War and Their Freewill Gift to The Sanctuary Of Their Personal Spoil (Numbers 31:48-54).

a The assessing of the men of war, not one is missing (Numbers 31:48-49).

b They offer the gold from their personal spoils to Yahweh to make atonement for themselves before Yahweh (Numbers 31:50).

c Moses and Eleazar accept the gold and wrought jewels of their offering (Numbers 31:51).

c The sum of the offering made to Yahweh (Numbers 31:52).

b The explanation of where the personal spoils came from (Numbers 31:53).

a Moses and Eleazar take the gold into the Dwellingplace of the congregation for a memorial of the children of Israel before Yahweh (Numbers 31:54).

4) The Settlement of the Transjordanian Tribes (Numbers 32).

Following the destruction of the Midianites the firstfruits of settlement in the land is now described, but only when it is emphasised that all must take part in the wholesale taking of Canaan.

a Reuben and Gad desire to settle in Transjordan (Numbers 32:1-2).

b A description of the desirable cities and desirable land for their cattle (Numbers 32:3-5).

c Moses is angry at them for discouraging the other tribes (Numbers 32:6-15).

d Moses reminds them that Yahweh will cast them from the land if they hesitate to enter it, as He did before (Numbers 32:10-15)

e They covenant that their warriors will go forward with Israel (Numbers 32:16-19).

e Their going forward is confirmed and agreed (Numbers 32:20-23).

d Moses permits settlement on the condition that they go forward and do not hesitate (Numbers 32:24-27).

c Moses confirms to the leadership of the tribes that the soldiers of Reuben and Gad will go with the other tribes (thus preventing discouragement) (Numbers 32:28-32).

b They receive the desirable cities and build folds for their sheep (Numbers 32:33-38).

a The land of the Amorites in Transjordan is given to the two tribes and the half tribe of Manasseh (Numbers 32:39-42).

II). Warning and Encouragement of The New Generation (chapters 33-36).

The book comes to its conclusion by summarising their successful journey to this point and providing for their certain future in the land.

a Review of the journey from Egypt to the plains of Moab (Numbers 33:1-49).

b Instruction concerning successful possession of and dividing up of the land by lot in the future so that each man has his lot and for the purifying of the land (Numbers 33:50-56).

c Description of the land to be inherited (Numbers 34:1-15).

d The Leaders who will divide the land for them are appointed (Numbers 34:16-29).

e Provision of cities for the Levites. (Numbers 35:1-8)

e Provision of cities of refuge and prevention of defilement of the land (Numbers 35:9-34).

d The Leaders of the tribe of Manasseh approach Moses about the possible loss of part of their division of the land as a result of the decision about the daughters of Zelophehad (Numbers 36:1-2 a).

c Description of the problem relating to the land inherited by the daughters of Zelophehad (Numbers 36:2-4).

b Instruction concerning women who inherit land so as to maintain the lot in the dividing up of the land and their successful possession (Numbers 36:5-12)

a Final summary of the book and colophon. The journey is over. They are in the plains of Moab opposite Jericho (Numbers 36:13).

This can now be analysed in more detail.

1). Review of The Journey From Egypt to the Plains of Moab (Numbers 33:1-49).

By its nature this passage is a list of encampments made on the journey from Egypt to the plains of Moab. As a historical travel narrative it could not be patterned chiastically (an evidence for its genuineness). We are told that it was written down by Moses at Yahweh’s command (compare Exodus 17:14). We note, however, that it divides into three.

a The description of these as their journeyings going forth from the land of Egypt as written down by Moses (Numbers 33:1-2).

b Details of the journeyings and where they encamped each described as ‘and they journeyed -- and pitched in’ (Numbers 33:3-48).

a The final pitching of camp in the plains of Moab with the journey ended (Numbers 33:49).

2). Instruction Concerning Dividing Up The Land By Lot in the Future So That Each Man Has His Lot and For the Purifying of the Land (Numbers 33:50-56).

a Introductory words of Yahweh (Numbers 33:50-51).

b When they enter the land they are to drive out the inhabitants of the land (Numbers 33:50-52).

c They are to take possession of the land (Numbers 33:53).

c They are to inherit the land by lot fairly, and each is to have his ‘lot’ (Numbers 33:54).

b If they do not drive out the inhabitants of the land they will be a constant pain and trouble to them (Numbers 33:55).

a Final warning of Yahweh (Numbers 33:56).

