Numbers: In the Desert

The *Israelites Prepare to Enter the *Promised Land

An EasyEnglish Bible Version and Commentary (2800 word vocabulary) on Numbers chapters 21 to 36

www.easyenglish.info

Marion Adams

This commentary has been through Advanced Checking.

Words in boxes are from the Bible.

A word list at the end explains words with a *star by them.

 

Chapter 21

The *Israelites defeat the *Canaanites – Numbers 21:1-3

v1 The king of Arad lived in the southern part of the country called Canaan. He heard that the *Israelites were travelling towards the village called Atharim. He attacked them and he took some of them away as his prisoners.

v2 Then the *Israelites prayed to the *LORD. They made a promise to him. They said, ‘Let us defeat these people! Then we will destroy their towns completely. This will show that their towns and everything in their towns belong to you.’

v3 The *LORD answered their prayer. He helped them to defeat the *Canaanites. The *Israelites killed those *Canaanites. And the *Israelites destroyed those *Canaanites’ towns completely. So the *Israelites called the place ‘Hormah’. This means ‘destruction’. (‘Destruction’ means that people have destroyed something completely.)

Chapter 21 starts the third part of the Book of Numbers. The events in this part happened when the *Israelites were preparing to enter the *Promised Land.

Verses 1-3 The country called Canaan had several kings. Each king ruled his own nation in the country called Canaan. The *Israelites had to defeat these nations before they could live in the *Promised Land. It took them about 7 years to do this.

This third part of the Book of Numbers starts with a battle. Arad was a town in the country called Canaan. The king of Arad attacked the *Israelites as they travelled. Probably, he surprised them, because he took some of them away as his prisoners. But the *Israelites did not try to rescue the prisoners by mere military force. Instead, they asked God to help them. They made a promise to him. They said that they would destroy the *Canaanites’ towns completely. In order to do this, they had to defeat the *Canaanites.

‘To destroy completely’ meant to give something to God completely (Leviticus 27:28-29; Deuteronomy 7:2-6). The *Israelites could not keep anything for themselves. They could not gain any money or possessions as a result of the battle.

The *Canaanites did very wicked things. Their religion was very wicked, too. For example, they killed people as *sacrifices. If the *Israelites did not destroy those nations completely, these wicked acts would continue. And when the *Israelites lived in the same country, they might start to do these things also.

God helped them to defeat the *Canaanites. Then the *Israelites did what they had promised. They destroyed everything to show that it belonged to God completely.

Moses makes a *bronze model of a snake – Numbers 21:4-9

v4 The *Israelites left Hor mountain. They had to go round the country called Edom. So they went south towards the Red Sea. On the way, the people became impatient. v5 They spoke against God and against Moses.

They said to Moses, ‘You led us out of the country called Egypt. Now we will die in this *desert. We have no bread to eat. We have no water. We hate this awful *manna!’

v6 Then the *LORD sent poisonous snakes among the *Israelites. The snakes bit and killed many of them.

v7 The people went to Moses. They said, ‘We were wrong to speak against the *LORD. We were wrong to speak against you, too. Please ask the *LORD to make these snakes leave us.’

So Moses prayed for the people.

v8 The *LORD said to Moses, ‘Make a model of a snake from *bronze. Put the *bronze snake on top of a pole. Any person whom a snake bites can look at the *bronze snake. Then that person will not die.’

v9 So Moses made a *bronze model of a snake. He put it on top of a pole. Then people whom the snakes bit looked at the *bronze snake. And they lived.

Verse 4 The king of the country called Edom had refused to allow the *Israelites to travel through his country (Numbers 20:14-21). So they had to go round it. This delayed them on their journey to the *Promised Land. Also, the route was difficult. So the people became impatient. The *Hebrew word for ‘impatient’ in this verse meant also ‘to become angry’. And it meant that the situation was depressing them.

Verse 5 The *Israelites complained to Moses again. They said the same things that they had said before (Numbers 20:4-5). But what they said was not true. They did have food. They had the *manna that God had provided daily. But they were not grateful for it. The *manna was a gift from God. It was *angels’ food’ (Psalm 78:25). But the *Israelites insulted it. They *rejected the way that God was *blessing them. Also, they *rejected the plan that he had for them to enter the *Promised Land.

Verse 6 So God punished them. He sent poisonous snakes among them. The *Hebrew word for ‘poisonous’ meant ‘something that is burning’. Probably, this referred to the feeling of pain when the snakes bit. But also this word referred to the *angels that serve God in heaven (Isaiah 6:2). *Angels are God’s servants. They take messages from God to people on the earth. So this word emphasised that God had sent the snakes himself, as a punishment.

Verse 7 However, on this occasion, the people soon apologised. They realised that they had *sinned against God. And they were genuinely sorry. They asked Moses to pray to God. They wanted God to remove the snakes.

Verses 8-9 But God did not remove the snakes. Instead, he provided a way to cure every person whom the snakes had bitten. But each person had to do something. They had to look up at the *bronze snake on the pole. If they did this, they lived. If they did not do this, they died.

This story is very important for *Christians. Jesus referred to it when he was talking about his death (John 3:14). People lifted Jesus up on a *cross. He compared himself with the *bronze snake on the pole. *Sin is like poison. Everyone is born with a desire to *sin because Adam, the first man, did not obey God (Genesis chapter 3). This *sin causes death to our spirits. It does not allow us to live how God intended us to live.

God did not remove the snakes; and he does not remove all *sin from the world. Instead, he provided a way to cure every person from the results of *sin. And, like the *Israelites, we have to do something. We have to look at the *cross. We must believe that Jesus died on our behalf. Then he will forgive all our *sins. He suffered the punishment that we deserve.

Every *Israelite had to look at the *bronze snake themselves. Nobody else could do this on another person’s behalf. In the same way, every person must *believe in Jesus on their own behalf.

The *Israelites travel to the country called Moab – Numbers 21:10-20

v10 The *Israelites set out again on their journey to the country called Canaan. They camped at a place called Oboth. v11 Next, they camped at Iye Abarim. Iye Abarim is in the *desert, east of the country called Moab. v12 Then they camped in the Zered valley. v13 After this, they moved again. They camped on the north side of the Arnon river, in the *desert. The Arnon river was the border between the *Moabites’ territory and the *Amorites’ territory. v14 There is a story in the ‘Book of the *LORD’s Battles’. This story mentions Waheb town that has valleys in the area called Suphah. Also, it mentions the Arnon river v15 and its valleys. The story refers to these valleys that are next to the border of the country called Moab. These valleys are as far as Ar town.

v16 After they left the Arnon river, the *Israelites travelled to a place called Beer. They went to a well where the *LORD had spoken to Moses before. The *LORD had said, ‘Call the people to meet together. Then I will give water to them.’

v17 That was when the *Israelites had sung a song. This was their song:

  ‘Wells, give your water to us.

          And then we will sing about this water.

          v18 This was the well that our rulers dug.

          This was the well that our leaders made.

          They dug it with their royal sticks.

          They dug it with the poles that showed their authority.’

Then the *Israelites left the *desert. They camped near Mattanah town. v19 Then they travelled to Nahaliel and then to Bamoth. v20 Finally, they reached the country called Moab. They camped in a valley near Pisgah mountain. From the top of Pisgah mountain, the people would be able to see the *desert north of the Dead Sea.

Verses 10-13 The *Israelites continued to travel north as they approached the *Promised Land. They travelled between the *Moabites’ territory and the *Amorites’ territory. Numbers chapters 22 to 24 record how, later, the *Israelites did not obey God because of the *Moabites.

Verses 14-15 People today do not have any copies of ‘The Book of the *LORD’s Battles’. It seems that it was an ancient record of *Israel’s battles. Probably, it contained stories, songs and poems about war. One of the passages described the land through which the *Israelites were passing.

Verses 16-19 The *Hebrew word ‘Beer’ meant ‘well’. In this place, God provided water for the *Israelites. Probably, he showed Moses where there was water under the ground. The leaders started to dig. Then, perhaps, other people dug until they found water.

40 years had passed since the *Israelites’ previous song that the Bible records (Exodus chapter 15). They did not complain. Instead, they were happy and grateful. It is good to thank God always for what he provides:

·  He provided *manna for the *Israelites in the *desert. He provides food for our bodies, too. And also he gave to us his son Jesus, who called himself ‘the bread of life’ (John chapter 6). This is because only Jesus can satisfy our spirits.

·  Also, God provided the cure for the snakes’ poison (Numbers 21:4-9). And he gave to us the cure for our *sin. Jesus’ death on the *cross was the cure for our *sin (John 3:14-15).

·  God provided water for the *Israelites. And Jesus gives to us the water that gives life (John 4:1-13; 7:37-39). This is not physical water for our bodies. In the Bible, water is a *symbol of the *Holy Spirit. Everyone who *believes in Jesus receives the *Holy Spirit. The *Holy Spirit makes us become alive in our spirits. The *Holy Spirit helps us to live in the way that God wants.

Verse 20 Pisgah mountain was in the *Moabites’ territory. From the top of Pisgah mountain, people would be able to see the *Promised Land.

The *Israelites defeat King Sihon – Numbers 21:21-31

v21 The *Israelites sent people with a message to Sihon, the king of the *Amorites. They said, v22 ‘Let us pass through your territory. We will not go into your fields and *vineyards. We will not drink any water from your wells. We will stay on the road called the *king’s highway until we have left your territory.’

v23 But Sihon would not let the *Israelites pass through his territory. He gathered his whole army together. They marched out into the *desert. They attacked the *Israelites near the town called Jahaz. v24 The *Israelites defeated them. Then, the *Israelites controlled the *Amorites’ territory, from the Arnon river to the Jabbok river. The *Ammonites’ territory was beyond the Jabbok river. The *Ammonites defended their border well.

v25 The *Israelites *occupied all the *Amorites’ cities. They *occupied the capital city, Heshbon, and also the towns near to it. The *Israelites lived in these cities and towns. v26 King Sihon had lived in the city called Heshbon. He had ruled from Heshbon after he had defeated the *Moabites. He had *occupied all the *Moabites’ territory north of the Arnon river.

v27 That is why the poets of the *Amorites wrote this song.

          ‘Come and build Heshbon.

          Come and establish King Sihon’s capital city!

          v28 His armies marched out from Heshbon.

          They were like a fire that went out from King Sihon’s capital city.

          They burnt down Ar in Moab.

          They destroyed the hills along the Arnon river.

          v29 Be very sad, you *Moabites!

          Your god Chemosh has left your people.

          King Sihon, the *Amorite, took away your men.

          Your women became his prisoners.

          v30 But we have defeated the *Moabites completely.

          We have destroyed the cities called Heshbon and Dibon.

          And we have ruined the towns called Nophah and Medeba.’

v31 So the *Israelites *settled in the *Amorites’ territory.

Verses 21-26 The *Amorites were *descendants of Noah’s grandson, Canaan (Genesis 10:6-15). They had been powerful people who ruled much territory. But at this time, the territory that they ruled was much smaller. They lived near the Dead Sea.

Moses had asked the king of the country called Edom if the *Israelites could pass through his territory (Numbers 20:14-17). Moses sent a message with the same question to the *Amorites’ king, Sihon. But immediately, Sihon attacked the *Israelites. And the *Israelites defeated the *Amorites. God had promised Moses that this would happen (Exodus 23:23).

So the *Israelites *occupied the land east of the Jordan river. Later, before the *Israelites entered the *Promised Land, Moses gave this land to Reuben’s *tribe, Gad’s *tribe and Manasseh’s *tribe (Numbers chapter 32).

Verses 27-31 The story of how the *Israelites defeated the *Amorites became a favourite story (Psalm 136:19). The *Amorites had written a song about how they had defeated the *Moabites already. But the *Israelites were even more powerful than both the *Moabites and the *Amorites. The author of the Book of Numbers used the *Amorites’ own song to show this! The first 6 lines describe how King Sihon defeated the *Moabites (verses 27-28). The last two lines describe how the *Israelites defeated King Sihon (verse 30).

The *Israelites defeat King Og – Numbers 21:32-35

v32 Moses sent some men to the city called Jazer. He wanted them to find the best way to attack it. Later, the *Israelites *occupied Jazer and the towns near it. They forced the *Amorites who lived there to leave.

v33 Then the *Israelites turned and they went towards the country called Bashan. Og was the king of the country called Bashan. He led his whole army out to meet the *Israelites. He wanted to attack them at the town called Edrei.

v34 The *LORD said to Moses, ‘Do not be afraid of Og. I will help you to defeat him and his army. And I will give his land to you. You will defeat him as you defeated the *Amorites’ king, Sihon. Sihon lived in the city called Heshbon.’

v35 So the *Israelites killed Og, his family and all his army. Every one of them died. Then the *Israelites *occupied Og’s land.

Verses 32-35 The *Israelites defeated the *Amorites in the city called Jazer, too. They were travelling towards the country called Bashan. Bashan was east of Galilee lake and south of Hermon mountain. The soil there was good for crops. The king of Bashan led his army out to meet the *Israelites at the town called Edrei. Edrei was north east of Jazer.

God promised Moses that the *Israelites would defeat this army. And the *Israelites defeated them completely.

This was a very important battle. The news that the *Israelites had defeated Og spread as far as the city called Jericho (Joshua 2:10). It made the people who lived there very afraid!

After this battle, the *Israelites *occupied much territory on the east border of the country called Canaan, the *Promised Land.

Chapter 22

The king of the country called Moab requests Balaam’s help – Numbers 22:1-14

v1 The *Israelites travelled to the plains of the country called Moab. They camped there by the Jordan river, opposite the city called Jericho.

v2 Balak, Zippor’s son, was the king of Moab. He heard about what the *Israelites had done to the *Amorites. v3 Also, he heard that there were very many *Israelites. He and his people became very afraid.

v4 The *Moabites spoke to the leaders of the *Midianites. The *Moabites said, ‘The *Israelites will destroy everything round us. They are like a *bull that eats the grass in a field!’

So King Balak of Moab (Zippor’s son) v5 sent a message to Balaam, Beor’s son. Balaam lived among his relatives in Pethor town, near the Euphrates river. In his message, Balak said:

‘A very large group of people has come out of the country called Egypt. These people are spreading everywhere. They are living near my territory. v6 I will not be able to defeat them. They are too powerful. Come and put a *curse on them. Then perhaps I will be able to defeat them. And perhaps I will be able to make them leave. When you, Balaam, *bless people, they will succeed. But when you *curse them, they will fail. I know that you have this power.’

v7 The *Moabites’ leaders and the *Midianites’ leaders left. These officials took money to pay Balaam for the *curse. They reached Balaam’s house. They gave Balak’s message to Balaam.

v8 ‘Stay here during the night,’ said Balaam. ‘Tomorrow I will tell you what the *LORD has said to me.’ So the officials from Moab stayed with Balaam.

v9 Then God came to Balaam. God asked, ‘Who are these men in your house?’

v10 Balaam replied to God, ‘King Balak of Moab, Zippor’s son) sent them with this message: v11 “A very large group of people has come out of the country called Egypt. They are spreading everywhere. Come and put a *curse on them for me. Then perhaps I will be able to fight them. And perhaps I will be able to make them leave.” ’

v12 God said to Balaam, ‘Do not go with King Balak’s officials. I have *blessed the people who came out of Egypt. So you must not put a *curse on them.’

v13 The next morning, Balaam told Balak’s officials, ‘Go back to your own country. The *LORD has refused to let me go with you.’

v14 So the officials from Moab went back to Balak. They said, ‘Balaam has refused to come with us.'

Chapters 22-24 record the story of Balaam and the *prophecies he spoke about *Israel. Balaam was not an *Israelite. In fact, he was *Israel’s enemy. But he was a genuine *prophet of God.

However, Balaam loved money. His desire for money caused him to *sin (Jude 11; 2 Peter 2:15). In the end, he became a wicked man who used magic (Joshua 13:22).

This story is very important. It describes events with lots of details. It emphasises that Balaam spoke God’s words only. By means of Balaam, God said that he had *blessed *Israel. This meant that God would continue to protect the *Israelites. Also, God repeated the promises that he had made to Abraham (Genesis 12:1-3). God had promised to give to Abraham his own land and many *descendants. God promised that he would be with Abraham, too. The *Israelites were Abraham’s *descendants. So those promises were for their benefit.

Verses 1-7 Balak, the king of the country called Moab, was afraid of the *Israelites. He knew that his army could not defeat them in a battle. So he spoke about this to the *Midianites. The *Midianites lived in *tribes. They lived in the Sinai *desert and in the *deserts east of the Jordan river. The *Moabites and the *Midianites joined together to ask for help against the *Israelites. They knew that they could not defeat the *Israelites in a physical battle. So they decided that they would use evil *spiritual powers to defeat the *Israelites.

They sent officials to Balaam. Clearly, Balak believed that Balaam could *curse people. The word *curse in this part of the Bible means the same as a *prophecy. But it is about bad things rather than good things. Balak did not realise that Balaam was a *prophet of God. Balak thought that Balaam did magic. And he wanted a stronger magic than his own gods could provide.

The officials took money to pay Balaam. Also, they took a message from Balak. They gave it to Balaam. In the message, Balak referred to the *Israelites as ‘a very large group of people’. And he mentioned that they had come out of the country called Egypt (verse 5). He did not mention that God had rescued them from the *Egyptians. Perhaps he did not know this. But he knew that they were powerful. And he believed that he needed to use *spiritual means against them, rather than physical means.

