The Old Testament Book of Numbers

In the Desert

An EasyEnglish Bible Version and Commentary (2800 word vocabulary) on the Book of Numbers

www.easyenglish.info

Marion Adams

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Words in boxes are from the Bible.

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

 

About the Book of Numbers

The first 5 books in the Bible are called the ‘5 Books of Moses’. The Book of Numbers is the 4th of these books. The *Hebrew name for these books is the ‘Torah’, which means ‘*Law’. These books are very important. They contain God’s instructions about how his people should live.

This book is called ‘Numbers’ because there are many lists of numbers in it. There are two *censuses (Numbers 1:1 to 4:49; Numbers chapter 26). These record the numbers of male *Israelites who were over 20 years old. These were all the men who could fight in a battle. Also, there is a list of men and boys over one month old from Levi’s *tribe. The men from Levi’s *tribe did not fight. They helped the priests. There are other lists, too (Numbers 7:10-83; 28:1 to 29:38; 31:32-52). But these lists are not the most important part of the book.

The *Hebrew name for this book is ‘In the *desert’. This name describes well what the book is about. In fact, the words ‘in the *desert’ are in the first sentence of the book in the *Hebrew language.

The book begins two years after the *Israelites had escaped from the country called Egypt. They had been *slaves there. They had made a camp in the Sinai *desert. God had given the *Law to Moses. They were preparing to go to the *Promised Land.

As they travelled, God was with them. He looked after them. He provided food and drink for them. But the *Israelites complained about life in the *desert. They did not trust God. They did not obey God. So God punished them. They wandered in the *desert for nearly 40 years. All the adults who had left Egypt died in the *desert, except Joshua and Caleb.

However, God did not take the *Promised Land away from the *Israelites. He gave it to their children, who had grown up in the *desert. The first *generation, the adults who had left Egypt, did not enter the *Promised Land. But the second *generation, their children, did enter the *Promised Land. God always does what he has promised.

When the book ends, this second *generation had reached the edge of the *Promised Land.

The book does not just record what happened in the *desert. Also, it contains instructions about how the *Israelites should *worship God. There is information about *purification, *sacrifices, and the duties of priests. Also, there are many lists of names and numbers.

The author of the book

Many people believe that Moses wrote the first 5 books in the Bible (the ‘Torah’, which means ‘*Law’). This includes the Book of Numbers. This is the traditional opinion. There are several reasons to believe this.

1. Moses recorded events that happened. He wrote about them. The *Old Testament records many times that he did this (for example, Numbers 33:1-2; also Exodus 17:14; 24:4; 34:27).

2. Moses could write well. He had received a good education. He had lived in the palace of the king of Egypt.

3. Moses was the people’s leader. He saw most of the events in the *desert.

4. The *New Testament records that Moses was the author of the ‘Torah’, the first 5 books of the Bible (for example, Matthew 19:8; John 5:46-47; Romans 10:5).

There are other opinions about who wrote the ‘Torah’ (the first 5 books in the Bible). Some writers think that several people wrote it. They think that some of these people were priests. They think that these people wrote it many centuries after Moses’ death. Probably, they would have used information that Moses provided. This information may have been what Moses wrote. It may have come from stories that people told about these events.

But the ‘Torah’ (the first 5 books in the Bible) is an accurate and true account of what the *Israelites did in the *desert. Also, it is an accurate and true record of the laws that God gave to Moses.

The structure of the book

The book is not one complete story with a beginning, middle and end. It contains many stories about events in the *desert. Also it contains lists, instructions, poems and *prophecies.

It may be easier to study this book if we divide it into three parts. This follows the *Israelites on their journey.

1. The *Israelites at the start of their journey (chapters 1-10).

2. The *Israelites travel through the *desert (chapters 11-20).

3. The *Israelites prepare to enter the *Promised Land (chapters 21-36).

The first part describes what happened at Sinai. The second part describes what happened in the *desert. This was near to a place called Kadesh. The third part describes what happened in the region next to the country called Canaan, the *Promised Land.

What does this book teach us about God?

This book teaches us some very important things about God.

1. God is with us always, if we are his people. He guides and protects us.

God guided the *Israelites by means of a cloud (Numbers 9:15-23). They carried the *Ark with them wherever they went. The *Ark showed them that God was with them always. He protected them from their enemies (Numbers 10:33-36).

2. God wants us to trust him.

God had chosen Moses as the *Israelites’ leader. But they opposed Moses many times. They complained about the food in the *desert (Numbers 11:4-6). They refused to enter the *Promised Land. They believed that the people there were stronger than them. They did not trust God to help them (Numbers chapters 13 and 14).