3). Description of The Land To Be Inherited (Numbers 34:1-15).

a Command concerning the inheritance of the land which will fall to them (Numbers 34:1-2).

b Description of the south quarter (Numbers 34:3-5).

b Description of the western border (Numbers 34:6).

b Description of the northern border (Numbers 34:7-9).

b Description of the eastern border (Numbers 34:10-12).

a This is the land which they are to inherit by lot as Yahweh has commanded (Numbers 34:13-15).

4). The Leaders Who Will Divide the Land For Them Are Appointed (Numbers 34:16-29).

a Yahweh declares the names of those who will divide the land (Numbers 34:16-18).

b The princes names listed (Numbers 34:19-28).

a These are those whom Yahweh has commanded to divide the land (Numbers 34:29).

5). Provision of Cities for the Levites (Numbers 35:1-8).

a Cities to be given to the Levites with the suburbs of the cities (the surrounding land) (Numbers 35:1-2).

b The cities are for the Levites to dwell in (Numbers 35:3 a).

c The suburbs are for their beasts to dwell in (Numbers 35:3 b).

c The suburbs of the cities defined (Numbers 35:4-5).

b The cities of the Levites defined (Numbers 35:6-7).

a How the cities to be given to the Levites are to be selected (Numbers 35:8).

6). Provision of Cities of Refuge and Prevention of Defilement of the Land (Numbers 35:9-34).

As in the case of the Balaam stories we have three threefold sequences placed within a chiastic framework.

a When they pass over Jordan they are to provide cities of refuge for unwitting manslayers (to prevent the shedding of innocent blood) (Numbers 35:9-11).

b The city is for a manslayer’s protection until he is brought for trial (Numbers 35:12).

c Six cities to be appointed, three in Canaan and three beyond Jordan. These cities available for both Israelites and resident aliens (Numbers 35:13-15),

d Three descriptions of slayings which deserve death (Numbers 35:16-18).

e The avenger of blood may put such to death when he meets him (Numbers 35:19).

d Three further descriptions of slayings which deserve death (Numbers 35:20-21 a).

e The avenger of blood may put him to death when he meets him (Numbers 35:21 b).

d Three descriptions of accidental slayings which do not deserve death (Numbers 35:22-23).

e The congregation will judge them and put them in safety in a city of refuge until the death of the High Priest. (Numbers 35:24-25).

c If the manslayer leaves his appointed city of refuge before that he can be slain by the avenger of blood without him incurring guilt (Numbers 35:26-28).

b The deliberate manslayer will be slain at the mouth of witnesses (at least two) (Numbers 35:29-30).

a No ransom to be allowed for manslaying, whether deliberate or accidental. This is because violent shedding of blood pollutes the land and there must be a death for it, for the land is not to be defiled as Yahweh dwells in it (Numbers 35:31-34).

7). The Manassite Leaders’ Concern About The Land If Women Inherit.

a The Leaders of the tribe of Manasseh approach Moses about the possible loss of part of their division of the land as a result of the decision about the daughters of Zelophehad (Numbers 36:1-2 a).

b Description of the problem relating to the land inherited by the daughters of Zelophehad (Numbers 36:2-4).

a Instruction concerning women who inherit land so as to maintain the lot in the dividing up of the land (Numbers 36:5-12).

Numbers 36:5-12 can be analysed as follows:

Success Follows the Faithfulness of the Daughters of Zelophehad (Numbers 36:5-12).

a The women are to marry whom they think fit but within the family of the tribe of their father (within the clan) (Numbers 36:5-6).

b Thus no inheritance will remove from tribe to tribe for the children of Israel will cleave every one to the tribe of his fathers (Numbers 36:7).

c Every woman who inherits land from her father shall be wife to one who is of the family of the tribe of her father (Numbers 36:8 a)

c This is so that the children of Israel may possess every man the inheritance of his fathers (Numbers 36:8 b).

b Thus no inheritance will remove from tribe to tribe for the children of Israel will cleave every one to the tribe of his fathers (Numbers 36:9).

a This what the daughters of Zelophehad did, marrying their father’s brothers sons, thus they were married to Manassites and the inheritance remained in the tribe of the family of their father. The lesson is emphasised that those who are true and obedient will inherit the land (Numbers 36:10-12).

The Final Summary.

Here is given a final summary of the book which may well have been a colophon. The journey is over. They are in the plains of Moab opposite Jericho (Numbers 36:13).

How The Tribes Were Divided Up.

