Book type: The Law (History. The Pentateuch: the First 5 books of the Old Testament)
No. of chapters: 36
Key character(s): God, Moses, Aaron, Miriam, Joshua, Caleb, Eleazar, Korah, Balaam. 
Brief description: Numbers – Renewing a rebellious people.
01) God prepares his people for the task ahead (1:1-10:36)
02) Rebellious people complain & face just judgement (11:1-20:13)
03) God’s people achieve his purposes (20:14-25:18)
04) God prepares his people to accomplish new missions & face new situations (26:1-36:13)
How does God lead a rebellious people?
God’s principles of divine power & grace can overcome the failure of imperfect but developing faith.
[Source: NIV Disciple’s Study Bible]
Numbers might be a bleak account of the Israelites’ stubbornness, if it were not outweighed by God’s faithfulness and protection. This is the fourth book in the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Bible. It’s an historical account but also teaches important lessons about God fulfilling his promises.
Themes in the Book of Numbers:
01) A census or count of the people was needed to prepare them for future tasks. The first census organized the people by tribes, for their journey ahead. The second census, in Chapter 26, counted the men 20 years and older who could serve in the army. Planning is wise if we face a major task.
02) Rebellion against God brings bad consequences. Instead of believing Joshua and Caleb, the only two spies who said Israel could conquer Canaan, the people did not trust God and refused to cross into the Promised Land. For their lack of faith, they wandered 40 years in the desert until all but a few of that generation had died.
03) God does not tolerate sin. God, who is holy, let time and the desert take the lives of those who disobeyed him. The next generation, free of the influence of Egypt, were prepared to be a separate, holy people, loyal to God. Today, Jesus Christ saves, but God expects us to make every effort to drive sin from our lives.
04) Canaan was the fulfilment of God’s promises to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. The Jewish people grew in numbers during their 400 years of slavery in Egypt. They were now strong enough, with God’s help, to conquer and populate the Promised Land. God’s word is good. He rescues his people and stands by them.
Fuller list of major characters in the book of Numbers:
|Moses||Led Hebrew slaves out of Egypt; parted Red Sea; gave Law and 10 commandments at Mt. Sinai.|
|Aaron||Brother of Moses. Father of Nadab, Abihu, Eleazar, Ithamar.|
|Miriam||Sister of Moses & Aaron.|
|Joshua||Son of Nun, assistant to Moses, who eventually leads the Hebrew people into the Promise Land after Moses dies.|
|Caleb||Son of Jephunneh, the Kenizzite, and head of one of the families of Judah. One of the 12 spies sent by Moses to explore Canaan.|
|Eleazar||The third son of Aaron by Elisheba, daughter of Amminadab.|
|Korah||The Levite who conspired with Dathan and Abiram against Moses. Korah was the son of Izhar, the brother of Amram, the father of Moses and Aaron, making him cousin to these leaders of Israel. The earth opened and then closed over the fallen tents of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram.|
|Balak||King of Moab. Commissioned Balaam to curse the Hebrew people.|
|Balaam||A heathen diviner who lived at Pethor, who beat his donkey. Blessed the Hebrew people!|