Verses 8-14 Balaam decided to ask the *LORD what he should do. So he told the officials to wait until the next morning. He needed to pray so that he would know God’s answer. This shows that Balaam had the character of a genuine *prophet.

During the night, God spoke to Balaam. God told Balaam that he should not go with the officials. God told Balaam that he should not *curse the *Israelites. God had *blessed the *Israelites. God would not allow Balaam to say anything that would hurt his people, the *Israelites.

But Balaam did not tell Balak’s officials the whole truth about what God had said. He should have said that God was *blessing the *Israelites. Instead, he pretended that God had not allowed him to go with the officials. Probably, he thought he could persuade God to let him go later. Then still he could receive a payment. Already, he was showing his desire for money.

Also, Balaam knew that he could not *curse the *Israelites. He could not *curse them because God was on their side.

So Balaam refused to do what Balak had asked. And he sent the officials back to Balak.

Balak sends even more important officials to Balaam – Numbers 22:15-21

v15 Then Balak sent another, larger group of officials to Balaam. These officials were even more important than the officials who had gone to Balaam first.

v16 The officials went to Balaam. They gave to him a message from Balak, Zippor’s son. In it, Balak said, ‘Come to me! Do not allow anything to prevent you! v17 I will pay you very well. I will do whatever you say. Come and *curse these people on my behalf.’

v18 Balaam answered, ‘I cannot refuse to obey the *LORD my God about anything, big or small. I cannot refuse to obey God, even if Balak gave to me a palace full of silver and gold! v19 The other officials stayed here overnight. You can stay here tonight, too. Then I will discover if the *LORD has something else to say about this.’

v20 That night, God came to Balaam. God said, ‘I will let you go to the country called Moab with Balak’s officials. But you must do only what I tell you.’

v21 So the next morning Balaam put a saddle on his *donkey. Then he left with the *Moabite officials.

Verses 15-21 Balaam had not told the first group of officials why he refused to *curse the *Israelites. Probably, Balak thought that Balaam wanted more money as his payment. So Balak sent a larger, more important group of officials. They brought the same message with them. Already God had spoken to Balaam about Balak’s request (verse 12). Already God had given clear instructions to Balaam. But still Balaam told the officials to stay overnight. Balaam would find out what God would say about this matter. Perhaps Balaam thought that God would say something else.

And God did say something else. He allowed Balaam to go with Balak’s officials. But still Balaam had to obey God’s instructions. It seems that God had changed his decision. But, in fact, he had decided to use Balaam in his plan to *bless the *Israelites.

Balaam’s *donkey and the *angel – Numbers 22:22-35

v22 Balaam was riding on his *donkey. His two servants were with him. God was very angry because Balaam was going to the country called Moab. So one of the *LORD’s *angels stood in the road to oppose him. v23 The *angel was holding a sword. And the *angel was ready to use the sword. When Balaam’s *donkey saw the *LORD’s *angel, it left the road. It went into the fields. Balaam struck the *donkey to make it return to the road.

v24 Then the *LORD’s *angel stood on a narrow part of the road, between two *vineyards. There was a wall of stones on each side. v25 When the *donkey saw the *LORD’s *angel, it moved closer to the wall. It crushed Balaam’s foot against the wall. (‘To crush’ means to press something very hard. This causes damage.) So Balaam struck the *donkey again.

v26 The *LORD’s *angel moved again. The *angel stood in a very narrow place. There was no room to pass on either side. v27 When the *donkey saw the *LORD’s *angel again, the *donkey laid down under Balaam. Balaam became very angry. He struck the *donkey with his stick.

v28 Then the *LORD caused the *donkey to speak. The *donkey said to Balaam, ‘I have not done anything bad to you. But you have struck me three times!’

v29 Balaam replied to the *donkey, ‘You have made me seem foolish! If I had a sword, I would kill you at once!’

v30 The *donkey said to Balaam, ‘I am your own *donkey. You have ridden me many times. I have never done anything like this to you before.’

‘I know this,’ answered Balaam.

v31 Then, the *LORD allowed Balaam to see the *LORD’s *angel. Still, the *angel was standing in the road and the *angel was holding his sword. Balaam bent his head down. Then he fell down and he laid his face on the ground.

v32 The *LORD’s *angel said, ‘You struck your *donkey three times. That was wrong. I was standing in the road to oppose you. You should not go to the country called Moab. v33 The *donkey saw me. If the *donkey had not turned away on these three occasions, then I would have killed you! But I would have allowed the *donkey to live.’

v34 Balaam answered, ‘I have *sinned. I did not realise that you were trying to stop me. If you do not want me to go, then I will return to my home immediately.’

v35 But the *LORD’s *angel said, ‘Go with the officials. But you must say only what the *LORD tells you to say!’

So Balaam went with Balak’s officials.

Balaam knew about *spiritual things. He had spoken to God. And God had spoken to him. But, in this story, Balaam’s *donkey could see the *LORD’s *angel when Balaam could not! God had caused Balaam to become blind to *spiritual things.

Also, this story shows us that always God’s message is more important than his messenger. (A messenger is someone who speaks a message.) God can use even a *donkey to give his message. So when God uses a person to speak his message, that person should not be proud. It is good for us to remember this.

Verse 22 *Angels give God’s messages to people. But ‘the *LORD’s *angel’ did more than this. In the *Old Testament, when God wanted to show himself to people, sometimes an *angel appeared on his behalf (for example, Genesis 18:1 and 18:9-15; Exodus 3:2). The *LORD’s *angel came to Balaam because he was *sinning. The *LORD’s *angel came to issue God’s judgement against Balaam.

God knew that Balaam did not want to please him genuinely. He knew that Balaam was greedy for money. Probably, Balaam was hoping to persuade God to allow him to *curse the *Israelites. Then Balak would pay him well. So, although God allowed Balaam to go with Balak’s officials, Balaam’s real reason for his journey was still wrong. And God had to let Balaam know this. God wanted Balaam to realise that he would allow Balaam to *bless the *Israelites only.

God was not trying to punish his *prophet, Balaam. He wanted to persuade Balaam to do the right thing. That was God’s plan for Balaam always.

Verses 23-33 Balaam’s *donkey saw the *LORD’s *angel three times. And it refused to pass the *angel three times. Balaam became very angry and he struck the *donkey each time. Then God caused the *donkey to speak. The *donkey reminded Balaam that it had never done anything wrong before. Therefore, there had to be a good reason for its unusual behaviour.

Then God allowed Balaam to understand what was happening. Balaam saw the *angel with the sword. He was afraid, so he fell down to the ground. Then the *angel told Balaam that the *donkey had saved Balaam from death. And the *angel told Balaam that his (Balaam’s) attitudes were wrong. Balaam was behaving in a manner that made God angry.

Verses 34-35 Immediately, Balaam agreed that he had *sinned. He said that he would return to his home. But the *LORD’s *angel told Balaam to continue his journey to the country called Moab. And Balaam had to speak only the words that God gave to him.

Balak meets Balaam – Numbers 22:36-41

v36 Balak heard that Balaam was coming. So Balak went out to meet him at the town called Ir. Ir is on the northern border of the country called Moab. It is by the Arnon river.

v37 Balak said to Balaam, ‘I sent to you an urgent message to come. But you did not come the first time that I sent it. Perhaps you thought that I was not able to reward you!’

v38 Balaam answered, ‘But I have come to you now. However, I cannot say whatever I want to say. I must say only what God tells me to say.’

v39 Then Balaam and Balak went to a town called Kiriath-Huzoth. v40 Balak *sacrificed cows and sheep there. He gave some of the meat to Balaam and the officials. v41 The next morning, Balak took Balaam to Bamoth-Baal. From there, Balaam could see some of the *Israelites.

Verses 36-37 Balak was very eager to meet Balaam. He could not wait until Balaam arrived in the country called Moab. He went out to meet Balaam at the border of Moab.

However, Balaam had annoyed Balak, because he had not come sooner. Balak was a rich and important king. He thought that Balaam did not know this. Balak wanted Balaam to know that he would reward Balaam well for his help.

But really Balak did not understand about *prophecy. A genuine *prophet of God speaks only what God tells him to speak. God *blesses or *curses, not the *prophet. Even those people whom God has *cursed can *repent. Then God will free them from his *curse. Balak did not understand any of these facts.

Also, Balak thought that all *spiritual powers were the same. He thought that magic was the same as God’s power. He did not realise that magic was the devil’s power.

Verse 38 Balaam wanted to obey the *LORD’s *angel. He told Balak that he would say only God’s words. True *prophecy is God’s words that he gives to a *prophet. The *prophet’s own words have no power. But God’s words have power.

Verses 39-40 These words could mean that Balaam ate a meal with Balak and his officials. But there is another possible meaning. Perhaps Balak asked Balaam to come after Balak had made the *sacrifices. These were *sacrifices that Balak had made to *idols. So it does not mean definitely that Balaam was eating these *sacrifices.

Verse 41 The *Hebrew words ‘Bamoth-Baal’ mean ‘the high places of Baal’. Baal was a false god that the *Moabites *worshipped. They *worshipped Baal in places in the hills.

Balak took Balaam there. Balak *worshipped Baal, so to him (Balak) this was a special place. Probably, Balak thought that the *curse would work better in that place.

Chapter 23

Balaam’s first *prophecy – Numbers 23:1-12

v1 Balaam said to Balak, ‘Build 7 *altars here. Then bring to me 7 *bulls and 7 male sheep.’

v2 Balak did this. Balaam and Balak *sacrificed a *bull and a male sheep on each *altar.

v3 Then Balaam said to Balak, ‘Stay here by your *offerings. I will go somewhere to be alone. Then perhaps the *LORD will come to meet me. If he does meet me, I will tell you. I will tell you everything that he says.’

Then Balaam left Balak. Balaam went to the top of a hill. v4 And God met him.

Balaam said, ‘I have built 7 *altars. I have *sacrificed a *bull and a male sheep on each *altar.’

v5 The *LORD told Balaam what to say. Then the *LORD said, ‘Go back to Balak. Give this message to him.’

v6 So Balaam went back to Balak. Still Balak was standing by his *sacrifices. All the *Moabite leaders were with him.

v7 Balaam spoke a *prophecy. He said:

‘King Balak of Moab brought me from Aram.

He brought me from those east hills.

He said, “Come and *curse the *Israelites on my behalf.

Say that bad things will happen to them!”

v8 But God has not *cursed them,

so I cannot *curse them.

The *LORD has not said that bad things will happen to them.

So I cannot say that bad things will happen to them.

v9 I look down from this mountain

and I can see them.

From these hills I can watch the *Israelites.

They are a nation that lives alone.

They know that they are special.

They are different from other nations.

v10 Nobody can count the *Israelites. There are too many to count!

It would be too difficult to count even a quarter of them!

I wish that I could die like one of God’s people.

Let me die in *peace, like these people.’

v11 Balak said to Balaam, ‘You have done a bad thing to me! I brought you here to *curse my enemies. Instead, you have *blessed them!’

v12 Balaam answered, ‘The *LORD tells me what to say. So I can say only what he tells me to say.'

Verses 1-2 Balaam and Balak built 7 *altars. They *sacrificed *bulls and male sheep on them. This ceremony is like the type of *worship that the Book of Genesis records. It is a very ancient type of ceremony. Balaam’s home was in the east. This was the region where the *Israelites’ *ancestors lived. Possibly, Balaam was a *descendant of Laban, Abraham’s relative (Genesis 24:24-27). This *offering was the type that we would expect him to offer.

This ceremony was a strange mixture of true *worship and pagan ideas. (‘Pagan’ means the *worship of *idols.) Balak had chosen the sacred place of his god, Baal. But already he knew that his gods were too weak against the *LORD’s power. Also, some parts of the ceremony looked like *worship of *idols, for example, the special number, 7. But Balaam had made the ceremony like one that the *Israelites’ *ancestors offered. He had offered *clean animals so that God would accept them. People usually *sacrificed pigs in pagan *worship, that is, the *worship of *idols. Pigs were *unclean. So really, Balaam was offering this *sacrifice to the *LORD, whether Balak realised this or not.

Verses 3-6 Balaam wanted to be alone so that God could speak to him. And God spoke to him. God gave a message to Balaam for Balak and his officials.

Verses 7-10 Balaam spoke the message that God had given to him. It was a poem in the style of *Hebrew poetry. In *Hebrew poetry, there are pairs of lines. The first line and the second line of each pair are similar. Sometimes, the second line completes the first line. Or the second line may emphasise the subject of the first line. Or it may say the same thing but in a different way.

It is important to remember that Balaam was speaking *prophecy. The words that he spoke were not his own words. They were God’s words.

First, Balaam said that it was not his own idea to *curse *Israel. Balak had brought him from his home to the country called Moab. Then Balaam said that he was not able to *curse *Israel. This was because God had not *cursed *Israel.

The word ‘alone’ (verse 9) does not mean that the *Israelites were lonely. It means that *Israel was not like the other nations. This was because *Israel belonged to God. The *Israelites were God’s special people. He had chosen them to know him. He spoke to them. He guided and protected them.

‘Nobody can count the *Israelites’ (verse 10). This reminds us of God’s promise to Abraham and to his grandson Jacob. God had promised them that they would have very many *descendants (Genesis 15:5; 22:17; 28:14).

People who obey God will die in *peace. Balaam knew this. He wished that his death would be like such people.

Verses 11-12 Balak was angry. Balaam had not done what Balak wanted him to do. Balaam had not *cursed Balak’s enemies. Instead, Balaam had spoken about the *blessings that *Israel had. But Balaam insisted that he had to speak those words. He could say only what God told him to say.

Balaam’s second *prophecy – Numbers 23:13-24

v13 Then Balak said to Balaam, ‘Come with me. We will go to another place where you can see only some of the *Israelites. But you will not be able to see all of them. *Curse the *Israelites on my behalf from that place.’

v14 Balak took Balaam to a field called Zophim. The field was on the top of Pisgah mountain. Balak built 7 *altars there. He *sacrificed a *bull and a male sheep on each *altar.

v15 Balaam said to Balak, ‘Stay here by your *offerings. I will meet the *LORD over there.’

v16 The *LORD met Balaam. He told Balaam what to say. Then the *LORD said, ‘Go back to Balak. Give this message to him.’

v17 So Balaam went back to Balak. Still, Balak was standing by his *sacrifices. All the leaders of the *Moabites were with him.

Balak asked, ‘What did the *LORD say?’

v18 Then Balaam spoke this *prophecy:

‘Listen carefully, Balak.

Hear what I have to say, son of Zippor.

v19 God is not a man! He does not tell lies.

He is not like people. He does not make a decision, then change that decision.

Always God does whatever he says.

Always God does what he has promised.

v20 God ordered me to *bless these people.

God has *blessed them, so I cannot change this.

v21 Bad things will not happen to *Israel.

The *Israelites will not be unhappy.

The *LORD their God is with them.

They are pleased that he is their king.

v22 God brought them out of the country called Egypt.

They are strong, like a wild ox (a strong animal, like a large cow).

v23 The *Israelites do not use magic.

Magic has no power over them.

People say, “Look at the *Israelites!

See what God has done on their behalf!”

v24 The *Israelites are ready to attack, like an angry lion.

They are like a lion that rises up. That lion does not rest until it has eaten its *prey.

It does not stop until it has drunk the blood of its *prey.’

Verses 13-17 Balaam had not been able to *curse the *Israelites. But Balak wanted Balaam to try again. So they went to another place where the *Moabites *worshipped their gods.

They prepared themselves in the same way as before. Balak was a pagan. A pagan is someone who *worships false gods. Pagans believed that their gods lied. They believed that their gods were cruel and not honest. They did not realise that the *LORD God is the only real God. And he is good completely.

And again, God gave to Balaam another *prophecy. The first *prophecy had emphasised that the *Israelites were special people. God had chosen them to belong to him in a special way. This second *prophecy emphasised that the *Israelites defeated all their enemies. This was because God was on their side.

Verses 18-19 Balak had wanted to make God change his decision about the *Israelites. But God is not like people. And he is not like the false gods whom Balak believed in. When God promises to do something, he does it. His promises are true always.

Verses 20-21 God had ordered Balaam to *bless the *Israelites. Balak could not make God change his decision. Nobody could do this. Nobody can control God!

Verse 22 Then, Balaam reminded Balak that God had rescued the *Israelites. God had used his strength on their behalf. Egypt was a very powerful nation. The *Israelites had been *slaves there. But God had led them out of Egypt. He had helped them to defeat their enemies. He was like a king who led a very strong army.

The ‘wild ox’ (verse 22) refers to a particular type of large, wild cow. This type of cow was very dangerous.

Verse 23 *Israel would not be like the other nations, who used magic. The *Israelites received help, protection and instructions from God only. God’s perfect plan for the *Israelites would happen at the proper time.

Verse 24 The *Israelites were frightening their enemies. They were strong, like fierce lions. They had the power to destroy their enemies completely. And nobody could stop them.

Balak takes Balaam to Peor Mountain – Numbers 23:25-30

v25 Balak said to Balaam, ‘You refuse to *curse the *Israelites. But do not *bless them! It would be better to say nothing whatever.’

v26 Balaam answered, ‘I must obey the *LORD. I must do whatever he tells me to do. I said this to you before.’

v27 Balak said to Balaam, ‘Come with me. I will take you to another place. Perhaps God will let you *curse the *Israelites there.’

v28 So Balak took Balaam to the top of Peor mountain. From there, they could see the *desert.

v29 Balaam said, ‘Build 7 *altars here. Then bring to me 7 *bulls and 7 male sheep.’

v30 Balak obeyed Balaam’s instructions. Then Balak *sacrificed a *bull and a male sheep on each *altar.

