The title for the Book of Numbers comes from the “numbering” or census of Israel found in chapter 1 and chapter 26. The Jews called the book “bemidhbar,” the first significant word in the Hebrew text. “Bemidhbar” means “in the wilderness.” That name describes where the events in Numbers took place. The Israelites were wandering in the wilderness for 40 years after they left Egypt and before they entered Canaan. We could also call Numbers “the book of grumbling,” because the book tells of the frequent grumbling and complaining of the Jews as they wandered in the wilderness. The theme of the book is “The March of God’s Army Through the Wilderness.” Numbers has 36 chapters. It covers a period of time of about 38 years, the years between the encampment at Mount Sinai and the encampment before entering the land of Canaan. Since this is one of the books of the Pentateuch, Moses is the human author of Numbers. The events that he records he knew from first-hand experience.


  1. Preparations for Leaving Sinai (1-10)
  2. The Journey from Sinai to the Plains of Moab (10-21)
  3. Events in the Plains of Moab (22-36) (Notice that the first part of chapter 10 is included in Part 1, and the second part of the chapter is included in Part 2.)

THE FIRST MAIN PART: Preparations for Leaving Sinai (1-10)

In chapter 1 we learn that Israel’s army consisted of 603,550 men over 20 years old (v.45). The numbers from each tribe are given. The special service of the tribe of Levi is recorded in chapters 3 and 4. In chapters 5-10 we read about the following: purifying the camp of Israel of the unclean, the test for an unfaithful wife, the law of the Nazarite, offerings at the dedication of the tabernacle, and other preparations for leaving Mount Sinai. The Passover is again commanded in chapter 9.

THE SECOND MAIN PART: The Journey from Sinai to the Plains of Moab (10-21)

This part actually begins at chapter 10:11 where we are told that the Israelites left the Desert of Sinai. In chapter 11 we read of the ungrateful complaining of the Israelites about the manna and their other “hardships.” For punishment for the complaining, God sent a plague. Chapter 12 tells of Miriam and Aaron opposing Moses. Chapter 13 records the sending of 12 men to explore the land of Canaan. In chapter 14 the Israelites are complaining again and rebel. Chapters 15-21 tell of the following: special offerings, the death of one who broke the sabbath, the death of three men who rebelled, water from a rock a second time, the death of Aaron, and the episode of the bronze snake. In chapter 21 we are told that the Israelites reached the Plains of Moab.

THE THIRD MAIN PART: Events in the Plains of Moab (22-36)

Again, be sure to look at the NIV headings for these chapters. They contain such things as the following: The Balak and Balam incident, the idolatry of Israel recorded in chapter 25, the second numbering in chapter 26, the commissioning of Joshua to take over the leadership from Moses, laws, the giving of the land east of the Jordan River, the stages in Israel’s journey, and instructions for taking and distributing the land of Canaan.



(The Aaronic Blessing:) “The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace” (6:24-26).

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