The ‘congregation of Israel’ were divided up into tribes. These were then divided up into sub-tribes, then clans, then ‘wider families’ (or often ‘thousands’), then families, each section having their own ‘heads’ or ‘fathers’ or ‘chiefs’. Note for example Numbers 3:17-21 where we have the tribe of Levi, the sub-tribes of Gershon, Kohath and Merari, made up of the clans of Libni and Shimei, Amram, Izehar, Hebron and Uzziel, and Mahli and Mushi. Each clan would then be split into ‘houses’ or the equivalent having in mind a wider family grouping.

“House” was actually a fluid term. They could speak of ‘the house of Israel’ (Exodus 16:31; Exodus 40:38 and often), which meant all Israel, ‘the house of Levi’ (Exodus 2:1) which meant the whole tribe of Levi, the house of the Gershonites which indicated the sub-tribe (Numbers 3:24), the house of Jerubbaal or Gideon (Judges 8:35, compare 9:1), the ‘house’ which was the wider family of Samson (Judges 16:31) and so on. Then would come the individual families, the ‘house’ over which the father of the family would be head.

A number of nouns were used to describe these groupings, and they were not always used consistently. Note Joshua 7:14-18 (see also 1 Samuel 10:20-21) where we have the gradings of ‘tribe’, ‘family’ (clan), ‘household’ (larger family) and ‘man’ (family unit). They were sometimes described in terms of ‘thousands’, ‘hundreds’, ‘fifties’ and ‘tens’ (Exodus 18:21; Exodus 18:25; Numbers 31:48; Deuteronomy 1:15) where the idea was not of exact numbers but simply of graded levels of society (compare for example Numbers 1:16; Joshua 22:14 where ‘thousands’ are related to ‘houses’). These words, which came to be used to indicate numbers, were originally simply ‘group’ indicators at various levels. A ‘ten’ was one step up from the ‘household’ (it might have consisted of anything between say five to fifteen small households, or a small platoon of soldiers) with a ruler over it. A ‘hundred’ was a group of ‘tens’, again with a ruler over it, and so on. A ‘thousand’ was a larger group. See Exodus 18:21; Exodus 18:25; Numbers 31:48; Deuteronomy 1:15. These would apply both in war and in peace. The Hebrew language was still in its early stages.

The Question of the Large Census Numbers.

We must stress here that the question being discussed here is not as to whether these numbers are ‘correct’. We are working on the basis of the correctness of the ‘numbers’. The question is as to what the Hebrew text means and indicates.

At first sight, looking from the point of view of the 21st century, the interpretation of them seems clear. They provide arithmetical details of a census taken of Israel’s fighting men. But that is because we are used to dealing in large and accurate numbers, and using them for such purposes, and to us the words used appear to have a specific and mathematical significance. For the initial readers of this work the situation was very different.

It would, in fact, be interesting to know how the ‘numbering’ of Israel described in Numbers 1-4 and Numbers 26 took place, and who took on the responsibility. In our day when the use of mathematics is widespread, and even the least of us think numerically, it may appear the simplest of matters to count people, although even today counting over six hundred thousand people is not a simple matter. But in those days it would have been an horrendous undertaking. And the result, addressed to people who could mainly not count beyond their fingers, meaningless except as an overall description.

Indeed, even today we ‘number’ people by using techniques. Thus we are told that so many million people watched a certain TV programme. But who counted them? The answer is no one. It is all done by using samples and adjusting upwards. Yet the figures are quoted confidently and considered reliable enough for large companies to pay advertising revenue on the basis of them. We are told ‘so many million watched such and such a programme on such and such a night’. But it is not an exact number, and must be taken as meaning ‘within a million or so’. How much more likely then is it that techniques would be used for ‘counting’ in ancient days, especially when assessing large numbers. And the results would then be given in round numbers, as here.

It is difficult for us to conceive of the fact that in those days ‘numbering’ was something limited to a few experts for we are taught it from childhood. But then it was very different. Men and women did not use numbering in their everyday lives. It was unnecessary. They did not count their herds and flocks, they knew them by name. They did not go to the shops. They bartered. They had no need for counting. They took in the scene without it. Numbers were illustrative, not mathematical.

As we can gather both from ‘primitive’ tribes around the world in the modern day, whose ability to count is regularly limited to three, and also from history, it is very probable that few in Israel could count beyond twenty, and suggesting that level is probably being optimistic. No one would have educated them in number counting. So, as in most societies of that day, numbers, especially large numbers, would have been a great mystery to the Israelites as a whole and would in fact mainly have been used adjectivally, in order to convey information by impression rather than by exact numerical information. An exception may have been some businessmen, who might have used experts for trading purposes, but even then there were techniques for making it unnecessary such as tally sticks. Numbers tended rather to convey to people such ideas as completeness, divine perfection, trial and testing and hugeness rather than specific quantity.