Verses 25-26 Balaam had said that the *Israelites would destroy their enemies completely. He had compared them to lions that eat all of their *prey. This was why Balak was afraid. It was the reason why he had asked Balaam to *curse the *Israelites. But Balaam had refused.

So Balak was angry with Balaam. He did not want Balaam to say these things about the *Israelites. As Balaam would not *curse them, certainly Balak did not want him to *bless them!

But again, Balaam emphasised that he had to obey God.

Verses 27-30 Balak was desperate. His army would not be able to defeat the *Israelites because God was protecting them. Balak had hoped that Balaam would *curse the *Israelites. But in fact, God was using Balaam to *bless them. Unless God opposed the *Israelites, Balak’s situation would be hopeless.

Balak took Balaam to another high place. He did the same ceremony. He built 7 *altars and he *sacrificed 7 *bulls and 7 male sheep. Still Balak hoped that he could persuade God to change his decision about the *Israelites. He hoped that, this time, Balaam would be able to *curse them on his (Balak’s) behalf.

Chapter 24

Balaam’s third *prophecy – Numbers 24:1-14

v1 Balaam realised that the *LORD wanted to *bless the *Israelites. So, this time, he did not follow his customs in order to find out the future. Instead, he looked towards the *desert.

v2 When Balaam looked, he saw the *Israelites’ camp. Each *tribe camped in its own group in its correct place. Then, God’s Spirit began to control him. v3 And Balaam spoke this *prophecy:

‘This is a *prophecy of Balaam, Beor’s son.

I see *spiritual things clearly.

v4 I hear what God says.

I see a *vision from God who helps his people in such a powerful manner.

My eyes are open as I fall down in front of him.

v5 You *Israelites, your camp is lovely.

Your homes are lovely, *Israelites!

v6 Your tents spread out like valleys.

They are like gardens next to a river.

They are like aloes (a type of plant) that the *LORD has planted.

They are like cedars (a type of tall tree) that grow next to the water.

v7 The *Israelites will have plentiful water which they will pour from their buckets.

The seeds that they plant will have lots of water!

The *Israelites’ king will be greater than Agag (the *Amalekite).

And their king will rule a very great nation.

v8 God brought the *Israelites out of the country called Egypt.

They are as strong as a wild ox (a type of wild cow).

They will defeat their enemies.

They will break their enemies’ bones and their arrows, too.

v9 *Israel is like a lion that lies down. It waits to attack!

*Israel is like a female lion. Nobody dares to waken it!

God will *bless those people who *bless *Israel.

And he will *curse those people who *curse *Israel.’

v10 Then Balak became very angry with Balaam. Balak struck his own hands together. He said to Balaam, ‘I brought you here to *curse my enemies. But you have *blessed them three times! v11 Go back to your home. I promised to reward you. But the *LORD has caused you to lose your reward.’

v12-13 Balaam replied to Balak, ‘You sent officials with your message to me. I told them that I had to obey the *LORD. I myself could do nothing, either good or bad. That was so even if you gave to me a palace full of silver and gold! And I could say only what the *LORD told me to say. v14 So I will go back to my home. But first, I will warn you about what the *Israelites will do to your nation in the future.’

Verses 1-2 Balaam knew that he could not oppose God. God was *blessing the *Israelites, so it was impossible for Balaam to *curse them. But still, Balak wanted Balaam to try again. Balak still did not understand the difference between magic and the power of God.

Magic has no power against God. Pagan *prophets did magic in several ways. (Pagan means to believe in false gods.) Often, they tried to tell what would happen in the future. To do this, they studied the movements of the stars. Also, they examined the inner parts of animals that they had *sacrificed to their gods. But God hates magic. He forbids people to do it (Deuteronomy 18:10-12).

On the previous occasions, Balaam went to a private place in order to inquire of God. Perhaps on those occasions he tried to persuade God to *curse the *Israelites. And, as Balaam prayed alone, he followed various customs. We do not know what his customs were. But on this last occasion, Balaam did not follow those customs. He did not need to pray privately. He already knew that God wanted to *bless the *Israelites. Immediately, God spoke to Balaam by means of his *Holy Spirit. God told Balaam the words that he had to say.

Verses 3-9 Balaam saw a *vision from God. The *vision showed the future, when the *Israelites would live in the *Promised Land. Balaam compared the *Israelites’ homes there to beautiful gardens and strong trees. This emphasised that they would have plenty of water in the *Promised Land. Water is very precious, especially in hot countries. People need water to drink. Also, they need a good supply of water in order to produce crops. The *Israelites would have all the water that they needed. This was a great *blessing. Therefore, they would be content.

Next, Balaam emphasised the military power of the *Israelites. He *prophesied about *Israel’s future king. This king would be greater than the king of *Israel’s enemies, the *Amalekites. In fact, Saul, *Israel’s first king, defeated Agag, the *Amalekites’ king (1 Samuel 15:8).

Balaam reminded Balak that God had brought the *Israelites out of the country called Egypt. Since then, the *Israelites had become very strong. They had defeated their enemies. And they would continue to defeat all who fought against them. Again, Balaam compared *Israel’s strength and power to that of a wild cow and a lion.

Balaam ended his third *prophecy with words that were like God’s promise to Abraham (Genesis 12:3).

Verse 10-14 To strike one’s hands together was like an insult. It showed that a person was very angry. This time, Balak sent Balaam away. He told Balaam that he would not receive any payment. And he said that God had caused Balaam to lose his reward!

However, Balaam had done what he had promised to do. He had told Balak’s officials that he would obey God (Numbers 22:18-20). Therefore, he could say only what God told him to say. Balak could not persuade Balaam to do anything else, even if he offered a great reward to Balaam.

So Balaam agreed that he would return to his home. But he had not finished his *prophecies. Before he left, he had more to say about the future.

Balaam’s 4th *prophecy – Numbers 24:15-19

v15 Then Balaam spoke a *prophecy. He said,

‘This is a *prophecy of Balaam, Beor’s son.

I see *spiritual things clearly.

v16 I hear what God is saying.

God, who is great, gives information to me.

I see a *vision from God, who helps his people in such a powerful manner.

My eyes are open as I fall down in front of him.

v17 I see what will happen in the future.

I can see this, although it will not happen soon.

A king will appear in *Israel. That king will be like a bright star.

A ruler will come from *Israel.

He will defeat the *Moabites.

He will kill the sons of Sheth.

v18 He will defeat his enemies in the country called Edom.

He will take their land. It will become his property.

But *Israel will become strong.

v19 *Israel’s king will rule there.

He will kill those people who are alive still in the city.’

Verses 15-19 The beginning of this passage is very similar to the words that Balaam spoke before his third *prophecy (Numbers 24:3-4). But, this time, he spoke about events that would happen a long time in the future.

Balaam *prophesied about a king who would come from *Israel. This king would defeat the *Moabites. The ‘sons of Sheth’ (verse 17) might refer to a *tribe that lived next to the country called Moab. Or it might be another name for the *Moabites.

Also, this king would defeat *Israel’s enemies in the country called Edom. He would destroy them all. Edom was south of Moab.

Most of these *prophecies happened about 300 years later. David, *Israel’s most famous king, ruled after Saul. He was a great military leader. He defeated the people in Edom and in Moab (2 Samuel 8:2 and 8:13-14; 1 Kings 11:15-16).

Some people believe that these *prophecies refer also to the Messiah. The Messiah was the great leader and king that would come in the future. The *Jews believed that the Messiah would defeat all their enemies.

Jesus was the Messiah. He came to save people from the results of their *sins. He did not use military power. But he defeated our enemy, the devil. When he died on the *cross, he took away the power of *sin. When he become alive again, he took away the power of death. And he will return in the future to rule as king.

Balaam’s last *prophecy – Numbers 24:20-25

v20 Then, in his *vision, Balaam saw the country called Amalek.

He *prophesied,

‘Amalek was first among the nations.

But one day in the future, it will not exist.’

v21 Then, in his *vision, Balaam saw the *Kenites.

He *prophesied,

‘You *Kenites! You think that you live in a safe place.

You live in security among the rocks.

v22 But when the country called Assur (Assyria) defeats you,

it will destroy your nation completely.’

v23 Then Balaam spoke this *prophecy.

He said, ‘God has decided to do this.

Nobody can live if God opposes him.

v24 People will sail in ships from the island called Kittim (Cyprus).

These people will defeat the countries called Assur (Assyria) and Eber.

But in the end, God will destroy their nation too.’

v25 Then Balaam stood up. He turned towards his home and he left. Balak left, too.

Verse 20 Balaam finished his *prophecies with these short messages about what would happen to other nations.

Amalek was not the oldest or the most powerful nation in that area. However, it was the first nation to attack *Israel in the *desert (Exodus 17:8-15). After this, the *Amalekites were *Israel’s enemies always. But, in the future, that whole nation would not exist.

Verses 21-22 The *Kenites lived near to the *Amalekites, among the hills south west of the Dead Sea. They were not enemies of *Israel. Hobab, a relative of Moses, was a *Kenite (Judges 1:16; 4:11). The *Kenites felt safe from attack among the hills. But, in the future, an enemy would defeat the *Kenites completely.

Verses 23-24 The country called Assyria would become powerful and rule many nations. In fact, this happened several hundred years later. But Assyria would not rule always. Another enemy would defeat them and it would rule instead. But this enemy would not rule always.

However, the word that we have translated ‘Assyria’ is actually ‘Asshur’. And there was a *tribe called Asshur. This *tribe lived near to the *Kenites. Some experts think that the people from Cyprus were the *Philistines. The *Philistines were one of *Israel’s most fierce enemies. King David defeated the *Philistines (1 Samuel chapter 17; 2 Samuel 5:17-25).

But these details are not important really. Balaam was emphasising that God controls all events on earth. Nations become strong and powerful only if God allows this. God uses rulers and nations for his purposes.

Verse 25 After Balaam had finished his *prophecies, he began his journey home. He was unable to do what Balak had wanted. Balaam could not *curse the nation that God had *blessed.

Although Balaam could not *curse the *Israelites, he had another plan to oppose them. We will read about that plan in chapter 25. Chapter 25 does not mention Balaam. But Numbers 31:16 shows us that this was Balaam’s plan.

Chapter 25

The *Israelites *worship false gods – Numbers 25:1-18

v1 The *Israelites were camping in the valley called Shittim. While they were there, some of the men had sex with the *Moabite women. v2 The *Moabite women invited the men to their ceremonies. During these ceremonies, the *Moabites offered *sacrifices of animals to their gods. The *Israelites ate meat from the *sacrifices. And they *worshipped the *Moabites’ gods. v3 They *worshipped Baal of Peor. The *LORD was very angry with them.

v4 The *LORD said to Moses, ‘Fetch all the *Israelites’ leaders. *Execute them in public, in front of *God’s Tent. Then I will not still be angry with the *Israelites.’

v5 Moses spoke to *Israel’s judges. He ordered each judge to *execute every man in his *tribe who had *worshipped Baal of Peor.

v6 Later, Moses and the *Israelites were at the entrance of *God’s Tent. All the *Israelites were crying. But a male *Israelite took a female *Midianite into the *Israelites’ camp. He did this in public, so that Moses and all the *Israelites could see them. v7 Phinehas saw them. (Phinehas was Eleazar’s son, and the grandson of Aaron the priest.) He left the crowd of *Israelites. He fetched a pole with a sharp metal point on it.

v8 The man went into his own tent. Phinehas followed him. Then Phinehas killed both the man and the woman with the pole. He pushed the sharp metal point through the *Israelite and into the woman’s body. Immediately, the *LORD stopped his punishment against the *Israelites. (He had allowed them to suffer from a terrible disease in order to punish them.) v9 But already, 24 000 *Israelites had died because of the disease.

v10 The *LORD said to Moses, v11 ‘I was very angry. But I am not angry now, because of what Phinehas has done. Phinehas did not allow them to *worship any god except me. He cared as I care about this matter. That is why I did not kill all the *Israelites.

v12-13 For this reason I promise *peace to Phinehas. I promise that he and his *descendants will be my priests always. This is because he was loyal to me only. He made it possible for me to forgive their *sin.’

v14 The male *Israelite, whom Phinehas killed, was called Zimri. He was Salu’s son. Salu was the leader of a family in Simeon’s *tribe. v15 The female *Midianite was called Cozbi. Her father was called Zur. He was the leader of a group of the *Midianites’ *clans.

v16 The *LORD said to Moses, v17 ‘The *Midianites are your enemies now. So you should attack and kill them. v18 They deceived the *Israelites. (To deceive means to tell lies. That is, to make people believe something false.) They persuaded the *Israelites to *worship their god at Peor. Also, they sent Cozbi, who was the daughter of one of their own leaders. Phinehas killed her on the day when there was the terrible disease. That disease was the result of what happened at Peor.’

Balaam knew that he could not *curse *Israel himself, with his *prophecies (chapters 23 and 24). But he wanted Balak to pay him. So he made a plan. God would act against the *Israelites if they did not obey the *covenant. Of course, God did not allow the *Israelites to *worship false gods. So the *Moabites and the *Midianites began to tempt the *Israelites to *worship their gods. This chapter describes what happened as a result of Balaam’s plan. Balaam’s greedy desire for money caused him to do this wicked thing (Numbers 31:16; 2 Peter 2:15, Jude 1:11; Revelation 2:14).

Verses 1-3 The *Israelites camped in the valley called Shittim before they entered the *Promised Land. The word ‘Shittim’ means acacia, which is a type of tree. So probably this valley was a pleasant place. The *Israelites were comfortable there. And they *sinned. They did not obey the first rule of God’s 10 special rules. This rule was that the *Israelites should *worship God only. They should not *worship false gods (Exodus 20:3; Deuteronomy 5:7).

This happened because the male *Israelites had sex with the female *Moabites from that area. The *Moabites were the *Israelites’ enemies. They wanted to persuade the *Israelites not to obey the *covenant. Their intention was to make God angry with the *Israelites.

The *Moabites used sex, food and special ceremonies to attract the male *Israelites. So the male *Israelites joined the female *Moabites in ceremonies to *worship the *Moabites’ gods. The *Moabites had sex in order to *worship Baal. This was part of their religion. So as the *Israelites were having sex with the *Moabite women, they were *worshipping Baal. This was a very serious *sin. It showed that the *Israelites were not loyal to God. And in order to stop them, God had to punish them.

Verses 4-5 God sent a bad disease to punish the people (verse 8). But also, Moses had to *execute the leaders who had led the *Israelites to *sin. The leaders were responsible for the people that they led. And they had not stopped the men who were *sinning.

*Israel’s judges (verse 5) were responsible for a whole *tribe or part of a *tribe.

Verse 6 Moses and the *Israelites were crying to show that they were sorry for *Israel’s *sin. But, while this was happening, a male *Israelite brought a female *Midianite into his tent. He did this in public. He did not care that God was angry. He did not care that he was *sinning. He was not sorry. He saw that the other *Israelites were crying about *Israel’s *sin. But he did not stop. He showed that he did not respect God or *Israel’s leaders.

Verses 7-9 The male *Israelites’ *sin was very serious because it had led them all away from God. They had joined the *Moabites when the *Moabites *worshipped their false gods. It seems that the *Midianites *worshipped these gods, too. Probably the *Moabites’ king ruled over them also. Phinehas, the *High Priest’s son, was completely loyal to God. He killed both the male *Israelite and the female *Midianite. Of course, this stopped their *sin. But also it stopped the disease that God had sent to punish the *Israelites. The punishment showed that God would not allow this kind of *sin. It warned the *Israelites that they should never *worship false gods.

Verses 10-13 God was pleased because Phinehas was loyal to him. God promised that Phinehas and his *descendants would be priests always.

Verses 14-15 In these verses, the author recorded the names of the male *Israelite and the female *Midianite. The man was from Simeon’s *tribe. Moses was from Levi’s *tribe. Reuben and Simeon were born to Jacob before Levi. Therefore, the leaders of their *tribes had a better right naturally to lead the *Israelites. In Numbers 16:1, the leaders of Reuben’s *tribe opposed Moses, and therefore, God. The result was that many of their *tribe died. By means of Zimri, Simeon’s *tribe were opposing Moses, and therefore, God.

Also, Zimri was a leader. He was an important man. It was his responsibility to lead his people to do what is right. But by means of his own *sin, he was leading them to *rebel against God. His *sin was affecting everybody.

The woman was not a *Moabite. She was a *Midianite. So the *sin had spread beyond the local people, too. Also, she was a member of a *Midianite royal family. They had sent her on purpose to make an *Israelite leader have sex with her. This was their plan.

The man Zimri was *defiant (see Numbers 15:30-31). When he took the woman into his tent, he was *rebelling against Moses’ authority and therefore God’s authority. So Zimri was trying to persuade people not to obey God. He thought that the people should not allow God to lead them. Then they could do whatever they wanted. That is what he was saying by means of his wicked act.

Verses 16-18 The *Midianites had caused the *Israelites to *sin. They had caused God to become angry with his own people. God warned Moses about them. The *Midianites were the *Israelites’ enemies.

It was important that the *Israelites obeyed God. It was important that they *worshipped him only. Zimri and Cozbi had *sinned *defiantly. The punishment for this was death (Numbers 15:30-31).

