The Book of Numbers derives its name from the two censuses, or numberings, of the Israelites that are pivotal to the narrative. These censuses, taken at the beginning and near the end of the book, were not mere headcounts but strategic measures to organize and prepare the people as they stood on the threshold of the Promised Land.

Numbers spans the story of Israel’s journey from Mount Sinai to Moab’s plains on the Canaan border. It covers about 40 years, most of which the Israelites spent wandering in the desert due to their disobedience and lack of faith in God’s promises. This wandering serves as a critical period of testing and maturation for the emerging nation of Israel.

Throughout the book, key themes include trust in God, obedience to His commands, and the consequences of rebellion. Numbers also demonstrates God’s enduring faithfulness and mercy, despite the frequent failures of His people.

A central lesson from Numbers is the importance of faith and obedience. The Israelites’ experiences in the wilderness teach us about the serious consequences of doubting God’s promises and the rewards of faithful adherence to His Word. For example, in Numbers 14:18, the Lord declares, “The Lord is longsuffering and abundant in mercy, forgiving iniquity and transgression; but He by no means clears the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generation.”

Thus, the Book of Numbers provides a historical account of Israel’s formation and refinement in the wilderness and spiritual and moral lessons applicable to believers today. It underscores the necessity of faithful dependence on God and the importance of community discipline and leadership under God’s guidance.

PURPOSE: To record the journey of the Israelites from Mount Sinai to the edge of the Promised Land, highlighting their struggles and God's faithfulness in guiding and disciplining them according to His covenant.


ADDRESSEE: The Children of Israel

DATE: The typical date for the book’s writing concerns the period of the Israelites’ wilderness wanderings, which places it around 1446–1406 BC. This dating is based on the traditional view that Moses wrote the first five books of the Bible during the 40 years that the Israelites wandered in the desert after their exodus from Egypt.

SETTING: Numbers was written as the Israelites journeyed through the wilderness, primarily stationed at Mount Sinai before moving towards the Promised Land.


  • Numbers 6:24-26 — This set of verses contains the Priestly Blessing, a powerful invocation for divine favor: “The Lord bless you and keep you; The Lord make His face shine upon you, And be gracious to you; The Lord lift up His countenance upon you, And give you peace.”
  • Numbers 12:3 — This verse is significant as it speaks about the character of Moses, a key figure in the narrative: “Now the man Moses was very humble, more than all men who were on the face of the earth.”
  • Numbers 14:18 — This verse communicates a foundational aspect of God’s character in dealing with His people, echoing a central message from the covenant at Sinai: “‘The Lord is longsuffering and abundant in mercy, forgiving iniquity and transgression; but He by no means clears the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generation.’”
  • Numbers 20:12 — This verse recounts a crucial moment of disobedience by Moses and Aaron, leading to significant consequences: “Then the Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron, ‘Because you did not believe Me, to hallow Me in the eyes of the children of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land which I have given them.’”
  • Numbers 22:28 — This verse introduces a surprising moment where God enables a donkey to speak to Balaam, a non-Israelite prophet: “Then the Lord opened the mouth of the donkey, and she said to Balaam, ‘What have I done to you, that you have struck me these three times?’”


  1. Preparation at Sinai (Chapters 1-10): This section deals with the organization and sanctification of the Israelites for their journey from Sinai. This includes instructions on how to camp around the Tabernacle, the roles of the priests and Levites, and the observance of the Passover.
  2. The Wilderness Journey (Chapters 11-21): This part narrates various rebellions and complaints by the Israelites against Moses and God, as well as God’s punishments and provisions. It highlights episodes like the sending out of the spies and the subsequent refusal to enter the Promised Land, Korah’s rebellion, and the incident of the bronze serpent.
  3. On the Plains of Moab (Chapters 22-36): This section describes the final preparations for entering the Promised Land. It includes stories such as Balaam’s attempt to curse Israel, Phinehas’s zeal, and the land allocation among the tribes.


  1. Census of Israel’s Warriors - Counting the fighting men of Israel.
  2. Arrangement of the Camps - Ordering the tribes around the Tabernacle.
  3. Levites’ Duties and Census - Specific roles and census of the Levites.
  4. Tasks of the Kohathites, Gershonites, and Merarites - Division of labor among Levite clans.
  5. The Law of Jealousy and the Nazirite Vow - Procedures for suspected adultery and special consecration vows.
  6. The Priestly Blessing - Instructions for blessing the Israelites.
  7. Offerings of the Leaders - Leaders of each tribe bring offerings for the dedication of the altar.
  8. Consecration of the Levites - Cleansing and setting apart the Levites for service.
  9. The Second Passover - Provision for those who missed the first Passover.
  10. The Silver Trumpets; Israel Breaks Camp - Use of trumpets and the movement from Sinai.
  11. Complaints About Hardship and the Quail - Israel complains; God provides quail and punishes complainers.
  12. Miriam and Aaron Oppose Moses - Miriam and Aaron speak against Moses, and Miriam is punished.
  13. The Spies Sent to Canaan - Twelve spies scout Canaan; ten bring a negative report.
  14. The People Rebel - Israel refuses to enter Canaan; God declares their punishment.
  15. Laws About Offerings and Unintentional Sins - Additional laws regarding offerings and sins.
  16. Korah’s Rebellion - Korah and others challenge Moses and Aaron’s leadership.
  17. Aaron’s Staff Buds - God confirms Aaron’s priesthood by making his staff bud.
  18. Duties and Offerings for Priests and Levites - Regulations for support of priests and Levites.
  19. The Red Heifer and Water of Cleansing - Laws concerning purification.
  20. Water from the Rock; Death of Aaron - Moses strikes the rock; Aaron dies on Mount Hor.
  21. Victories Over Canaanites; The Bronze Serpent - Battles and healing from snake bites.
  22. Balak Summons Balaam - Balak’s first attempt to hire Balaam to curse Israel.
  23. Balaam’s First and Second Oracles - Balaam blesses Israel instead of cursing.
  24. Balaam’s Final Oracles - Further blessings on Israel and prophetic visions.
  25. Israel Worships Baal at Peor - Israelites sin by worshiping Baal; a plague ensues.
  26. Second Census of Israel - A new census to prepare for land distribution.
  27. Zelophehad’s Daughters; Joshua to Succeed Moses - Inheritance laws adjusted; Joshua appointed as leader.
  28. Daily Offerings and Special Sabbaths - Instructions for daily and special sacrifices.
  29. Offerings for the Feast of Trumpets and the Day of Atonement - Detailed festival offerings.
  30. Vows and Their Binding Nature - Regulations concerning vows made to God.
  31. War Against the Midianites - Israel defeats Midian as vengeance for the incident at Peor.
  32. Reuben and Gad Settle East of the Jordan - Tribes settle on the east side of the Jordan.
  33. Stages of Israel’s Journey from Egypt - Recap of the journey from Egypt to Moab.
  34. Boundaries of the Promised Land - Designation of the land boundaries.
  35. Cities for the Levites and Cities of Refuge - Allocation of cities for Levites and refuge cities.
  36. Marriage Within One’s Tribe (Case of Zelophehad’s Daughters) - Rules regarding inheritance and tribal marriage to preserve land inheritance.