In this regard consider the following table of the figures in Numbers 1 and Numbers 26.

Numbers of Males Over 20

Tribe

Chapter 1

Chapter 26

Reuben

46,500

43,730

Simeon

59,300

22,200

Gad

45,650

40,500

Judah

74,600

76,500

Issachar

54,400

64,300

Zebulun

57,400

60,500

Ephraim

40,500

32,500

Manasseh

32,200

52,700

Benjamin

35,400

45,600

Dan

62,700

64,400

Asher

41,500

53,400

Naphtali

53,400

45,400

Levi (Numbers 3:46)

22,000

23,000

Total excluding Levites

603,550

601,730

It will be noted immediately that both in chapter 1 and in Numbers 26 all the numbers, with the exception of one of them in each case, are in round numbers of hundreds. If we think about it that is quite extraordinary, not as to the use of round numbers in hundreds, which is easily explicable, but as to why in each case one of the numbers in each list, and only one, is not a round number in hundreds. In one case the odd number is ‘fifty’ (Numbers 1:25), in the other ‘thirty’ (Numbers 26:7). They are round enough not to be seen as intended to indicate exactness, but not round enough to fit in with the other numbers. We are probably also to see it as significant that the numbers of the Levites also contain an odd 50 and an odd 30 - see Numbers 4:36; Numbers 4:40; Numbers 4:44. It is clear that in some way or another the writer is seeking to get over a message, possibly of covenant connection (5x10) and completeness (3x10), even if with our lack of knowledge of the ancient use of numbers we find it difficult to grasp what that message is.

We must seriously ask ourselves why the divergence? And also why were the Levites alone expressed in exact ‘thousands’? Both give a clue as to the intention of the ‘numbers’. We should also further note that in no case are the ‘hundreds’ less than two or more than seven (and two and seven only occur once in each list as though they were unusual), which would be strange if they were the last part of large numbers resulting from random counting, especially as all the numbers from two to seven are represented, and the middle numbers in quantity. The ‘numbers’ are clearly not as simple as they first appear.

Further we should note that in 1:16 the princes of the tribes were called ‘heads of thousands (’lph)’. Now in 1:4 these princes were each said to be ‘head of the house of his fathers’. This would equate ‘thousands’ with ‘the house of his fathers’, and suggest that the ‘thousands’ refer to the different ‘sections’ of the tribe making up the full tribe. As we know from elsewhere, the consonants translated ‘thousand’ (’lph) can also be translated ‘family, clan, military unit, military officer’ (e.g. in Judges 6:15) of which there would be a number in the chief’s ‘house of his fathers’.

Some therefore suggest that we should here read ’eleph (or repoint as ’alluph. The original text only had the consonants ’lph) meaning ‘family’ or ‘military officer/chief’ all the way through, thus for example reading Reuben’s count as either ‘46 families containing the equivalent of 5 units (‘hundreds’) of fighting men’, or ‘46 military officers/chieftains and 5 units (‘hundreds’) of fighting men’.

If followed through and taken arithmetically (something which we probably should not do) this would give a total of roughly 5,550 fighting men of over 20 (and there would be a good number under 20 eager to volunteer) excluding Levites of twenty years old and upwards, and therefore a total number of say 30-35000 tribal members, or even more, to which could be added resident aliens. In those days that would have been a considerable fighting force, certainly enough to make Egypt uneasy when existing in its midst, especially as it was concentrated mainly in one place, and Egypt would take teenagers, who would equally be slaves, into account (Exodus 1:9-10). Even Rameses II only raised a force of 20,000 men in his mass invasion to attack the Hittites.

If we accept these ideas the Levites could then simply be 22 ‘families’, or 20 chieftains with a number of ‘men’, in their case not being split into military units (although they are split into ‘hundreds’ for service to the tent of meeting - see Numbers 3).

We have indications elsewhere that the tribes could be split into ‘thousands’, ‘hundreds’, ‘fifties’ and ‘tens’ (Exodus 18:21; Exodus 18:25; Numbers 31:48; Deuteronomy 1:15) where the numbers would not be expected to be taken literally, being the equivalent, say, of splitting into brigades, regiments, companies and platoons, but considerably downsized to fit the times. This would then explain why Gad could have six military units (‘hundreds’) and a specialist unit of a ‘fifty’. (Compare how the Romans later used number words which had lost their original meaning in usage in order to describe their ‘legions’ under a general and ‘centuries’ under a centurion).