God is a holy God. We must *worship him only. We can please him only because of what Jesus did. We must *believe that he died on our behalf. When we *sin, we need to *repent. Then God can forgive us.

Chapter 26

The second *census – Numbers 26:1-65

v1 After the disease had stopped, the *LORD spoke to Moses and Eleazar the priest, Aaron’s son. The *LORD said, v2 ‘Make a *census of all the *Israelites. Count them in their families. Register the men who are able to fight in *Israel’s army. These are the men who are 20 years old or older.’

v3 So Moses and Eleazar the priest spoke to the *Israelites. They were on the plains of the country called Moab. They were near the Jordan river, opposite the city called Jericho. Moses and Eleazar said, v4 ‘The *LORD has given a command to Moses. Count the men who are 20 years old or older.’

This is a list of the *Israelites, who came out of the country called Egypt.

v5-7 There were 43 730 men from Reuben’s *tribe. Reuben was Jacob’s oldest son. These men were from the *clans of Hanoch, Pallu, Hezron and Carmi. v8 (Pallu was Eliab’s father v9 and the grandfather of Nemuel, Dathan and Abiram. Dathan and Abiram were the men that the people had chosen as their officials. But Dathan and Abiram had followed Korah when he opposed Moses, Aaron and the *LORD. v10 So the *LORD had caused the ground to open. Dathan, Abiram and Korah had fallen into the ground. At the same time, a fire had killed 250 men who were *followers of Korah. This had warned the other *Israelites. v11 But Korah’s *clan did not all die.)

v12-14 There were 22 200 men from Simeon’s *tribe. They were from the *clans of Nemuel, Jamin, Jachin, Zerah and Shaul.

v15-18 There were 40 500 men from Gad’s *tribe. They were from the *clans of Zephon, Haggi, Shuni, Ozni, Eri, Arod and Areli.

v19-22 There were 76 500 men from Judah’s *tribe. They were from the *clans of Shelah, Perez, Zerah, Hezron and Hamul. (Hezron and Hamul were *descendants of Perez.) Judah’s sons Er and Onan had died in the country called Canaan.

v23-25 There were 64 300 men from Issachar’s *tribe. They were from the *clans of Tola, Puah, Jashub and Shimron.

v26-27 There were 60 500 men from Zebulun’s *tribe. They were from the *clans of Sered, Elon and Jahleel.

v28-34 There were 52 700 men from Manasseh’s *tribe. Manasseh was Joseph’s son. These men were from the *clans of Machir and his son Gilead. Also, they were from the *clans of Gilead’s *descendants, Iezer, Helek, Asriel, Shechem, Shemida and Hepher. (Zelophehad was Hepher’s son. Zelophehad had no sons. He only had daughters. They were called Mahlah, Noah, Hoglah, Milcah and Tirzah.)

v35-37 There were 32 500 men from Ephraim’s *tribe. Ephraim was Joseph’s son. These men were from the *clans of Shuthelah, Becher, Tahan and Eran, who was Shuthelah’s son.

v38-41 There were 45 600 men from Benjamin’s *tribe. Some men were from the *clans of Bela, Ashbel, Ahiram, Shephupham and Hupham. Also, some men were from the *clans of Ard and Naaman, Bela’s sons.

v42-43 There were 64 400 men from Dan’s *tribe. They were all from Shuham’s *clan.

v44-47 There were 53 400 men from Asher’s *tribe. Some men were from the *clans of Imnah, Ishvi and Beriah. Also, some men were from the *clans of Heber and Malchiel, who were Beriah’s sons. (Asher’s daughter was called Serah.)

v48-50 There were 45 400 men from Naphtali’s *tribe. They were from the *clans of Jahzeel, Guni, Jezer and Shillem.

v51 The total number of adult male *Israelites was 601 730.

v52 The *LORD said to Moses, v53 ‘Divide the country called Canaan. Share it between the *tribes fairly. v54-56 Give more land to the larger *tribes. The smaller *tribes will get less land. The amount of land that each *tribe will get depends on the number of its people. You must use *lots (see note below). By that method, select the land for each *tribe. So use *lots to divide the land between the large and small groups.’

v57 Levi’s *tribe included the *clans of Gershon, Kohath and Merari. v58 Also it included the *clans of Libni, Hebron, Mahli, Mushi and Korah. (Kohath was Amram’s *ancestor. v59 Amram’s wife was Jochebed. Jochebed was from Levi’s *tribe. She was born in the country called Egypt. Amram and Jochebed’s children were Aaron, Moses and their sister called Miriam. v60 Aaron was the father of Nadab, Abihu, Eleazar and Ithamar. v61 But Nadab and Abihu had offered unholy fire to the *LORD (see Numbers 3:1-4). So they had died.)

v62 In Levi’s *tribe there were 23 000 men and boys who were one month old or older. But Moses and Eleazar did not include these men and boys in the list with the other *tribes. This was because Levi’s *tribe would not receive any land in Canaan.

v63 Moses and Eleazar the priest counted the *Israelites. They did this when the *Israelites had their camp on Moab’s plains. They were near the Jordan river, opposite the city called Jericho. v64 Moses and Aaron the priest had counted the *Israelites before, when they were in the Sinai *desert. But all those people were dead; not even one of them was in this second *census. v65 The *LORD had told those *Israelites that they would die in the *desert. And so they all had died, except Caleb, Jephunneh’s son, and Joshua, Nun’s son.

Verses 1-65 The Book of Numbers began with a *census (Numbers chapters 1 to 4). This second *census happened 40 years later. The purpose of both *censuses was to count all the men who could be soldiers. This was very important, because the *Israelites were preparing to enter the *Promised Land. They had to fight the *Midianites (Numbers 25:16-18). Also, they had to fight the other people who lived in the country called Canaan. So they had to have a strong army.

But there was another reason for this second *census. The *Israelites were entering the *Promised Land to *settle there. Moses had to divide the land between the *tribes. So he needed to know the size of each *tribe. Then he could divide the land fairly. God had ordered him to do this (Numbers 26:52-56).

Apart from two men, Caleb and Joshua, all the *Israelites had died that Moses had counted in the first *census. These people were young when they left the country called Egypt. But they had not been grateful to God. They had complained about him often. They had not obeyed him. They had not trusted him when he told them to go into the *Promised Land the first time. They had *worshipped false gods. So God had said that they would die in the *desert. They would never enter the *Promised Land. And this happened. Their children entered the *Promised Land and received land for themselves.

We can compare the numbers in the first and the second *censuses. And we can see which *tribes increased and which *tribes became smaller during the 40 years in the *desert.

Most of the *tribes increased during the 40 years. Reuben’s *tribe, Gad’s *tribe, Ephraim’s *tribe and Simeon’s *tribe became smaller. Verses 8-11 provide a possible reason why Reuben’s *tribe became smaller. These verses remind us about two events when many people died (Numbers chapter 16). Also, we know a possible reason why Simeon’s *tribe became smaller. Zimri was one of their leaders. Probably, because of what he had done, many of Simeon’s *tribe had *sinned in the same way. Therefore, many more of Simeon’s *tribe than other *tribes would have died because of the disease (Numbers 25:6-9). Also, Simeon’s *tribe and Gad’s *tribe had their camp in the south, with Reuben’s *tribe. They were closest to the country called Moab. So, when the disease spread as a punishment, they would have suffered first. It stopped when Phinehas killed Zimri and Cozbi.

God wanted Moses to divide the land fairly between the *tribes. There were two decisions to make:

1. The amount of land that each *tribe received.

2. In which part of Canaan each *tribe had their share of the land.

God told Moses how to make these decisions. Firstly, bigger *tribes received more land than smaller *tribes. Secondly, the people had to ‘use *lots’ to decide the position of each *tribe’s territory. ‘To use *lots’ was a method that gave an equal opportunity to everyone. The *Israelites used this method often to make important decisions. We do not know how they did this. Probably, they used pieces of wood or stones. And they wrote the *tribes’ names on the stones or pieces of wood. Then they put them in a jar. Then they shook the jar to see which name fell out. They believed that God, not luck, controlled the results (Proverbs 16:33).

But Levi’s *tribe would not receive a share of the land. They could not join the army. Instead, they had to help the priests. So Moses counted them separately, as in the first *census.

Chapter 27

Zelophehad’s daughters – Numbers 27:1-11

v1 Zelophehad’s daughters belonged to Manasseh’s *tribe. Zelophehad was Hepher’s son. Hepher was Gilead’s son. Gilead was Machir’s son. Machir was Manasseh’s son. And Manasseh was Joseph’s son.

The names of Zelophehad’s daughters were Mahlah, Noah, Hoglah, Milcah and Tirzah. They went v2 to the entrance of *God’s Tent. They stood in front of Moses, Eleazar the priest, the leaders, and all the *Israelites.

Zelophehad’s daughters said, v3 ‘Our father died in the *desert. He was not one of the men who joined Korah to oppose the *LORD. He died because of his own *sin. But he had no sons. v4 Therefore, our name will not live on in our family. So give some land to us also, like the other relatives in our *clan.’

v5 Moses asked the *LORD what to do about their request.

v6 The *LORD said, v7 ‘Zelophehad’s daughters are right. Give to them the land that their father would have received. They too must receive land, like the other relatives in their *clan.

v8 Tell this to the *Israelites. If a man dies without a son, give his land to his daughter. v9 If he has no daughter, give his land to his brothers. v10 If he has no brothers, give his land to his father’s brothers. v11 If his father has no brothers, give his land to his closest relative in his *clan. This is my law. The *Israelites must obey it.’

Verses 1-4 Like many societies, the *Israelites had male leaders mostly. Men did important and powerful jobs. When a man died, his land and property belonged to his son. Usually, a daughter did not receive her father’s land and property after his death. People expected her to marry. Then she would share her husband’s land. Until she married, the men in her family were responsible for her.

Also, after a man died, the name of his family passed on to the male members of that family. Verse 1, that records Zelophehad’s *ancestors, emphasises this.

But Zelophehad had no sons to receive his land and property after his death. His 5 daughters thought that this was unfair. So they went to Moses and the other leaders to speak about this. They were brave to do this. In their society, people expected women to obey all the customs. But these women knew that this particular custom was unfair. God’s promise to give the *Promised Land to the *Israelites was for both men and women. Even Korah’s *descendants had a right to receive land. And Zelophehad had not joined with Korah to oppose God. (You can read what happened to Korah in Numbers chapter 16). Zelophehad’s *sin was the same as the rest of his *generation. So he had died in the *desert with them. Zelophehad’s daughters explained this to Moses. And they asked him to give some land to them.

Verses 5-7 Moses realised that their request was very important. If he agreed to give some land to these women, the traditional rules about property would have to change. Moses’ decision would affect future *generations. So he asked God what he should do.

Verses 8-11 God told Moses to grant the women’s request. Also, God gave to him new rules about *inheritance. So this was not a favour (kind act) for Zelophehad’s daughters only. It was a law for all the *Israelites. It protected the name of the family of a dead man who died without sons. It made sure that his property remained in the family.

This was very important. The *Promised Land, and each family’s share in it, was precious to God. There was a relationship between each family’s share of land and *Israel’s *covenant with God. Therefore it was wrong for any family to lose their land, even if a man died without sons.

See chapter 36 for the rest of this story.

Joshua and Moses – Numbers 27:12-23

v12 Then the *LORD said to Moses, ‘Go to the Abarim mountains. Climb up a mountain there. And look at the country that I have given to the *Israelites. v13-14 After you have seen it, you will die. You will die like your brother Aaron. This is because you did not obey me at Meribah near the town called Kadesh in the Zin *desert. When the *Israelites *rebelled against me, you did not obey my command. You did not show them that I am *holy.’

v15 Moses said to the *LORD, v16 ‘You are the *LORD. You are God of all people. You know what is in everyone’s heart. So I ask you to choose a leader for the *Israelites. v17 Choose a man who can lead them in a battle. Then your people will not be like sheep who have no *shepherd.’

v18 The *LORD said to Moses, ‘Joshua, Nun’s son, can do this. My *Spirit is in him. Put your hand on him. v19 Make him stand in front of Eleazar the priest and all the *Israelites. Appoint Joshua to be their new leader in front of them all. v20 Give to him some of your authority so that all the *Israelites will obey him. v21 But Joshua must ask Eleazar the priest what I want Joshua to do. Eleazar will use the Urim to discover this. (The Urim was an object that the priest used. He used it to discover what God wanted to happen in a situation.) In this way, Eleazar will direct Joshua and the *Israelites.’

v22 Moses obeyed the *LORD’s command. He made Joshua stand in front of Eleazar the priest and all the *Israelites. v23 Then Moses put his hands on Joshua. He appointed Joshua to be the new leader. That was what the *LORD had told Moses to do.

Verses 12-14 God allowed Moses to see the *Promised Land. But already God had said that Moses would never enter it (Numbers 20:12). God reminded Moses why he would not enter the *Promised Land. It was because Moses had not obeyed God at Meribah. So like the rest of his *generation, Moses would die before he could enter the *Promised Land. Deuteronomy chapter 34 records Moses’ death after he had seen the *Promised Land from the top of the mountain.

Verses 15-17 Moses did not argue with God. Instead, he asked God to choose a new leader for the *Israelites. He knew that the *Israelites would have to fight the people in the country called Canaan. They needed a strong and powerful leader. But also they needed a leader who would look after them.

‘Then your people will not be like sheep who have no *shepherd.’ (verse 17) In the *Old Testament, often the writers compared leaders with *shepherds. This was because *shepherds led their sheep. They guided them. They provided everything that their sheep needed. Also, they protected them from their enemies. A leader had to do all of this for his people.

Verses 18-20 God chose Joshua to lead the *Israelites after Moses’ death. Joshua was very suitable for this task. He had been Moses’ assistant for a long period of time (Numbers 11:28). He had already led the *Israelites in a battle (Exodus 17:9-13). Also, already he had been into the country called Canaan with 11 other men (Numbers 11:26-30). Joshua and Caleb were the only two men of Moses’ *generation whom God would allow to enter the *Promised Land.

God told Moses to put his hand on Joshua in front of Eleazar and all the people. This was the custom to show that Joshua was their new leader.

Verses 21-23 Joshua would not have the same authority as Moses. There would not be another leader who would be like Moses (Deuteronomy 34:9-12). The people had to obey and to respect Joshua. However, he was not the same type of leader as Moses. When Moses wanted to ask God a question, he went to *God’s Tent. There, Moses spoke to God and God answered him. Joshua would not be able to speak to God like this.

Instead, Joshua had to receive God’s instructions by means of Eleazar the priest. Eleazar would not speak to God either. Instead, he would use the object called the Urim. The priest would use this object with another object called the Thummim. We are not sure what these objects were. We do not know how the priest used them. But the words ‘Urim and Thummim’ mean ‘perfect lights’. So probably, they were two precious stones. And the priest used them to ask God about an important decision. In this way, God would guide Joshua about military decisions, too. Joshua would need this help as he prepared to fight the *Israelites’ enemies in the *Promised Land.

This passage shows us that Moses was a very humble man. And it also shows us that he was unselfish and generous. He was not thinking about his own death only. He was thinking about what would happen to the *Israelites. They needed a good and holy man to lead them into the *Promised Land. Moses was not jealous because someone else would do this, instead of him. Instead, he obeyed God gladly. Moses wanted God to choose the new leader. And Moses was pleased to show the people that Joshua was God’s choice.

Chapter 28

Daily *offerings – Numbers 28:1-8

v1 The *LORD spoke to Moses. The *LORD said, v2 ‘Give these instructions to the *Israelites. Tell them to offer *sacrifices to me at the correct times, when they are *worshipping me. I will smell the smoke from these *offerings and it will please me.

v3 Each day, offer two male sheep that are one year old. These are the daily *burnt offerings.

These male sheep must not have anything wrong with them. v4 *Sacrifice one male sheep in the morning and the other one in the evening. v5 Mix together one *kilogram of the best flour with one litre of *olive oil. Offer this to me with the male sheep. This is a *grain offering. v6 This is the daily *offering that you burn completely. You offered it to me first at Sinai mountain as an *offering of food. The smell pleases me. v7 As you *sacrifice the first male sheep, you must pour one litre of wine on the *altar. This is a *wine offering. v8 Do the same things when you *sacrifice the second male sheep that evening. The smell of the smoke from these *sacrifices will please me.’

The next three chapters in the Book of Numbers contain various rules and instructions, especially about *offerings (also see Numbers 15:1-31). This may surprise us. The *Israelites were preparing to enter the *Promised Land. Perhaps, next we would expect to read about how they did this. But instead, the author of the Book of Numbers included this long description of rules and instructions.

Probably, the reason for this was to remind the new *generation that they must *worship God daily. It was very important to remember everything that God had done on their behalf. They had to thank him for all his good gifts, especially for the *Promised Land. They had to continue to *worship him together, even after they had *settled in the *Promised Land. They were God’s people. They should never forget this.

Verses 1-8 This first passage describes the daily *offerings that God wanted. God did not want the people to *worship him only on special occasions. He wanted them to *worship him every day. They would do this by means of daily *sacrifices.

God does not change. He is the same now. He wants us to *worship him every day, not only on Sunday, or special occasions. We do not need to *sacrifice animals. Jesus died on the *cross to be a *sacrifice on behalf of all people. But we need to please God. And to please God, we must believe that Jesus died as a *sacrifice on our behalf. We must accept him as our *Lord. We must love him and obey him. And we must become more like Jesus. We cannot do this without God’s help. We can do this only when we allow his *Holy Spirit to control us.