God loved them. But he had to discipline them (to teach or to control, sometimes by means of a punishment) (Numbers 14:26-35). God disciplines those people whom he loves (Hebrews 12:6).

3. There is only one real God. We must *worship him only.

God never allowed the *Israelites to *worship false gods (Numbers chapter 25).

4. God always *keeps his promises.

God had promised to give to the *Israelites their own land. He rescued them from the *Egyptians. He guided them through the *desert. They arrived at the *Promised Land. But they were afraid to enter it.

However, God did not take back his promise. Instead, he gave the *Promised Land to their children.

5. God is *holy.

God is different from people, whom he made. He is good completely. But all people are *sinful. *Sin is like dirt because it spoils our lives. *Sin makes us dirty inside, in our hearts and minds. In other words, it ruins our thoughts, our attitudes and our behaviour.

The *Israelites washed themselves in special ways before they *worshipped God. They made their bodies clean. They offered *sacrifices. They believed that the blood from these *sacrifices washed their *sins away. So they felt *clean inside their hearts. There were many special rules about how to *worship God. All these rules showed that God is *holy.

But we do not need to follow these special rules still. We do not need to kill animals as *sacrifices. God has given us a new way to come to him. That way is by means of his son, that is, Jesus *Christ. When people killed Jesus on a *cross, he became the *sacrifice for our *sins. This *sacrifice was for all people, for all time. Jesus’ blood washes our *sins away. When we believe in Jesus, God forgives our *sins. Jesus suffered the punishment for our *sins.

Jesus is *holy. When we believe in Jesus, God considers us *holy, too. We can come to God at any time, in any place. God is our friend because of what Jesus did.

Chapters 1-10: The *Israelites at the start of their journey

The *Israelites had camped near Sinai Mountain. They were preparing to travel to the *Promised Land. Before they left, God told Moses to do four things.

1. *Celebrate the *Passover (Numbers 9:1-14).

2. Count the soldiers (Numbers chapter 1).

3. Tell each *tribe where to camp round *God’s Tent (Numbers chapter 2).

4. Give duties to the priests (Numbers chapters 3 and 4).

This part of the book describes these four things. But the accounts are not in the order that these things happened. The events in chapters 7:1 to 9:15 happened before the events in chapters 1 to 6. But all these events happened during a period of less than 50 days (Numbers 1:1; 10:11).

Chapter 1

God’s command to Moses – Numbers 1:1-4

v1 The *LORD spoke to Moses. Moses was in *God’s Tent. The *Israelites were living in the Sinai *desert. It was the first day of the second month during the second year after they had left the country called Egypt.

The *LORD said, v2 ’Make a *census of all the *Israelites’ *clans and families. Register the name of every man v3 who is 20 years old or more. Register every man who can fight in the army. You and Aaron will count them, group by group. v4 Ask one man from each *tribe to help you. These men must be the leaders of their *clans.’

Verse 1 ‘The *LORD spoke to Moses.’ This is a very important sentence. It appears over 80 times in this book. God had chosen Moses to be the *Israelites’ leader. God spoke to Moses. Then, Moses told the people what God had said. Also, Moses spoke to God on behalf of the people.

*God’s Tent was a very special tent. God had told Moses how to build it (Exodus 25:8 to 27:21). The *Israelites took it with them on their journey. In the *desert, it was the place where they *worshipped God. It showed them that God was always among them.

It had two rooms. A curtain separated these rooms. The bigger room was called ‘the *Holy Place’. The smaller room was called ‘the *Most Holy Place’. The *Ark was inside this room. The *Ark contained two pieces of stone. God had written his *Law on these pieces of stone (Exodus 34:1). We shall learn more about *God’s Tent in Numbers 9:15-23.

‘It was the first day of the second month during the second year after they had left the country called Egypt’ (verse 1). This verse tells us clearly when these events happened. It reminds us that we are reading about real people and real events. Many writers say that the people left Egypt during the first half of the 13th century *BC. BC is the period of time before Jesus was born.

Verses 2-3 God told Moses to count all the men who were able to fight. This was the purpose of the *census. Also, it showed that every person mattered to God. Moses’ brother Aaron could help him count.

The *Promised Land, which was the country called Canaan, was not empty. The people who lived there would fight the *Israelites. So *Israel needed a strong army.

Moses and Aaron had to count everyone group by group. Families were the smallest groups. There were several people in a family. A *clan consisted of several families. A *tribe consisted of several *clans. The nation called *Israel consisted of 12 *tribes.