The problem then raised is, if we take the numbers generally to mean so many military leaders and so many fighting men, how do we explain the total given of 603,550. One explanation would be to read it as ‘600 military officers (or families)’ as a round number (actually there are five hundred and ninety eight), who were spread over ‘three large military units, five medium military units, and a specialist fifty unit’, who were made up of all the ‘hundreds’, with the ‘fifty’ left over. This would certainly help to solve the problem. The 601,730 in chapter 26 could then be seen as 600 military officers covering one extra large unit (a ‘thousand’ seen as a regiment), a different formation being in use forty years on, combined with seven smaller units and a thirty, the thirty representing three ‘tens’ as indicating completeness, possibly again indicating specialist units or resident aliens who have only a minor place. The alteration from three large units to one even larger unit would be explicable in terms of the new circumstances. They were not now guarding the dwellingplace on all sides but acting in unison in the invasion. (We must remove our concept of ‘a thousand’ from our minds, except as a ‘large grouping’. ’Eleph was not necessarily as exact as that).

However, it is even more likely that we are to recognise that the ancients would quite probably see no inconsistency in adding together ’lphs of different types, thus making the total fit the individual figures, so as to give a large ‘total’ intended to express the above facts. They would see it as representing the sum total of the facts that they were presenting rather than as a mathematical figure. This would especially be true if the first ’lph indicated military leaders or mighty men, for under ancient warfare it was very often the mighty men who fought while the remainder watched (compare Goliath - 1 Samuel 17; the ‘young men’ in 2 Samuel 2:14). They were each seen as the equivalent of a regiment. If for example we think of 598 ‘military captains/mighty men’ (’lph), and every ten ‘hundreds’ of ordinary soldiers being seen as the equivalent of a mighty man, this would give us the description of 603,550 (598 military officers/mighty men, plus five supporting groups of ‘thousands’, plus five separate ‘hundreds’ plus a ‘fifty’). We can compare how an Egyptian manuscript could add a number of totally diverse elements from numbers of houses and oxen to numbers of grains of corn in order to make a heterogeneous total which simply conveyed the idea of huge quantity. The same purpose applied here. The aim was to indicate a well led powerful force combining mighty men and warriors. This would then tie in with the figures in chapter 2 indicating 598 mighty men (’lph), five large units (’lph - ‘thousands, regiments’), five medium units, and a specialist unit of fifty.

This would also then fit even better with the second numbering where the result would be 596 officers and five supporting groups of ‘thousands’ plus seven hundreds and a ‘thirty’.

But we may ask, why should he wish to achieve a seeming total of 603,550? Why should 603,550 ideally represent the men of Israel? The answer probably lies in Exodus 38:24-26. ‘And the silver of those who were numbered of the congregation was a hundred talents and one thousand seven hundred and seventy five shekels, after the shekel of the sanctuary. There was a beka a head, that is, half a shekel after the shekel of the sanctuary, for every one who passed over to those who were numbered, from twenty years old and upward, for six hundred thousand and three thousand and five hundred and fifty men.’

At first sight this seems to suggest that the silver gathered was gathered by obtaining a levy of half a shekel per warrior, thus giving us the total of warriors. But further examination will reveal that that is not so. For what is being described in the chapter is not specifically a census but the total amount of gold, silver and bronze used in the Sanctuary, no matter how it was obtained, and we know from Exodus 35:5; Exodus 35:24 that, as with the gold and bronze, the silver actually included generous freewill offerings, as well as the levy on individual men.

So what was being said there was that the silver collected from all sources for the making of the Sanctuary came to 100 talents and 1,775 shekels, which comes to 301,775 shekels, taking a talent as 3000 shekels, as it certainly was later. And therefore that the silver that went into the Dwellingplace was 301,775 shekels, which on the above basis (each half shelel representing the equivalent of the ransom of a man) represented the theoretical equivalent of 603,550 men.

But we must repeat again that this silver was not all gathered at a beka a head. It was in fact gathered in two ways. Firstly by exacting a levy of half shekel of silver for each man numbered when numbering Israel (Exodus 30:12), and secondly by gathering a generous freewill offering of silver from the people (Exodus 35:5; Exodus 35:24). And we must note that the amount given is clearly the total amount of silver collected, not just the levy silver, just as the total amount of gold and bronze collected was also given, for its division for use is actually described as though it was all the silver that there was.

That being so not all that was gathered was actually gathered from levy silver. Some of it, and we can assume a great deal of it in view of the other amounts collected, came from freewill offerings. So the point being made is rather that the silver gathered was so large that had it all been levy silver it would in total have been the equivalent of the half shekel levy for a theoretical 603,550 men.