The *sacrifice during the *Sabbath – Numbers 28:9-10

v9 The *LORD said, ‘During the *Sabbath, you must *sacrifice two male sheep. The male sheep must be one year old. They must not have anything wrong with them. Give the *wine offering with them. And give a *grain offering of 2 *kilograms of the best flour with *olive oil. v10 This is the *burnt offering that you must offer every *Sabbath. You must offer it in addition to the usual *burnt offering and its *wine offering.’

Verses 9-10 These were the instructions for the *offerings that people had to make on every *Sabbath. The *Sabbath was the special day each week when the people had to rest from work (Exodus 20:8-11).

The monthly *offerings – Numbers 28:11-15

v11 ‘During the first day of every month, you must offer to the *LORD a *burnt offering. The *burnt offering must be two young *bulls, one adult male sheep and 7 young male sheep. The young male sheep must be one year old. They must not have anything wrong with them.

v12 Also offer a *grain offering with the *sacrifices. Mix together three *kilograms of the best flour with *olive oil. Offer it to me with each of the *bulls. Mix together two *kilograms of the best flour with *olive oil. Offer it to me with the adult male sheep. v13 Mix together one *kilogram of the best flour with *olive oil. Offer it to me with each young male sheep. The smell of the smoke from these *sacrifices will please me.

v14 Offer two litres of wine with each *bull. Offer one and a half litres of wine with the adult male sheep. Offer one litre of wine with each young male sheep. These are the *wine offerings.

These are the instructions for the *burnt offerings that you must offer every month. You must offer them on the first day of each month.

v15 Also, you must offer one male goat as a *sin offering. This is in addition to the usual daily *sacrifices.’

Verses 11-15 The *Israelites divided their calendar into months. A new month began on the day that the new moon appeared in the sky (Leviticus chapter 23). This was a happy occasion. On this day, the priests had to offer extra *sacrifices and *offerings. These *sacrifices and *offerings were in addition to the usual daily *offerings (see Numbers 28:1-8). They included a *sin offering of a male goat. This *offering was for *uncleanness (see Numbers 15:22-26).

The *sacrifices during the *Passover and the *Festival of Bread without *Yeast – Numbers 28:16-25

v16 The *LORD said, ‘You must *celebrate my *Passover on the 14th day of the first month. v17 Then on the 15th day of this month, a *festival will begin. It will last for 7 days. During the 7 days, you must eat bread that people have made without *yeast. v18 On the first day of the *festival, you must meet together to *worship me. You must not do any work. v19 *Sacrifice two young *bulls, one adult male sheep and 7 young male sheep that are one year old. These animals must not have anything wrong with them. Offer them to me, as *burnt offerings. v20 Offer to me the proper *grain offering with each animal. Mix together three *kilograms of the best flour and *olive oil. Offer it to me with each *bull. Offer two *kilograms of flour with the adult male sheep. v21 And offer one *kilogram of flour with each young sheep. v22 Also, *sacrifice one male goat as a *sin offering, so that I will forgive the people’s *sins. v23-24 Offer all these *sacrifices in addition to the daily *burnt offerings and *wine offerings during 7 days. The smoke from these *sacrifices will please me.

v25 On the last day of the *festival, again you must not do any work. You must meet together to *worship me.’

Verse 16 The *Passover was very important to the *Israelites. It reminded them that God rescued them from the country called Egypt. They were *slaves there, but God freed them. It happened during the first month of the *Israelites’ calendar. This month is during March and April in a modern calendar.

Verses 17-25 The *Festival of Bread without *Yeast lasted for 7 days. The *Israelites ate bread that had no *yeast in it. This reminded them about the time when they left Egypt. They left in a hurry. So there was no time to make bread with *yeast in it.

The priests offered the same *sacrifices that they offered at the beginning of every month. They offered these *sacrifices daily during the 7 days of the *festival. During the first and the last day of the *festival, the people met together to *worship God.

The *sacrifices during the *Harvest Festival – Numbers 28:26-31

v26 The *LORD said, ‘On the day of the *Harvest Festival, you must not do any work. You must meet together to *worship me. You must bring to me an *offering of new grain. v27 You must *sacrifice two young *bulls, one adult male sheep and 7 young male sheep that are one year old. These are *burnt offerings. The smell of the smoke will please me.

v28 Offer to me the proper *grain offering with each animal. Mix together three *kilograms of the best flour with *olive oil. Offer this to me with each *bull. Offer two *kilograms of flour with the adult male sheep. v29 Offer one *kilogram of flour with each of the young male sheep. v30 Also offer one male goat (as a *sin offering), so that I will forgive the people’s *sins. v31 Offer all these *sacrifices and the *wine offering in addition to the daily *burnt offerings and *grain offerings. Make sure that all the animals have nothing wrong with them.’

Verses 26-31 The people *celebrated the *Harvest Festival 50 days after the *Passover. God told the people to give to him the first of everything that they harvested. Levi’s *tribe could eat this (Numbers 18:12). Also, they offered extra *sacrifices to thank God for the harvest. In the *New Testament, this *festival is called ‘Pentecost’. God gave the *Holy Spirit to the *church at this *festival (Acts 2:1-13).

This *Harvest Festival was an opportunity to thank God for the grain harvest. However, this *festival happened before the fruit harvest began. So there was another *festival at the end of the harvest. You can read about that *festival (called the *Festival of Shelters) in Numbers 29:12-39.

Chapter 29

The *sacrifices during the *Festival of the *Trumpets – Numbers 29:1-6

v1 ‘On the first day of the 7th month, meet together to *worship me. You must not do any work. You must sound the *trumpets on that day. v2 Offer to me a *burnt offering of one young *bull and one adult male sheep. Also offer 7 male sheep that are one year old. These animals must not have anything wrong with them. The smell of the smoke from these *sacrifices will please me.

v3 Offer to me the proper *grain offering with each animal. Mix together three *kilograms of the best flour with *olive oil. Offer this to me with the young *bull. Offer two *kilograms of flour with the adult male sheep. v4 Offer one *kilogram of flour with each young male sheep.

v5 Also offer one male goat as a *sin offering, so that I will forgive the people’s *sins. v6 Offer these *sacrifices in addition to the regular monthly *burnt offerings, *grain offerings and *wine offerings. Offer these *sacrifices in addition to the daily *burnt offerings, *grain offerings and *wine offerings. The smell of the smoke from these *sacrifices will please me.’

Verses 1-6 Although this was the 7th month in the calendar, the *Israelites considered it the beginning of their new year. And during the same month, there was the special day when the *Israelites asked God to forgive their *sins (Numbers 29:7).

The *Israelites sounded the *trumpets on this special day at the start of the new year. They did not work. They met together to *worship God and to offer extra *sacrifices to him.

The special day when you remember that God forgives *sin – Numbers 29:7-11

v7 The *LORD said, ‘During the 10th day of the 7th month, you must gather for a *sacred meeting. During that day, you must not eat. And you must not carry on your work. v8 Offer a *burnt offering to me. The smell of the smoke pleases me. Offer to me one young *bull, one adult male sheep and 7 male sheep that are one year old. These animals must not have anything wrong with them.

v9 Offer to me the proper *grain offering with each animal. Mix together three *kilograms of the best flour with *olive oil. Offer this to me with the young *bull. Offer two *kilograms of flour with the adult male sheep. v10 Offer one *kilogram of flour with each young male sheep. v11 Also offer one male goat as a *sin offering. Offer this goat in addition to the other goat that you will offer on that day. You will offer that other goat so that I will forgive the people’s *sins. Offer these *sacrifices in addition to the usual daily *sacrifices and *offerings.

Verses 7-11 During this very special and important day, people did not eat anything. They did this to show that they were sorry because of their *sins. They showed that they were truly humble. They did not do anything in order to please themselves. Also, the people did not do any work. Everyone met together to *worship God.

This passage tells us about the extra *sacrifices that they offered. But also it refers to the special ceremony for that day. This ceremony happened yearly, on this one day only. The *High Priest would enter the *Most Holy Place alone. He splashed blood from the *sacrifices there. Also, he splashed the blood outside in *God’s Tent and on the *altar. Then, he took a *live goat and he laid his hands on its head. He told God all the *sins that the people had done that year. This meant that the goat was carrying the people’s *sins. A man took the goat away into the *desert and he left it there. By means of these *sacrifices and the *live goat, God could forgive people’s *sins and *uncleanness. Leviticus chapter 16 describes this ceremony.

Still, *Jews consider this *festival to be very important. Also, it reminds *Christians that Jesus died as a *sacrifice on behalf of all people. He offered his own blood in front of God, his Father, in the real *Most Holy Place in heaven. We do not need any other *sacrifices (Hebrews chapters 9 and 10). His death paid for the *sins of us all. We must sincerely confess our *sins to God, and we must trust him. If we do these things, God forgives us completely.

The *sacrifices during the *Festival of Shelters – Numbers 29:12-40

v12 The *LORD said, ‘Meet together to *worship me on the 15th day of the 7th month. You must not do any work. *Celebrate this *festival for 7 days to show that you respect me. v13 During the first day, offer to me a *burnt offering. The smell of the smoke from this *sacrifice will please me. Offer to me 13 young *bulls, two adult male sheep and 14 young male sheep that are one year old. These animals must not have anything wrong with them. v14 Offer to me the proper *grain offerings with each animal. Mix together three *kilograms of the best flour with *olive oil. Offer this to me with each *bull. Offer two *kilograms of flour with each adult male sheep. v15 Offer one *kilogram of flour with each young male sheep. v16 Also offer a male goat as a *sin offering. Offer these *sacrifices in addition to the daily *sacrifices and *offerings.

v17-34 During each day of the next 6 days, *sacrifice one less *bull than you *sacrificed during the day before. So during the 7th day, you will *sacrifice 7 *bulls. All the other *sacrifices and *offerings remain the same during each of the 7 days.

v35 On the 8th day, meet together to *worship me. You must not do any work. v36 Offer to me a *burnt offering. The smell of the smoke will please me. Offer to me one *bull, one male sheep and 7 male sheep that are one year old. These animals must not have anything wrong with them. v37 Also offer to me the proper *grain offerings and *wine offerings with each animal. v38 And *sacrifice a male goat as a *sin offering. Offer these *sacrifices in addition to the daily *sacrifices and *offerings.

v39 These are the rules about *sacrifices and *offerings at *festivals. During your *festivals, offer to me *burnt offerings, *grain offerings, *wine offerings and *peace offerings. In addition, offer the *sacrifices that you give to me as a gift, or because of a promise.’

v40 Moses told the people all the commands that the *LORD had given to him.

Verses 12-38 Probably, the *Festival of Shelters was a *festival to *celebrate the harvest of *grapes and *olives. It was the greatest of the *Jewish *festivals. It was called ‘the *festival of the *LORD’ (Leviticus 23:41). Leviticus 23:39-43 records God’s instructions that the *Israelites had to live in shelters during the 7 days. This reminded them about their journey to the *Promised Land. In the *desert, they had not built proper houses. They had lived in tents or shelters so that they could travel easily.

During the *Festival of Shelters, the priests *sacrificed more *bulls and male sheep than during all other occasions. *Bulls and male sheep were the most valuable animals. The large number of very expensive *sacrifices and *offerings emphasised that the people were very happy. They wanted to thank God for all that he had done on their behalf. They wanted to show that they were grateful.

Verses 39-40 In addition to these *offerings, the people could give their own private *offerings. These included *offerings that they had promised to give for a particular reason. Also, it included *offerings to thank God for something that he had done for them personally.

Chapter 30

Rules about promises – Numbers 30:1-16

v1 Moses spoke to the leaders of *Israel’s *tribes. He gave to them these commands from the *LORD.

v2 ‘If a man promises to give something to the *LORD, he must give it. And if he promises to do something special, he must do it. He must do everything that he has promised.

v3 A young woman who lives still in her father’s house might make a promise to the *LORD. v4 She must *keep her promise, unless her father does not agree about the promise. v5 But if her father does not agree about the promise, she does not have to do anything. The *LORD will forgive her, because her father did not agree about the promise. The father has the right to cancel the promise on the day when he hears about it.

v6-7 An unmarried woman might make a promise. After this, she might marry. But she must *keep her promise still, unless her husband does not agree about it. She must do this whether she was sincere or not sincere about the promise. v8 [The woman’s husband has the right to cancel the promise on the day when he hears about it.] If the husband does not agree about the promise, the woman does not have to *keep her promise. The *LORD will forgive her.

v9 A widow must do everything that she has promised. Also, a woman whose husband has divorced her might make a promise. She must *keep her promise.

v10 A married woman might make a promise. v11 She must *keep her promise, unless her husband does not agree about the promise. v12 But if her husband does not agree about the promise, the woman does not have to *keep her promise. Her husband refused to let her do what she promised. Therefore, the *LORD will forgive her. v13 Her husband has the right to agree or to disagree about any promise that she has made. v14 When her husband hears about the promise, he can disagree. But he must say so during that same day. If he has not said anything against the promise during that day, the woman must *keep the promise. Her husband has agreed about the promise because he has not opposed it on that same day. v15 But if he waits until later to oppose the promise, he must receive a punishment. This is because he did not allow the woman to *keep her promise.’

v16 These are the laws that the *LORD gave to Moses about promises. These rules are about the relationship between a man and his wife. And they are about the relationship between a father and his young daughter while she still lives in his house.

Verses 1-16 A promise to God is a very serious matter. In fact, it is better not to make any promise if you do not want to *keep that promise (Ecclesiastes 5:5). Numbers 30:1-2 emphasises that it is very important to *keep a promise to God.

The *Israelites made promises to God that they would do a particular thing. Sometimes, they made a promise not to do a particular thing, too. Also, a person might promise to give a special gift to God, usually a *sacrifice. Or perhaps a person would promise not to eat for a period of time. In this passage, the word that we have translated as ‘promise’ refers to any of these types of promise.

Men who made promises had to *keep their promises. But there were different rules for women, because men had authority over them. Fathers had authority over their unmarried daughters. Husbands had authority over their wives.

A father had the right to cancel the promise of his unmarried daughter. Also, a husband had the right to cancel promises that his wife had made before their marriage. The father or the husband might not have known about the promise. Other people might have told them about it. But when they heard about it, they could cancel it. However, they had to cancel it quickly, on the same day when they heard about it first.

There were different rules for widows and for women whose husbands had divorced them. They were responsible for their own promises. So they had to *keep their promises. Nobody could cancel their promises on their behalf.

If a married woman made a promise after her marriage, still her husband had the right to cancel it. But if he knew about it, he had to say something in public immediately. If he said nothing, this was the same as consent. (‘Consent’ means to agree that something should happen.) Then, if he decided to cancel the promise later, he would be wrong. It was as if he had cancelled his own promise. So he would receive a punishment.

This passage teaches us that promises to God are serious matters always. We should think very carefully before we make a promise. We should never make a promise if we do not intend to *keep that promise.

Chapter 31

*Israel’s war against the country called Midian – Numbers 31:1-12

v1 The *LORD said to Moses, v2 ‘Punish the *Midianites. Punish them for what they did to *Israel. After you have done this, you will die.’

v3 Moses said to the *Israelites, ‘Prepare some of your men for a war. The *LORD wants to punish the *Midianites. v4 Each *tribe must send 1000 men to fight them in a battle.’

v5 Each *tribe chose 1000 men. So 12 000 men prepared for the battle.

v6 Moses sent these men to fight in the battle. There were 1000 men from each *tribe. Phinehas went with them. He was the son of Eleazar the priest. Phinehas brought with him some *sacred objects from *God’s Tent. Also, he brought the *trumpets to give signals during the battle.

v7 The *Israelites did what the *LORD had ordered Moses to do. They fought against the *Midianites. The *Israelites killed all the men. v8 This included the 5 kings of the country called Midian. They were called Evi, Rekem, Zur, Hur and Reba. Also, the *Israelites killed Balaam, Beor’s son, with a sword.

v9 The *Israelites *captured all the female *Midianites and their children. They took all the *Midianites’ cows and sheep. They took everything else that the *Midianites owned. v10 The *Israelites burned all the *Midianites’ towns and their camps. v11 Then the *Israelites’ soldiers gathered together all the *spoils that they had taken from the *Midianites. They gathered together the prisoners and the animals, too. v12 The soldiers brought everything back to Moses, Eleazar the priest and the rest of the *Israelites. The *Israelites’ camp was on the plains of the country called Moab. It was by the Jordan river, opposite the city called Jericho.

Verses 1-2 Numbers chapter 25 describes how the *Midianites had caused the *Israelites to *worship the *Midianites’ god Baal, at Peor. This was a very serious *sin. The *Midianites had acted with the *Moabites then. And the *Midianites also acted with the *Moabites in chapter 22, when they asked Balaam to *curse *Israel. Therefore, the *Midianites were *Israel’s enemies.

This chapter begins with God’s command to Moses to attack and to defeat the *Midianites. These were those *Midianites who lived in the areas near to Moab. God had already told Moses to oppose the *Midianites after the incident at Peor (Numbers 25:16-18). Here, in chapter 31, it was the right time for Moses to carry out God’s command. This would be Moses’ last battle before he died.

Verses 3-6 Each *tribe chose 1000 men to fight in *Israel’s army. Some *tribes were bigger than other *tribes. But this showed that all the *Israelites united to fight this war.

This was a war on behalf of God. He had ordered it. This type of war was called a *holy war. Therefore, it was right that Phinehas the priest led the army in the battle. He brought *sacred objects from *God’s Tent to show that God was with the *Israelites.