In that case the writer was simply saying that the total amount of silver in the sanctuary was to be seen as representing the totality of the fighting men of Israel. (He probably also saw the gold as representing the priests and Levites, and the copper as representing the remainder of Israel).

This being so we may conclude from it that the 603,550 men is not the real actual arithmetical number of fighting men but a theoretical number based on the amount of silver in the Dwellingplace, which was seen as representing a theoretical number of men. To the ancient mind that would mean that the ‘ideal total’ for Israel’s menfolk must be 603,550 men, in order to parallel the amount of silver in the Sanctuary, for they were Yahweh’s silver.

We are not told in fact when the Exodus numbering took place, nor how much was specifically gathered from that numbering, nor how many were numbered. We are only told the final sum total of silver. What we are told is that this whole sum total came from ‘the silver of those who were numbered of the congregation’. However, as Exodus 35:5; Exodus 35:24 demonstrate, this may not have all been silver obtained by the numbering. It could have ‘come from their silver’ either by levy or by freewill offering, with each actually giving abundantly more than their half shekel. And then, calculated at a beka a head, what was gathered from both sources would be seen as representing an ideal figure of 603,550 men. That being so that was then seen as the ‘ideal number’ for Israel, as a figure that simply indicated ‘all Israel as belonging to Yahweh as represented by the silver in the Dwellingplace’. This explains why the writer in Numbers 1 was so eager to achieve that figure and was prepared to ‘shape his numbers’ in order to do so.

We must not think that this ‘manipulation’ was dishonest or inaccurate in what it signified, for it was never intended by him to signify the actual real number of fighting men in Israel. Rather it was intended to assess them in companies for fighting purposes and to link those fighting men directly with Yahweh’s Dwellingplace, seeing them as His silver (with the priests and Levites as His gold) and to link them with the idea of completeness and covenant (representing three doubled (600) plus three (thousands) plus five (hundreds) plus five (tens) all intensified).

We can compare how in Genesis 46 the number of people entering Egypt was deliberately shaped in order to produce seventy. This manipulation was neither dishonest nor inaccurate. It was not trying to deceive, for it was quite openly stated how it was obtained in such a way that the truth was obvious to all, and it was not interested in actual quantity. It was concerned to convey an impression. In the case of the seventy it was declaring the intensified divine perfection (7x10) of the number going into Canaan (which including the ‘households’ would actually be a thousand or two), and their completeness (33+ 33), regardless of when they actually went or how they got there. Here in Exodus the writer was impressed with the number of half shekels because it came to a ‘perfect’ number comprising threes, intensified threes and fives, perfectly representing completeness and covenant.

Again therefore we have the ancient use of numbers, with number words being made use of in order to convey a message rather than to give exact quantity. It explains why the freewill offerings of silver were not mentioned in Exodus 38 whereas those of the gold and bronze were and why the figures for ‘men’ in Exodus 38 and Numbers 1 agreed. It also explains why the writer in Numbers 1 ensured that he reached that figure.

But, it may be asked, do we have to go into all this? Why can we not take all the figures as indicating exact quantities of troops, as suggested in the translations? Would that not be easier? The answer is that we can if we wish to, and yes, it would be easier for our pedantic minds, for there is nothing about them that is inconsistent, but that by doing so we are using the modern viewpoint. If we consider them in the light of the ancient use of numbers, we may well come to another conclusion and see the whole army as being seen as the equivalent of Yahweh’s silver.

This is not to raise doubts about whether God could keep two and a half to three million people alive in the wilderness. Of course He could. The wilderness was quite probably then more fertile, enjoying somewhat more rain; people like the Israelites were used to eating and drinking carefully and conserving water; and Moses knew the wilderness inside out, having dwelt in it for years, and, especially with Hobab’s help, knew that there were places in the Sinai peninsula which to those who knew them could provide plenty of water. This last would then be carried in water sacks, while at other times wells could be dug in a number of places to reach down to the water table. (And even with all this they were then at times in such dire straits that they ‘murmured’). Additionally manna was specifically provided by God in order to prevent starvation, and it may well have contained a liquid element which would help them to keep alive and supplement their carefully guarded water. But the question is not as to whether He could, but as to whether He did.