Verse 7 There were rules for what should happen in a *holy war. It was a rule that the soldiers had to kill all their male enemies. Their enemies were those *Midianites who lived in the areas near to the country called Moab. But the war did not affect the *Midianites who lived elsewhere. The *Midianites continued to be a powerful enemy many years later (Judges chapters 6 to 8).

Verse 8 Probably, the 5 kings were the leaders that Balak contacted earlier (Numbers 22:4). Zur may have been Cozbi’s father (Numbers 25:15). Balaam died, too. This was his punishment because he had plotted against the *Israelites (see Numbers chapter 25). He had used the *Moabites and the *Midianites to do this. So in the end, he did not die in the manner that he had wanted (Numbers 23:10). In fact, his greedy desire for money was the cause of his death!

Verses 9-12 *Israel’s army destroyed the *Midianites’ towns and camps completely. They took all the *Midianites’ possessions and animals. They *captured the women and children. And they took everything back to their camp. Perhaps they intended that the women should become their wives. Perhaps they wanted the women to work as servants or slaves. Or perhaps they just wanted to have sex with the women.

*Israel’s army returns to the camp – Numbers 31:13-24

v13 Moses, Eleazar the priest and the other leaders of the *Israelites met the army outside the camp. v14 Moses was angry with the commanders and the leaders of the army who had returned from the battle. v15 He said, ‘You should not have let the women live! v16 These women followed Balaam’s advice. They invited our people to *worship the false god Baal at Peor. Because of these women, the *Israelites were not loyal to the *LORD. This was why a disease killed many of the *LORD’s people. v17 Now you must kill all the boys. And kill every woman who has had sex. v18 But do not kill the young women who have never had sex. You may keep these women for yourselves.

v19 All soldiers who have killed anyone must stay outside the camp for 7 days. Also, anyone who has touched a dead body must stay outside the camp for 7 days. On the third (3rd) and the seventh (7th) days, you must make yourselves and your prisoners *clean. You must do this by means of a special ceremony. v20 Then, you must wash your clothes. Also, you must wash anything that people have made with the skin of animals, goats’ hair, or wood.’

v21 Then Eleazar the priest spoke to the soldiers who had fought in the battle. He said, ‘The *LORD gave these rules to Moses. v22-23 You must put metals that will not burn into a hot fire. This will make them *clean. I am referring to metals such as gold, silver, *bronze, iron, tin or lead (different types of metal). Then you must put water on the metal to make it *clean also. This is the special water that makes things *clean. Also, you must splash this special water on anything that would burn, in order to make it *clean. v24 During the seventh (7th) day, you must wash your clothes. Then you will be *clean. Afterwards, you can enter the camp.’

Verses 13-18 Probably, the soldiers expected Moses to praise them because they had defeated the *Midianites. Instead, he was angry. This was because the soldiers had brought back the women. And it was the women who had caused the *Israelites to *worship the *Midianites’ false god (Numbers 25:16-18).

It seems that, before the battle, Moses had ordered the soldiers to kill all the *Midianites. But the soldiers had not done this. So Moses ordered them to kill the women and their sons immediately. He allowed the young girls who had not had sex to live. They had not caused the *Israelites to *sin at Peor. So they could marry the male *Israelites. Or they could work for the *Israelites. Then they would learn to follow the *Israelites’ religion and to *worship the one real God.

This may seem cruel to us. But this was a *holy war. God had ordered the *Israelites to punish the *Midianites. The *Midianites were guilty because they had persuaded the *Israelites to *reject God. The *Israelites were God’s special people. So they had to keep themselves *clean and holy because God is *holy completely.

Therefore, it was a very serious *sin to *worship false gods. The *Midianites had caused the *Israelites to do this. So the *Midianites had caused God to punish them by means of this *holy war. That was why the *Midianite women had to die. The *Israelites had to carry out God’s punishment against the *Midianites for what happened at Peor. The *Israelites had suffered God’s punishment already (Numbers 25:9).

However, we must remember that Jesus taught us to love our enemies. Jesus showed his love for his enemies when he forgave them. He did not fight when they hurt him. He died on their behalf. So we know that we must never use the idea of a *holy war to attack our enemies. *Holy wars happened only until the *Israelites had *settled into the *Promised Land.

Verses 19-24 Anyone who had touched a dead body was *unclean (Numbers 19:11-13). So the soldiers and their prisoners had to remain outside the camp during 7 days. During the third (3rd) and the seventh (7th) days, both the soldiers and their prisoners had to wash themselves. Also, they had to wash their clothes and anything that they had used during the battle. Eleazar told them to put metal objects into fire. Then, the soldiers had to put special water on these metals. This ceremony made these metal objects *clean. After 7 days, the soldiers could enter the camp.

Moses divides the *spoils – Numbers 31:25-54

v25 The *LORD said to Moses, v26 ‘Make a list of the *spoils. You, Eleazar the priest and the other leaders must count everything that the soldiers took from the *Midianites. Include the prisoners and the animals. v27 Divide the *spoils into two equal parts. Give one part to the soldiers who fought in the battle. Give the other part to the rest of the people. v28-29 Take one out of every 500 prisoners from the soldiers’ share. Also, take one out of every 500 cows, *donkeys, sheep and goats. Give them to Eleazar the priest. They are a special gift to the *LORD, like a tax. v30 Take one out of every 50 prisoners from the people’s share. Also, take one out of every 50 cows, *donkeys, sheep, goats and other animals. Give them to Levi’s *tribe who look after *God’s Tent.’ v31 Moses and Eleazar the priest obeyed the *LORD’s instructions.

v32-35 They made a list of everything that the soldiers had taken from the *Midianites. There were 675 000 sheep, 72 000 cows, 61 000 *donkeys and 32 000 young women. These were the young women who had never had sex.

v36-47 The half share that belonged to the soldiers was 337 500 sheep and goats, 36 000 cows, 30 500 *donkeys and 16 000 young women. From the soldiers’ half share, Moses gave to Eleazar the priest: 675 sheep and goats, 72 cows, 61 *donkeys and 32 women. These belonged to the *LORD.

The people’s half share was the same as the soldiers’ half share. There were 337 500 sheep and goats, 36 000 cows, 30 500 *donkeys and 16 000 young women. From the people’s half share, Moses took one out of every 50 prisoners and animals. He gave them to Levi’s *tribe who looked after *God’s Tent. The *LORD had told Moses to do this.

v48 The commanders and leaders of the army went to Moses. v49 They said, ‘Sir, we have counted our soldiers. Not one soldier is missing. v50 So we want to give a payment to the *LORD. We ask him to forgive us and to make us *clean. We want to give to him all the gold jewellery that we took from the *Midianites.’ (Jewellery is the name for precious metal objects that people wear, such as rings.)

v51 So Moses and Eleazar the priest received the gold jewellery from the commanders and leaders of the army. v52 Its total weight was nearly 200 *kilograms. This gold was a gift to the *LORD. v53 These objects did not include the objects that the soldiers had kept for themselves. v54 Moses and Eleazar put the gold into *God’s Tent. This gold was a memorial in front of the *LORD. (A memorial is an object that reminds people or God about an important event.)

Verses 25-47 It was the custom to share the *spoils between the soldiers and the people who did not fight. Only 12 000 *Israelites fought in this battle. But there were 601 730 men who could fight in *Israel’s army (26:51). And of course, there were women and children too. Clearly, the soldiers who actually fought in the battle deserved their reward. But the people who remained in the camp would receive something too.

God told Moses to share the *spoils equally between the soldiers and the people. Then, both the soldiers and the people had to give a part of their share to the priests and to Levi’s *tribe. When they gave this to the priests and their helpers, they were giving it to God really.

The priests received one five-hundredth (that is, one part out of 500) of the soldiers’ share. Levi’s *tribe received one-fiftieth (that is, one part out of 50) of the people’s share. When the soldiers and the people gave their gifts, they were thanking God. He had protected them all and he had helped them to defeat their enemies.

Verses 48-54 It seems that each share included animals and prisoners only. The soldiers had kept the gold and other precious things for themselves. But they brought to Moses all the gold jewellery that they had taken. (Jewellery is the name for precious metal objects that people wear, such as rings.)

God had kept every soldier safe. Not one soldier had died (verse 49). After the people had counted the soldiers, it was essential to make this payment to God (compare Exodus 30:11-16). The soldiers had to fight and to kill. Although God had ordered this, still the act made them *unclean. Also, they were responsible for what they had done.

They had to make a special payment, called the ‘atonement payment’. An atonement payment was like the money that people had to pay after the *census in Exodus 30:11-16. The soldiers had received mercy that they did not deserve from God. (Mercy is kindness to someone who deserves punishment.) God allowed them to live. They had to give a payment to show that they realised this. If they did not do this, they would be guilty of *sin.

Moses and Eleazar put this gold in *God’s Tent as a memorial (an object that reminds people or God about an important event). God would remember about the atonement payment. The people had spilled human blood when they had killed the *Midianites. But they had paid the atonement payment. So God would have mercy on the *Israelites. (Mercy is kindness to someone who deserves punishment.) They should not be happy because of the death of their enemies, even during a war.

Chapter 32

The land east of the Jordan river – Numbers 32:1-42

v1 Reuben’s *tribe and Gad’s *tribe owned many cows and sheep. They saw that the regions called Jazer and Gilead were suitable for these animals. v2 So they went to Moses, Eleazar the priest and the other leaders of *Israel.

They said, v3-4 ‘The *LORD has helped us to *capture some land that is suitable for cows and sheep. And we have many cows and sheep. This land is near the towns called Ataroth, Dibon, Jazer, Nimrah, Heshbon, Elealeh, Sebam, Nebo and Beon. v5 Please give this land to us as our property. Do not make us live in the country across the Jordan river.’

v6 Moses said to Reuben’s *tribe and Gad’s *tribe, ‘The rest of the *Israelites are going to war! But you say that you want to stay here. v7 If you stay here, the other *Israelites will not want to cross the river. Then they will not enter the country that the *LORD has promised to give to them. v8 The same thing happened when I sent your *ancestors from Kadesh-Barnea to look at the country. v9 They went to Eshcol valley and they saw the country. Then they returned. They told the people that they should not enter the country. This was the country that the *LORD had given to them.

v10 The *LORD became very angry on that day. He made a serious promise. v11 He said, “No adult *Israelite will enter the *Promised Land. No person who left the country called Egypt as an adult will enter it. (Adult here means over 20 years old.) They will not enter the country that I promised to give to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. This is because none of these adults was loyal to me, v12 except Caleb and Joshua. (Caleb is the son of Jephunneh, from the family of Kenaz. Joshua is the son of Nun.) Caleb and Joshua remained completely loyal to me.”

v13 The *LORD was very angry with all the other *Israelites. So he made them wander in the *desert for 40 years. After 40 years, everyone from that *generation had died who had *sinned against God.

v14 But now you (people from Reuben’s *tribe and Gad’s *tribe) are doing the same thing! You are wicked men, like your *ancestors. You are making the *LORD even more angry with *Israel. v15 If you refuse to follow the *LORD, he will leave his people in the *desert again. It will be your fault!’

v16 The men from Reuben’s *tribe and Gad’s *tribe answered, ‘Let us build pens for our animals here. Also, let us build towns for our wives and children. v17 They can stay in the towns. There, they will be safe against attack. But we will get ready to fight and to lead the other *tribes into battle. We will continue to fight until they have received their land. v18 We will not return to our homes until every *Israelite has received his own property. v19 We will not take any land on the other side of the Jordan river. Our land is here, on the east side of the river.’

v20 Moses said, ‘You have promised to get ready to fight for the *LORD. v21-22 Also, you have agreed to cross the Jordan river. And you have agreed to stay with the other *tribes, until the *LORD defeats our enemies. You have agreed to fight until the *LORD has made our enemies leave the land. If you do all this, then afterwards you can return to your own land. You do not have to stay with the other *Israelites. You will then be free from your duties to the *LORD and to the other *Israelites. And the *LORD will give you this land (on the east of the river) as your property. v23 But if you do not do this, you will be *sinning against the *LORD. And you will definitely receive a punishment because of your *sin.

v24 So go and build towns for your wives and children. Build pens for your animals. But do what you have promised!’

v25 The men from Reuben’s *tribe and Gad’s *tribe said, ‘Sir, we are your servants. We will do what you have ordered. v26 Our wives, children and animals will stay here, in the towns in Gilead. v27 But every man among us will prepare for battle. We will cross the Jordan river. We will fight for the *LORD. We will do what you have said.’

v28 Then Moses gave some instructions to Eleazar the priest, Joshua (Nun’s son) and the other leaders of *Israel. He said, v29 ‘Every man from Reuben’s *tribe and Gad’s *tribe must get ready for battle. They must cross the Jordan river with you. If they do this, give the region called Gilead to them as their property. You can do this when, with their help, you have *captured the country.

v30 But if they do not cross the Jordan river with you, do not allow them to have that region. If they do not fight with you, their only right will be to receive property with the other *tribes. They will have to live in the country called Canaan (on the west side of the Jordan river).’

v31 The men from Gad’s *tribe and Reuben’s *tribe answered, ‘Sir, we are your servants. We will obey the *LORD’s commands. v32 We will cross the Jordan river. We will be ready to fight for the *LORD in the country called Canaan. But we will keep the land that is our property here, east of the Jordan river.’

v33 So Moses gave land to Gad’s *tribe, Reuben’s *tribe and half of Manasseh’s *tribe. He gave them the country that King Sihon had ruled. Also, he gave to them the country that King Og had ruled. This included all the towns with the land round them. (Sihon was the king of the *Amorites. Og was the king of the country called Bashan.)

v34 Gad’s *tribe built again the towns called Dibon, Ataroth, Aroer, v35 Atroth-Shophan, Jazer, Jogbehah, v36 Beth-Nimrah and Beth-Haran. They built walls that surrounded these towns. Also, they built pens for their sheep and goats.

v37 Reuben’s *tribe built again Heshbon, Elealeh, Kiriathaim, and v38 Sibmah. Also, they built again the towns that used to be called Nebo and Baal-Meon. They gave new names to these towns.

v39 Machir’s *clan, from Manasseh’s *tribe, went to the region called Gilead. They *captured its towns and they forced the *Amorites to leave. v40 So Moses gave Gilead to Machir’s *clan. They *settled there.

v41 A man called Jair, from Manasseh’s *tribe, attacked and *captured some villages. He renamed them ‘Jair’s villages’. v42 A man called Nobah *captured the town called Kenath and its villages. He renamed it ‘Nobah’.

Verses 1-5 The *Israelites were approaching the country called Canaan from the south east. Already, they controlled much of the land east of the Jordan river. They were preparing to cross the Jordan river to enter the *Promised Land.

However, Reuben’s *tribe and Gad’s *tribe wanted to *settle on the east side of the river. The *Israelites had *captured this land from King Og and King Sihon (Numbers 21:21-35). It had much grass, so it was good for cows and sheep.

So Reuben’s *tribe and Gad’s *tribe came to Moses and the other leaders with this request.

Verses 6-15 But Moses was angry because these two *tribes did not want to cross the river. He did not want to grant their request. If he granted it, the other *tribes might not want to enter the *Promised Land. He wanted all the *tribes to be united and to enter the *Promised Land together. Also, he thought that Reuben’s *tribe and Gad’s *tribe were afraid to enter the *Promised Land. He reminded them that the *Israelites’ *ancestors had been afraid to enter the *Promised Land. God had given this land to them. So it was a serious *sin to refuse to enter it. And God had punished the *Israelites (Numbers chapter 14). Moses did not want this to happen again. So he refused the request of Reuben’s *tribe and Gad’s *tribe.

Verses 16-19 But Reuben’s *tribe and Gad’s *tribe emphasised that their men would enter the *Promised Land with the other *tribes. They were not afraid of the people who lived there. They promised to fight with the other *tribes to defeat those people. But first, they wanted to build towns on the east side of the river. Then, after they had fought, the two *tribes wanted to return to their own land outside the country called Canaan.

Verses 20-27 So Moses agreed to grant their request. He reminded the two *tribes about what they had promised to do. If they did not fight with the other *tribes, they would receive a punishment for their *sin. Also, they would have to live in the country called Canaan, like the other *tribes.

Verses 28-32 Moses would die before the *Israelites entered the *Promised Land. He knew this (Numbers 27:12-14). So he gave instructions about this agreement to Eleazar, Joshua and the other leaders.

Verses 33-41 So each *tribe built again towns in their land, which was east of the Jordan river. Half of Manasseh’s *tribe had land there also. Reuben’s *tribe *settled in the south part. Gad’s *tribe had land in the north. Manasseh’s *tribe had land even further north (Joshua 13:15-33).

These *tribes did what they promised to do. They helped the other *tribes to fight for the land in Canaan. They continued to fight until those battles were over. Then they returned to their homes on the east side of the Jordan river. See Joshua chapter 22 for the rest of this story.

Chapter 33

The *Israelites’ journey from the country called Egypt to the country called Moab – Numbers 33:1-49

v1-2 Moses and Aaron led the *Israelites out of the country called Egypt. Moses recorded the places where they went. The *LORD had told him to do this. This is a record of their journey.

v3-4 The *Israelites left the city called Rameses (in Egypt) on the 15th day of the first month. This was the day after the first *Passover. The *LORD had allowed the *first-born sons in every *Egyptian family to die. He did this to show that the *Egyptians’ gods were false. The *Egyptians were burying their dead sons’ bodies. And they saw the *Israelites march out boldly in front of them. Then the *Israelites left Egypt.

v5 After the *Israelites left the city called Rameses, they camped at Succoth. v6 They left Succoth and they camped at Etham. Etham was on the edge of the *desert. v7 Then they went back to Pi Hahiroth, to the east of Baal Zephon. They camped near Migdol.

v8 They left Pi Hahiroth and they walked through the sea into the *desert. They travelled through Etham *desert for 3 days. Then they camped at Marah.

v9 Then they went to Elim and they camped there. At Elim, there were 12 springs (places where water comes out of the ground). Also, there were 70 palm trees. (A palm is a type of tree that has fruit.)

v10 They left Elim and they camped near the Red Sea. v11 After this, they camped in the *desert called Sin.

v12 Their next camp was at Dophkah. v13 After this, they camped at Alush. v14 Then they camped at Rephidim. But there was no water to drink there.

v15-37 They left Rephidim and they travelled to Hor mountain. On the way, they camped in the Sinai *desert. Then they camped at Kibroth Hattaavah, Hazeroth, Rithmah, Rimmon Perez, Libnah, Rissah, Kehelathah and Shepher mountain. Then they camped at Haradah, Makheloth, Tahath, Terah, Mithkah and Hashmonah. Then they camped at Moseroth, Bene Jaakan, Hor Haggidgad, Jotbathah, Abronah, Eziongeber and Kadesh in the Zin *desert. They arrived at Hor mountain, which is on the border of the country called Edom.

v38-39 Then the *LORD ordered Aaron the priest to climb to the top of Hor mountain. Aaron obeyed. And Aaron died there. He was 123 years old when he died. It was the first day of the 5th month. It was the 40th year after the *Israelites had left the country called Egypt.

v40 Then, the king of the country called Arad heard that the *Israelites were coming. The king lived in the southern *desert of the country called Canaan. v41-47 The *Israelites left Hor mountain. They travelled towards the country called Moab. On the way, they camped at Zalmonah, Punon, Oboth and Iye Abarim, which is on the border of Moab. Then they camped at Dibon Gad, Almon Diblathaim and in the Abarim mountains, near Nebo mountain. v48 Finally, they camped on the plains of Moab. The city called Jericho was opposite their camp, on the other side of the Jordan river. v49 Their camp was between Beth Jeshimoth and Shittim valley. So they camped on the plains of Moab. The camp was by the Jordan river.

Verses 1-49 This passage mentions 40 places where the *Israelites camped on their journey from Egypt to Moab. It does not include all the places that the Book of Exodus describes.

But this passage is more than just a list of places. It reminded the *Israelites that God had guided them on their journey. They had escaped from Egypt. The journey had lasted for 40 years. But in the end, they arrived at the *Promised Land because that was God’s plan for them. He had provided what they needed. He had protected them from their enemies. So this passage reminded the *Israelites that God was with them always.

The *LORD gives instructions to the *Israelites before they cross the Jordan river – Numbers 33:50-56

v50 The *Israelites were camping on the plains of the country called Moab. The city called Jericho was opposite their camp, on the other side of the Jordan river.

The *LORD spoke to Moses. v51 He told Moses to give these instructions to the *Israelites. He told them what to do after they had crossed the Jordan river. He ordered them to do these things when they had entered the country called Canaan.

v52 ‘You must force all the people who live there to leave. Destroy all their *idols, which they have made from wood and metal. Destroy all their *altars. v53 Then *settle in their land. It belongs to you because I have given it to you.

v54 Divide the land between the *tribes and *clans. You must use *lots to do this. You must give larger pieces of land to the larger *tribes. You must give smaller pieces of land to the smaller *tribes. Each *tribe will have its own land. v55 If you do not force the inhabitants of Canaan to leave, they will cause trouble. They will be like a sharp stick in your eyes and in your sides. They will fight against you always. v56 And then I will do to you what I intended to do to them.’

Verses 50-56 The *Israelites were camping on the border of the *Promised Land. They were preparing to enter it and to *settle there. God gave exact instructions to Moses about how to do this.

He ordered the *Israelites to force the inhabitants of Canaan to leave. Also, the *Israelites had to destroy completely all the *idols in Canaan. The inhabitants of Canaan built *altars to their gods on the hills. The *Israelites had to destroy these *altars, too. This was so that the *Israelites would remain loyal to God. Already, the *Moabites had persuaded the *Israelites to *worship their gods (Numbers 25:1-18). God did not want this to happen again in Canaan. Therefore, the people there had to leave. And the *Israelites had to remove all traces of their religion. Then, the *Israelites had to divide the land between them, as God had ordered them (Numbers 26:52-56).

However, the *Israelites did not obey God completely. They did not force all the inhabitants of Canaan to leave. And those people persuaded the *Israelites to *worship their false gods. Many centuries later, God punished the *Israelites. He allowed their enemies to take them as prisoners far away, to the country called Babylon.

Chapter 34

*Israel’s borders – Numbers 34:1-15

v1 The *LORD spoke to Moses. He said, v2 ‘Tell the *Israelites about the borders of their land in the country called Canaan.

v3 The southern border will be the Zin *desert along the north west border of the country called Edom. This border will begin at the southern end of the Dead Sea. The border will go west from the Dead Sea. v4 But it will turn south to include the route called Akrabbim, the village called Zin and the town called Kadesh-Barnea. The border will continue to Hazar-Addar and on to Azmon. v5 Then it will go along the valley of a stream called Egypt. It will end at the Mediterranean Sea.

v6 The western border will be the coast of the Mediterranean Sea.

v7 The northern border will begin at the Mediterranean Sea. It will continue east to Hor mountain. v8 Then it will go to Lebo-Hamath and across to Zedad. v9 From Zedad, the border will continue east to Ziphron. It will end at Hazar-Enan. This is the northern border of your land.

v10 The east border will begin at Hazar-Enan in the north. It will go south to Shepham. v11 It will continue down to Riblah, on the east side of Ain. Then, it will go south to the east hills of Galilee lake. v12 It will follow the Jordan river down to the north end of the Dead Sea.

These will be the four borders of the land that belongs to you.’

v13 Then Moses said to the *Israelites, ‘You will receive the land inside these borders. It will belong to you. But the *LORD has ordered you to divide it among the 9 and a half *tribes. Use *lots to do this. v14 Reuben’s *tribe, Gad’s *tribe and East Manasseh’s *tribe have received their land already. v15 Their land is east of the Jordan river, across from the city called Jericho.’

Verses 1-15 This passage describes the borders of the *Promised Land. Actually, the *Israelites controlled most of this area only for a short time. This was several centuries later, when David and then Solomon ruled. But this passage is important because, for the *Israelites, it was more than a record of political borders. It emphasised that God had given this land to his special people. It was his gift to them. Also, he told them how to divide it between the 9 and a half *tribes. Reuben’s *tribe, Gad’s *tribe and the half *tribe of Manasseh kept their land outside the country called Canaan (see chapter 32).

The *LORD chooses the leaders to divide the land – Numbers 34:16-29

v16 The *LORD said to Moses, v17 ‘Eleazar the priest and Joshua, Nun’s son, will divide the land for the *Israelites. v18 One leader from each *tribe will help them. v19-28 The *LORD chose these men to help to divide the land:

Caleb, Jephunneh’s son, from Judah’s *tribe.

Shemuel, Ammihud’s son, from Simeon’s *tribe.

Elidad, Chislon’s son, from Benjamin’s *tribe.

Bukki, Jogli’s son, from Dan’s *tribe.

Hanniel, Ephod’s son, from Manasseh’s *tribe. (Manasseh was Joseph’s son.)

Kemuel, Shiphtan’s son, from Ephraim’s *tribe. (Ephraim was Joseph’s son.)

Elizaphan, Parnach’s son, from Zebulun’s *tribe.

Paltiel, Azzan’s son, from Issachar’s *tribe.

Ahihud, Shelomi’s son, from Asher’s *tribe.

Pedahel, Ammihud’s son, from Naphtali’s *tribe.’

v29 The *LORD appointed these men. They would help Eleazar and Joshua to divide the land between the *Israelites in the country called Canaan.

Verses 16-29 God wanted the *Israelites to divide the land fairly. So he chose men from each *tribe to help Eleazar and Joshua. Caleb was one of the men who had gone into the *Promised Land many years before (Numbers 13:6). He and Joshua were the only people from the first *generation who remained alive. God had promised that Caleb and Joshua would enter the *Promised Land (Numbers 14:30). This was because they had remained loyal to God.

Chapter 35

The towns for Levi’s *tribe – Numbers 35:1-8

v1 Still the *Israelites were camping on the plains of the country called Moab. Their camp was opposite Jericho city, across the Jordan river.

The *LORD said to Moses, v2 ‘Speak to the *Israelites. When the *tribes receive their land, they must give towns for Levi’s *tribe to live in. Also, they must give *pasture round those towns to Levi’s *tribe. v3 Then Levi’s *tribe will have towns where they can live. Also, they will have *pasture for their cows, sheep and all their other animals. v4-5 The *pasture must be in the shape of a square. It must surround each of their towns. The *pasture must measure 900 metres on each side. Measure this distance on the north, south, east and west; with the town in the centre. So there must be 450 metres of land outside each of the town’s four walls. This *pasture will belong to Levi’s *tribe.

v6 You must give 6 towns to Levi’s *tribe as *safe towns. So a person can escape to a *safe town if he kills someone by accident. Also, give 42 other towns to Levi’s *tribe v7 with their *pasture. This makes a total of 48 towns. v8 These towns are part of the other *tribes’ land. So the larger *tribes must give more towns than the smaller *tribes.’

Verses 1-8 When the leaders divided the country called Canaan between the *tribes, Levi’s *tribe did not receive any particular area. God had ordered this (Numbers 18:20-24; also Deuteronomy 10:8-9). Levi’s *tribe had special jobs because they helped the priests. However, they needed places to live while they did this special work. So God gave instructions that Levi’s *tribe should have 48 towns to live in. They did not own these towns. The *tribes who gave them still owned them. But they could live there. These towns had to have *pasture round them. Then Levi’s *tribe would be able to live there with their cows and sheep. Levi’s *tribe had cows and sheep for food. This was in addition to the food that they received from the *offerings (Numbers 18:8-32).

These 48 towns were not in one area, so they were not near to each other. They were in different parts of Canaan that belonged to different *tribes. The *tribes that received more land had to give more towns to Levi’s *tribe.

Again, God showed that he is fair completely in all matters. This includes practical matters. We should be careful to be fair in all that we do, too. God cares about every part of our daily lives.

The *safe towns – Numbers 35:9-33

v9 The *LORD said to Moses, v10 ‘Give these instructions to the *Israelites. When they cross the Jordan river into the country called Canaan, v11 they must choose some towns to be *safe towns. A person who has killed someone by accident can escape to a *safe town. v12 The *redeemer of blood might try to kill the person whom he accuses of murder. But the person whom he accuses can run to a *safe town for protection. And then nobody may kill that person before he receives a fair *trial in a court.

v13 There must be 6 towns that are *safe towns. v14 There must be three *safe towns on each side of the Jordan river. v15 These towns will be places of protection for people who have killed someone by accident. This rule about *safe towns is for anyone who lives in *Israel. This includes foreigners and anyone who is living among the *Israelites.

v16-19 A person might hit another person with a piece of iron, or a big stone, or a wooden object. The other person might die. If this happens, this is murder. The *redeemer of blood must kill the *murderer. The *redeemer of blood must kill the *murderer as soon as he finds him.

v20-21 A person who hates someone might kill that person on purpose. For example, he might push the other person down. Or he might throw something at the other person. Or he might hit the person whom he hates with his fist. Anyone who kills someone in such a way is a *murderer. The *redeemer of blood must kill him. The *redeemer of blood must kill the *murderer as soon as he finds him.

v22-24 But a person might kill someone in any of these ways by accident. Perhaps he suddenly pushed someone whom he did not hate. Perhaps he threw something but he did not expect it to hit anyone. Perhaps he dropped a large stone on someone whom he did not see. But the person whom he killed was not his enemy. He was not trying to hurt anyone. It was an accident. Then, the people in the town must give him a *trial. They must decide if the person is guilty. v25 They might decide that the person is innocent. Then that person will receive protection against the *redeemer of blood. The people will send him to stay in one of the *safe towns. He must stay there until the *High Priest dies. (This means the *High Priest whom God appointed by the *anointing ceremony.) v26 But if he ever leaves the *safe town, v27 the *redeemer of blood can kill him. And the *redeemer of blood cannot receive a punishment because of this. v28 So the person who killed someone must stay inside the town. He must stay there until the *High Priest dies. When the *High Priest dies, the person can return to his home.

v29 The *Israelites must obey these laws always, wherever they live. v30 You must *execute *murderers. That is their punishment. But there must be two or more witnesses who give evidence about the crime. You must not *execute a person if there is one witness only. v31 Do not accept money that someone gives in order to escape their punishment of death. The person who murders deserves to die. He must receive his punishment.

v32 Also, an innocent person who lives in a *safe town cannot pay in order to return to his home. He must stay there until the *High Priest dies.

v33-34 I, the *LORD, live among the *Israelites. Therefore, you must keep your land *clean. When a person murders another person, blood makes the land *unclean. You must *execute the *murderer. His blood is the only way to make the land *clean again. You must not allow murders to ruin the land where you are living!’

Verses 9-34 The other *tribes had to give 48 towns to Levi’s *tribe. 6 of these towns were called *safe towns. If a person had killed someone, he could run away to one of these *safe towns. This was necessary because the *redeemer of blood had a right to kill the other person. This was the law and therefore people expected it to happen (Genesis 9:6). They expected it to happen even if a person had killed someone by accident.

Usually, but not always, the *redeemer of blood was a close relative. The *redeemer of blood was a particular person who had certain rights and duties. For example, he could buy back land that belonged to the family. He could buy back relatives who were *slaves. Also, he had the right and the responsibility to kill his relative’s *murderer.

But in this passage, God gave a new law. He allowed any person who had killed another person by accident to go to a *safe town. Then, the people there would arrange a fair *trial. At the *trial, they would decide whether the person had intended to kill the other person. If the person had not intended to kill the other person, he was not guilty of murder.

Verses 16-24 describe the difference between murder and a death by accident. If the person had caused the other person’s death by accident, then the *redeemer of blood could not kill him. The *redeemer of blood did not have the legal right to do this. However, the person had to remain in the *safe town. The person had to live there until the *High Priest died. The *High Priest’s death removed the person’s *uncleanness. Until the *High Priest’s death, the person could not return to his own home. If he did this, then the *redeemer of blood had the legal right to kill him.

If the person had caused the other person’s death on purpose, he was a *murderer. Therefore, the *redeemer of blood had to kill the *murderer. The *redeemer of blood was carrying out God’s judgement against the *murderer. This was right and fair.

It was very important that there had to be witnesses (verse 30). There had to be clear evidence of murder. These new rules were not providing the right to take revenge. (To take revenge means to hurt someone just because they have hurt you. Someone might want to do this in order to feel better about it.) Rather, the new rules were there to protect innocent people who had not intended to kill. So the *redeemer of blood must not kill an innocent person such as this. If the *redeemer of blood did that, then he was himself guilty of murder.

This new law protected people who had caused someone’s death by accident. But also, it showed that it was a serious matter to cause a person’s death, even by accident.

God emphasised that blood made his land *unclean (verse 33-34). Therefore, any death that a person had caused, even an accident, made *Israel’s land *unclean. The *Israelites had to punish people who murdered. So their laws had to prevent murder. And then their land would not become *unclean.

Also, God’s *Law did not allow the family of a dead person to take revenge. (To take revenge means to hurt someone just because they have hurt you. A person might want to do this in order to feel better about it.) Instead, there was a proper legal arrangement. There had to be a *trial. There had to be witnesses. There were *safe towns where an innocent person would receive protection. And there was a proper legal punishment for anyone who was guilty of murder.

Chapter 36

The laws about married women and land – Numbers 36:1-13

v1 The leaders of the families in Gilead’s *clan went to Moses and the other leaders of the *Israelites. Gilead’s *clan was part of Manasseh’s *tribe. (Gilead was Machir’s son. Machir was Manasseh’s son. And Manasseh was Joseph’s son.)

v2 They said, ‘Sir, the *LORD ordered you to divide the land between the *Israelites. He told you to use *lots when you do this. Our relative, Zelophehad, would have received some land. The *LORD ordered you to give this land to Zelophehad’s daughters. v3 But they might marry men from other *tribes of *Israel. Then, the land that they receive will belong to their husbands’ *tribes. And so our *tribe will lose part of the land that God gave to us. v4 During the Year of Jubilee (see note below), the original owners receive back the land that they have sold. But this will not happen to the land that Zelophehad’s daughters will receive. Their land will belong always to their husbands’ *tribes. And so our *tribe will lose that land.’

v5 So Moses gave instructions to the *Israelites about this matter. The *LORD told Moses to say, ‘These leaders from Manasseh’s *tribe are right. v6 These are the *LORD’s instructions to Zelophehad’s daughters. They may marry any man who belongs to their father’s *tribe. v7 You must not give land that belongs to one *tribe to another *tribe. Every *Israelite must keep the land that he has *inherited from his *ancestors in his *tribe. v8 Every woman who *inherits land must marry a man from her own *tribe. So every *Israelite will own land that belonged to his *ancestors. v9 You must not give land that a *tribe has *inherited to another *tribe. Each *tribe must keep the land that it *inherits.’

v10-11 Zelophehad’s daughters were called Mahlah, Tirzah, Hoglah, Milcah and Noah. They obeyed the instructions that the *LORD gave to Moses. So they married their cousins. v12 Therefore, they remained part of Manasseh’s *tribe. And their land remained in the *tribe of their father’s family.

v13 These are the laws and judgements that the *LORD gave by Moses to the *Israelites. This happened while they were camping on the plains of Moab. Their camp was by the Jordan river, opposite the city called Jericho.