For there are a number of Scriptural reasons which must count against over six hundred thousand men being a literal figure. The first is that it was clearly recognised that the Israelites were not of sufficient number to occupy the whole land immediately (Exodus 23:29-30; Deuteronomy 7:22) and that their numbers were not seen as huge (Deuteronomy 7:6). Indeed it was suggested that they were afraid of the large numbers of Canaanites (Deuteronomy 7:17). But that would simply not have been true on the number of Israelites suggested. And that must be seen in the light of the fact that when Canaanite cities pleaded with Pharaoh for help against their attackers in the Amarna letters they thought in terms of a minimal number of ten or so soldiers or archers. Even mighty Megiddo only asked for a hundred men. So none of them would have known how to face up to half a million men.

For the fact is that most Canaanite towns only had a few hundred inhabitants at the most. Mighty Jericho itself, judging by the size of its mound, would not have had more than say 600 fighting men in its population of less than two thousand, and even the great cities like Megiddo (say 60,000 - thus less than ten thousand ‘fighting men’), Hazor (say 40,000) and Lachish (say 22,000) were of relatively limited population and would have been dwarfed by half a million Israelite soldiers.

Secondly we have no indications in Scripture which suggest the kind of huge logistical problems that we would expect to arise with such numbers. When the people gathered at Mount Sinai, or united together against Moses, or met to worship at the Tabernacle, or gathered to march, we do not get the impression of such huge numbers that it would have been almost unmanageable. We get the impression rather of a manageable total. Furthermore if there had been 70-80,000 Levite family members in 22,000 tents encamped around the Tabernacle it is difficult to see how there could have been gatherings around it ‘before Yahweh’ of the kind described. And would the Amalekites really have tangled with such huge numbers? They might certainly have attacked stragglers, but in the end the impression is given of a real attempt to do battle with Israel as a whole on almost level terms. And would Amalek have been seen as at times prevailing, and victory over them have been seen as such a wonderful answer to prayer, if Israel had been able to call on such large numbers, even granted that it was their first encounter after leaving Egypt? Besides, the size of ‘the camp’ would have been almost inconceivable, indeed would have been a number of camps stretched out over large areas in sometimes mountainous districts, a size which does not seem to be reflected in many of the references to ‘the camp’. There would have had to be many widely spread camps. In saying this it is not a question of what God could do, but of what the facts and descriptions suggest.

We are probably therefore justified in seeing the ‘numbering’ here in Numbers as a gathering of the fighting men into units, and then as expressing the result in terms which would have been understood at the time, rather than as an attempt to discover how many Israelites there were.

Another aspect that brings problems with regard to numbering is the number of firstborn males given in Numbers 3:43 as ‘22,273’. This is then compared with the number of Levites of ‘22,000’ (Numbers 3:39) leaving 273 to be redeemed. How can this be seen as tying in with all this? This number has been cited against seeing the figures as read in translations as actual on other grounds, namely that the number of firstborn is too low compared with the total number of males over 20. That, however, is not necessarily so, for ‘firstborn’ probably means the one firstborn of the father (like Reuben) however many wives he had (see Numbers 1:20), and while polygamy was not so prominent later, it was more likely to be so in these early days if affected by shortage of males caused by earlier events in Egypt. Firstborn sons might also have been especially vulnerable there. Indeed if the firstborn sons of Israel had been subjected to discrimination in Egypt it could help to illuminate the punishment of the slaying of the firstborn sons of Egypt. Alternately these firstborn could be seen as those born after the first Passover, those born before that time already having been redeemed by the Passover.

But a problem that certainly arises is that the 273 difference assumes that the 22,000 male Levites over a month old is an exact number. Now while it could be that, rarely, such a round number could be actual, it is extremely unlikely that such a rarity could occur twice (23,000 in Numbers 26:62). Thus the 22,000 would appear to be a round number, with the consequence that if the 22,273 is a head count the 273 is arrived at by false premises, for there would not be exactly 20,000 Levites. However, if the 22 in each case represents some other recognised comparison, then the 273 is legitimate as a surplus. For example if the 22,000 signified 22 ‘families’ of Levites, the equivalent of 22 families in terms of firstborns achieved by some computation then considered reasonable could have been used.

The point behind all this is not to suggest that we can satisfactorily solve all the problems of Hebrew numbering, but rather to suggest that if we did fully understand the way in which Israel thought in those days in their use of ‘number words’ we could solve them, and that the problems arise from our lack of knowledge and not from what was written. The same applies to the ages of the patriarchs which are also clearly at least partly symbolic, while at the same time rightly indicating great age. See on all this our articles on ‘Numbers in the ANE’ at http://www.geocities.com/Athens/Delphi/4027, and our commentary on Genesis.

The Emphases of the Book.

Along with Exodus, Leviticus and Deuteronomy, Numbers lays great emphasis on the holiness and graciousness of God. Like them it stresses that Israel are one people and that Yahweh’s purpose is to bring His people into the land which He will give them if they enter it in faith, because He has promised it to their fathers (Numbers 14:23). The whole purpose of the march forwards and the sending out of the spies was in order that they might possess the land, even if they did forfeit the immediate right through disobedience. And it goes on to stress that it was still His final purpose for them, for available for them, if they would receive it, was the kingdom of God on earth in a God-given land ruled by Yahweh and inhabited by an obedient people.

Yet it also brings out that in the process of the fulfilling of God’s purposes, man constantly fails. If it were left to His people there would be no entry into the promised land. Thus their final entry can only be as a result of His mercy and grace, and His own divine purpose.

It further confirms that a holy God must be approached carefully by sinful man, and that in that regard He had instituted the Aaronic priesthood which alone had access to the inner sanctuary and the right to represent the people before Yahweh (Numbers 16:1 to Numbers 17:13). It stresses the greater holiness of these priests, the lesser holiness of the Levites, who act to assist them, and the even lower level of holiness of the people. Thus does it emphasise that man needs a mediator between himself and God. Nevertheless all are in the last analysis to be seen as holy if they would enter the land and must therefore avoid uncleanness and death. And it stresses that an unbelieving people can have no part in the land, but must be excluded.

For us all this is fully explained in our Lord Jesus Christ, Who is the One perfect mediator between God and Man (1 Timothy 2:5; Hebrews 9:15; Hebrews 12:24), with the result that we can come to God as holy, if we are in Him, because He is holy. And thus as His priests we are all called to reach out to the world to bring them to belief in Him, and to glorify Him before them (1 Peter 2:5; 1 Peter 2:9).

But as the New Testament makes clear we are also soldiers of Christ, and we are called on to live as such in our lives. We are to endure hardness as good soldiers of Jesus Christ (2 Timothy 2:3-4; Ephesians 6:10-18). For we too march towards a Kingdom, even though in our case it is a heavenly kingdom which has replaced the earthly. It is the ‘everlasting kingdom’ of the prophets.

The Order of Events.

For the sake of completeness we now give the probable order of events as they can be gathered from the Pentateuch. We have not included it in the text of the commentary because that would be to take away from the purpose of the writer. He was not concerned to give a chronological total picture otherwise he would have put such chronology in Exodus 40.

Order of Events

Day in second year.

Event

References

Day 1, first month

Completion of tabernacle

Exodus 40:2; Numbers 7:1

ditto

Laws for offerings possibly begin

Leviticus 1:1

do.

Offerings for altar begin

Numbers 7:3

do.

Ordination of priests begins

Leviticus 8:1

Day 8, first month

Ordination of priests completed

Leviticus 9:1

Day 12, first month

Offerings for altar completed

Numbers 7:78

ditto

Appointment of Levites

Numbers 8:5

Day 14, first month

Second Passover

Numbers 9:2

Day 1, second month

Numbering begins

Numbers 1:1

Day 14, second month

Passover for those unclean

Numbers 9:11

Day 20, second month

Cloud moves, journey starts

Numbers 10:11

We now come to the Commentary proper.

THE OVERALL PLAN OF THE BOOK.

The overall chiastic construction is drawn attention to by the letters of the alphabet which open each line.

a Mobilisation For Israel’s Advance On The Land (Numbers 1-4).

b The Purifying, Dedication and Blessing of Israel Through Offerings (Numbers 5-10).

c The Murmuring of Israel, Appointment of 70 Elders, Smiting of Miriam For Sin (Numbers 11-12).

d Preparations For Advance Into The Land and Defeat By the Amorites (Numbers 13-14).

e Promised Restoration, Hope and Life (Numbers 15-19).

e Eleazar Replaces Aaron Resulting in Rivers of Life-giving Water (Numbers 20:1 to Numbers 21:20).

d Forward Advance - The Defeat of the Amorites, Balaam and Midianite Temptation (Numbers 20:22 to Numbers 25:18).

c The Mobilisation of Israel, Appointment of Joshua and the Death of Moses For Sin (Numbers 26-27).

b The Dedication of Israel Through Feasts, Offerings and Vows - The Purifying of Transjordan Through Vengeance on the Midianites and Settlement of the Two and a Half Tribes (Numbers 28-32)

a Description Of The Journey To The Land And Its Intended and Preliminary Occupation (Numbers 33-36).

Lectionary Calendar
Saturday, November 16th, 2019
the Week of Proper 27 / Ordinary 32
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