Verses 1-4 This last chapter describes God’s new laws about married women and the land that they *inherited. Previously, God had changed the law about the rights of women. Zelophehad’s daughters had come to Moses with a request. Their father had no sons. So they had asked if they could *inherit their father’s land instead. Then, their father’s land could remain the property of their father’s *clan. And God had granted their request. Also, he made this law for all women whose father had no sons (Numbers chapter 27).

However, this new law caused a problem. When a woman married, her land became her husband’s property. So, if her husband belonged to a different *tribe, her *tribe would lose that land. So, the leaders of Gilead’s *clan in Manasseh’s *tribe came to Moses and the other leaders. Zelophehad’s daughters, from Manasseh’s *tribe, had *inherited their father’s land. But this land would not belong to Manasseh’s *tribe if Zelophehad’s daughters married men from other *tribes.

The leaders from Gilead’s *clan referred to the Year of Jubilee (Leviticus chapter 25). This was a special year that happened every 50th year. During this special year, when people had sold land, they received the right to own that land again. The purpose of this rule was to make sure that families and *tribes would always keep their own land. But this rule would not operate correctly if women *inherited property. For example, if Zelophehad’s daughters married, their land would belong to their husbands’ *tribes. Women could not own land legally after they had married. The effect would be that the husbands’ *tribes could claim this land during the Year of Jubilee.

Verses 5-12 Moses gave God’s answer to the leaders of Gilead’s *clan. Probably, Moses had talked with God in *God’s Tent first, although the text does not record this. God gave the rule that Zelophehad’s daughters had to marry men from their own *clan. This solved the problem. Their land would remain the property of their own *tribe. And Zelophehad’s daughters obeyed God.

Verse 13 The Book of Numbers ends with these laws about the land that the *Israelites were preparing to enter. They had lived in the *desert for 40 years. But God had guided and protected them. He had brought them to the land that he had promised to give to them.

When the *Israelites left the country called Egypt, they owned no land. And at the end of their journey, still they lived in a camp in the country called Moab. They did not live in their own land yet. But if they obeyed God, they would possess their own land in the country called Canaan. This was their *Promised Land. Always God does what he promises.

God guided the *Israelites during all their years in the desert. And God wants to guide us through our whole lives, too. He offers to teach us and to help us. When we learn more about him, also we learn more about ourselves. When we obey God, he can make his plans happen for us. He will guide us if we follow his instructions. He will protect us. He will provide all that we need. We must put our trust in him completely. He promises to be with us always (Joshua 1:5; also Matthew 28:20). And always, God does what he promises.

Word List

adultery ~ when a man or a woman has sex with someone who is not their wife or husband.

altar ~ a special table where the priests burned animals or other gifts as a *sacrifice to God (or, to a false god).

Amalekite(s) ~ a group of people who lived in the southern part of the country called Canaan.

Ammonite(s) ~ a group of people who lived north of the Dead Sea, between the Arnon river and the Jabbok river.

Amorite(s) ~ a group of people who lived in the country called Canaan and on the east side of the Jordan river. The *Israelites defeated them in a battle.

Anakim ~ a group of very tall people who lived in the country called Canaan. People thought that the Anakim were the *descendants of the *Nephilim.

ancestor ~ a previous member of a family, especially someone who was important during a past century.

angel(s) ~ God’s servant who takes messages from God to people on the earth. Angels live with God in heaven.

anoint ~ to pour oil over a person. This shows that God has chosen that person for a special purpose.

Ark ~ a wooden box that contained things that were special to the *Israelites. God said that he would meet his people at the Ark. It was a *symbol that God was there in a special way.

BC ~ the period of time before Jesus was born.

believe (in) ~ to follow someone or something that you are sure is true.

blaspheme ~ to insult God.

blasphemy ~ an insult against God.

bless ~ 1. To ask God to do good things for a person or people. 2. God blesses us when he does good things for us. He guards us and he keeps us safe from evil things.

blessing(s) ~ a good thing or things that God does for us.

bodily discharge ~ liquid that comes out of the body.

bronze ~ a kind of metal.

bull(s) ~ the male animal that mates with a cow.

bunch ~ a group of things that join together. For example, a ‘bunch of *grapes’ means *grapes that are growing together.

burnt offering ~ an animal that the priests burnt on the *altar as a *sacrifice.

Canaanites ~ a group of people who lived in the country called Canaan.

capture ~ 1. to catch a person and to make that person your prisoner. 2. To take something from an enemy and to possess it.

celebrate ~ to do something special or to have a party on an important day or days.

census ~ an official list which records the number of people in a particular place.

Christ ~ a title for Jesus. It means ‘the person whom God *anointed’. This means that God chose him to save us from the results of our *sins.

Christian(s) ~ a person who follows Jesus *Christ. A Christian believes what Jesus taught.

church(es) ~ 1. All *Christians everywhere. 2. The members of a local group of *Christians.

clan(s) ~ a group of several families who are the relatives of each other.

clean ~ in the *Jewish religion, this means something or someone that God accepts. People had to be clean in order to approach *God’s Tent. People had to be clean to be in the *Israelites’ camp. There is no human way to explain what was clean or *unclean. We know only because God has shown us, in the Bible.

covenant ~ a special promise that God made to the *Israelites. The *Israelites had to remain loyal to God because of the covenant.

cross ~ two pieces of wood that someone has fixed together. The Romans fixed people to a cross in order to *execute them. (The Romans were people from the city called Rome. They ruled many countries during Jesus’ life on the earth.) Jesus died on a cross. The cross is now the sign of the *Christian *church.

curse ~ a declaration that something bad will happen. In the early books of the Bible, a curse was a type of *prophecy from God. This *prophecy described something bad that would happen in the future. To curse means to speak this *prophecy.

dedicate ~ to say that something belongs to someone for a special purpose.

dedication ~ a ceremony in order to *dedicate something.

defiant(ly) ~ a person is defiant if they refuse to obey. A person is defiant towards God if they oppose his authority.

descendant(s) ~ a future member of a family or a nation.

desert ~ a dry region, or a region where there is just a little water. A few wild plants are able to grow in some deserts. So people who are travelling can live in these deserts in their tents. And they can lead animals through the desert. The *Israelites lived in a desert for nearly 40 years.

donkey(s) ~ an animal like a small horse. It carries people and things.

Egyptian(s) ~ the people who lived in the country called Egypt.

execute ~ to kill a person legally because they are guilty of a crime.

festival(s) ~ like a party, when people *celebrate a special occasion or event.

first-born ~ the first child to be born to a mother; the oldest child in a family. The word can refer to animals as well as people.

follower(s) ~ a person who accepts another person as their guide and their leader.

frame(s) ~ something that people make with poles and bars in order to support something.

generation(s) ~ the word that describes a group of people who were born at a particular time.

glory ~ everything that makes God great and beautiful. A bright light that comes from God or Jesus to show that they are beautiful and *holy.

God’s Tent ~ a special tent that had two rooms. There were special objects in these rooms which included the *Ark. God’s Tent showed the people that God was living among them.

grain offering ~ an *offering of something that people made from grain.

gram ~ a measurement of weight today. 28 grams make one ounce. 1000 grams make one *kilogram.

grape(s) ~ a kind of fruit. People made wine from grapes.

guilt offering ~ an *offering for particular *sins (see Leviticus 5:14 to 6:7).

Harvest Festival ~ a *festival when the *Israelites thanked God for the grain harvest. In the *New Testament, this *festival is called ‘Pentecost’. (The *Festival of Shelters was a different *festival, when the *Israelites thanked God for the fruit harvest.)

Hebrew ~ the language of the *Jews.

High Priest ~ the most important priest.

Hittites ~ a group of people who lived in the country called Canaan.

holiness ~ a quality of God. Complete goodness. The opposite of *sin.

holy ~ what God is like. God’s character: perfect, completely good with nothing bad in it. Separate from *sin.

Holy Place ~ the bigger room in *God’s Tent.

Holy Spirit ~ God’s Spirit. The Holy Spirit is a person, but not human as we are. He lives and works for God. There is only one God. The Holy Spirit is God, with God the Father and God the Son. He comes to give to people the power to do what God wants.

holy war ~ a special war that God had ordered against *Israel’s enemies. Not all wars that *Israel fought were holy wars. Holy wars happened only until the *Israelites had *settled into the *Promised Land.

idol(s) ~ a false god; anything that people *worship instead of the real God.

incense ~ a substance that people make from plants. It has a good smell when people burn it.

inherit ~ to receive land or property when a relative dies.

inheritance ~ the land and property that relatives receive when a person dies.

intentional ~ when someone does something on purpose, this is intentional. They know what they are doing. And they mean to do it.

Israel ~ the *Israelites and their nation.

Israelite(s) ~ a *Jewish person; the people to whom God promised the nation called Israel.

Jebusites ~ a group of people who lived in the country called Canaan. Their city, Jebus, became Jerusalem, the capital city of the *Israelites (2 Samuel 5:1-9).

Jew(s) ~ a person who is from the family of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and their children.

Jewish ~ the word that describes a *Jew or anything that belongs to the *Jews.

keep a promise ~ to do what you have promised.

Kenite(s) ~ a group of people who lived among the hills south-west of the Dead Sea.

kilogram ~ 1000 *grams.

King’s highway ~ the road that travellers used in the country called Edom.

Law ~ the rules that God gave to Moses for the *Jews.

live ~ alive.

LORD ~ a special name for God that his people use. In *Hebrew, it is Yahweh. This name means something like ‘I am’ or ‘always alive’.

Lord ~ one who rules. God is the Lord who rules everyone.

lots ~ pieces of wood or stones that people used to divide territory or to make a decision. The lots seemed to make the decision by chance. But people believed that, in fact, God had made the decision.

manna ~ food that God provided for the *Israelites when they were in the *desert.

Midianite(s) ~ a name for any of the people who lived in the Sinai *desert and the *deserts east of the Jordan river. Probably, the *Moabites’ king ruled some of these people.

miracle(s) ~ wonderful works that only God can do by his power.

Moabite(s) ~ the people who lived in the country called Moab.

Most Holy Place ~ the smaller room in *God’s Tent. The *Ark was in that room.

murderer(s) ~ a person who murders another person or people.

Nazirite(s) ~ someone who promised to give themselves to God completely for a particular period of time. (See Numbers chapter 6.)

Nephilim ~ the giant people who lived on the earth before the flood (Genesis 6:4).

New Testament ~ the last part of the Bible, which the writers wrote after the life of Jesus on the earth. It is about the things that Jesus did. And it is about the things that he taught. It is also about the *church and what *Christians should believe.

occupy ~ to use military force in order to possess territory. To live in the territory of an enemy whom you have defeated.

offering(s) ~ a gift that people offer to God.

Old Testament ~ the first part of the Bible; the *Jews’ holy book. The writers wrote this before the life of Jesus.

olive(s) ~ a type of fruit. People made oil out of olives.

olive oil ~ oil that people make from fruit called *olives. They use the oil to cook food. Also, they put it on their hair and their bodies.

ox/oxen ~ a strong farm animal; a type of cow or *bull. (Oxen is the plural of ox.)

Passover ~ an important holy day for the *Jews. They ate a special meal on this day every year. This was to remember that their families were *slaves in the country called Egypt. And, that God had freed them.

pasture ~ land where grass grows that is suitable for animals such as cows and sheep.

peace ~ a calm and content attitude, even when there are problems.

peace offering ~ an *offering that a person makes to be at *peace with God. God gave people the rules about *offerings so that they could receive *blessing from him (Exodus 20:24).

Philistines ~ a group of people who lived near the south coast of the country called Canaan.

prey ~ any animal that another animal has killed.

Promised Land ~ the country that God promised to give to Abraham and his *descendants.

prophecy/prophecies ~ words and messages from God.

prophesy ~ to speak or to write God’s words.

prophet(s) ~ a person who hears God’s words and tells them to other people. Some prophets wrote books in the *Old Testament. Sometimes, they told about future events before those things happened.

purify/purification ~ to make something or someone *clean.

rebel ~ to oppose or to fight against a leader or a government.

redeemer of blood ~ a person who had the right and the responsibility to do certain acts on a person’s behalf, usually their closest relative. If a person murdered someone, the dead person’s redeemer of blood had the right to kill the *murderer.

reject ~ not to accept or not to believe in someone or something.

repent ~ to decide not to do bad things that you did before. To decide to do what God wants.

ritual ~ when people follow particular instructions in a particular order, this is called a ‘ritual’.

rope(s) ~ thick string.

Sabbath ~ the Sabbath was the 7th day of the week (Saturday) which was special to the *Jews. It was the day on which the people had to rest from work (Exodus 20:8-11).

sacred ~ special for God. ‘Sacred’ means that something is separate from other things, for God’s purposes only.

sacrifice(s) ~ a gift to God (or, to a false god). God gave the rules about sacrifices so that people could receive *blessing from him (Exodus 20:24). The *Jews killed animals as sacrifices. Also, the word means ‘to make a sacrifice’.

safe town(s) ~ a special town where a person could go if they had killed somebody by accident.

Saviour ~ Jesus, who saves us from the results of our *sins.

settle ~ to decide to stay in a place and to make a home there.

Sheol ~ a word that the *Israelites used to describe death. Another word for ‘the grave’.

shepherd(s) ~ a person who looks after sheep as their job.

sin ~ the nature of all people since Adam chose not to obey God. People’s lives are not acceptable to God because of sin. ‘Sins’ are states, attitudes and acts that are not acceptable to God. A person sins whenever that person is guilty of a sin.

sinner ~ someone who *sins.

sin offering ~ an *offering that God accepts in place of a *sinner’s *sin. The opportunity to give an *offering is God’s gift. In this way, a person can know that God forgives him or her.

slave(s) ~ a person who has to work hard for someone else. The *Egyptians forced the *Israelites to make bricks (Exodus chapter 5) and to build cities (Exodus 1:11). Also, the *Israelites had to work in the fields on behalf of the *Egyptians. But the *Egyptians allowed them to keep their own animals and to produce their own crops.

Spirit ~ the *Holy Spirit.

spiritual ~ a description of something that belongs to the spirit rather than to physical things.

spoils ~ things that soldiers take from their enemies after they have defeated them.

stand ~ an object that supports another object, for example, a lamp.

symbol(s)/symbolic ~ a thing that points to something else and reminds us of it, especially an idea or a quality. Something that is a symbol is called ‘symbolic’.

tassel(s) ~ a *bunch of threads that people tie together at the top. (Threads are thin pieces of material, often cotton. People use them to sew.)

trial ~ the time when a prisoner is in a legal court. The purpose of the trial is to decide whether the person is guilty of a crime.

tribe(s) ~ a group of *clans who live together and who have the same *ancestor.

trumpet(s) ~ a musical instrument that people blow.

unclean ~ in the *Jewish religion, an unclean person could not go near to *God’s Tent or into the *Israelites’ camp, depending on the type of *uncleanness. There is no human way to explain what was *clean or unclean. We know only because God has shown us, in the Bible.

uncleanness ~ the state of something that is *unclean.

unfaithful ~ a person is unfaithful if you cannot trust them. A wife or husband is unfaithful if they have sex with another person.

unintentional ~ when someone does something by accident, this is unintentional. They do not realise whether they are doing something wrong.

vine ~ a plant that grows *grapes.

vineyard(s) ~ a farm where people produce *grapes.

vision(s) ~ a dream that God gives to someone when that person is awake.

wine offering ~ an *offering of wine that the priests poured on the *altar.

worship ~ to give honour to God and to thank him. Sometimes, people worship false gods.

yeast ~ a substance that people use to make bread. It makes the bread rise.

Book List

Tokunboh Adeyemo (general editor) ~ Africa Bible Commentary ~ Zondervan

Pat Alexander (editor) ~ The Lion Encyclopedia of the Bible ~ Lion Publishing

Pat & David Alexander (editors) ~ The New Lion Handbook to the Bible ~ Lion Publishing

Ronald B Allen (general editor - Frank E Gaebelein) ~ The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Volume 2 ~ Zondervan

W H Bellinger, Jr. ~ New International Biblical Commentary, Leviticus, Numbers ~ Paternoster Press

D Guthrie & J A Motyer (editors) ~ New Bible Commentary (Third Edition) ~ Inter-Varsity Press

Walter Riggans (general editor, John C L Gibson) ~ The Daily Study Bible, Numbers ~ The Saint Andrew Press

Merrill C Tenney (general editor) ~ The Zondervan Pictorial Bible Dictionary ~ Zondervan

Gordon J Wenham (general editor, Professor D J Wiseman) ~ Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries, Numbers ~ Inter-Varsity Press

Warren W Wiersbe ~ Be Counted, Living a Life that Counts for God, An Old Testament Study – Numbers ~ Chariot Victor Publishing

Bible versions: Contemporary English Version, The Good News Bible, New Century Version, New International Version, The Amplified Bible

 

© 2009, Wycliffe Associates (UK)

This publication is written in EasyEnglish Level B (2800 words).

February 2009

Visit our website: www.easyenglish.info