Verse 4 The *census was a very big responsibility. One leader from each *tribe had to help Moses and Aaron. It is important for leaders to share responsibilities.

God chooses the helpers – Numbers 1:5-19

v5 ‘These are the names of the men who must help you.

Elizur, Shedeur’s son, from Reuben’s *tribe.

v6 Shelumiel, Zurishaddai’s son, from Simeon’s *tribe.

v7 Nahshon, Amminadab’s son, from Judah’s *tribe.

v8 Nethanel, Zuar’s son, from Issachar’s *tribe.

v9 Eliab, Helon’s son, from Zebulun’s *tribe.

v10 Elishama, Ammihud’s son, from the *tribe of Ephraim, Joseph’s son.

Gamaliel, Pedahzur’s son, from the *tribe of Manasseh, Joseph’s son.

v11 Abidan, Gideoni’s son, from Benjamin’s *tribe.

v12 Ahiezer, Ammishaddai’s son, from Dan’s *tribe.

v13 Pagiel, Ocran’s son, from Asher’s *tribe.

v14 Eliasaph, Deuel’s son, from Gad’s *tribe.

v15 Ahira, Enan’s son, from Naphtali’s *tribe.’

v16 God chose these men from among the people. They were the leaders of their *ancestors’ *tribes. They were *Israel’s leaders.

v17 Moses, Aaron and these leaders v18 asked the people to meet together that same day. They registered all the people by *clans and families. They recorded the names of all the men who were 20 years old or older. They counted each one. v19 They obeyed the *LORD’s command to Moses. In this way, Moses counted the people when they were in the Sinai *desert.

Verses 4-9 This list reminds us that this is a book about history. These are the names of real people, with their fathers’ names and their *tribes’ names.

The *Israelites’ *ancestors were Jacob’s sons (Genesis 35:23-26). Each of Jacob’s sons started a *tribe. Each son’s name became the name of his *descendants’ *tribe.

In this list, two half *tribes, Ephraim and Manasseh, are there on behalf of Joseph’s *tribe. Levi’s *tribe had a special job to do. So Moses counted them separately (Numbers 3:14-39).

Names were very important to the *Israelites. They chose names carefully. If you knew a person’s name, you knew something about their character.

Apart from the names of the *tribes, there are 24 names in this list. Many of these names have one of the *Hebrew names for God inside them. These *Hebrew names are ‘El’ (God), ‘Shaddai’ (All-Powerful) and ‘Zur’ (Rock). For example, Elishama means ‘My God listens’. Zurishaddai means ‘The All-Powerful God is my Rock (security).’ Often, the *Israelites said that God is like a rock. A rock can be a shelter for people. It can provide security. It can protect people. God does these things for his people.

6 of these names, like Abi (My Father) and Ahi (My Brother), also refer to God. God is like a father and a brother to us.

These names show us that God was very important to the *Israelites. They were very aware of him.

The *census of *Israel’s soldiers – Numbers 1:20-46

v20-v46 They counted the men from each *tribe who were 20 years old or older. These men were able to fight in *Israel’s army.

46 500 men from the *tribe of Jacob’s oldest son, Reuben.

59 300 men from Simeon’s *tribe.

45 650 men from Gad’s *tribe.

74 600 men from Judah’s *tribe.

54 400 men from Issachar’s *tribe.

57 400 men from Zebulun’s *tribe.

40 500 men from the *tribe of Ephraim, Joseph’s son.

32 200 men from the *tribe of Manasseh, Joseph’s son.

35 400 men from Benjamin’s *tribe.

62 700 men from Dan’s *tribe.

41 500 men from Asher’s *tribe.

53 400 men from Naphtali’s *tribe.

Moses, Aaron and the 12 leaders counted all these men. They registered each man’s name by his *clan and family. The total number of men was 603 550.

Verses 20-46 There were 603 550 strong, healthy men who were 20 years old or older. This number does not include women, girls, boys under 20 years old, old people or ill people. It does not include Levi’s *tribe. Levi’s *tribe were not soldiers. They had a different job to do. So Moses counted them later.

This means that there were between two and five million people in the camp. This was a very large group of people.

God gives a special job to Levi’s *tribe – Numbers 1:47-54

v47 Moses did not count the families in Levi’s *tribe when he registered the other *tribes. v48 The *LORD had said to him, v49 ‘Do not include Levi’s *tribe in this *census of the *Israelites. v50 Instead, Levi’s *tribe must be responsible for *God’s Tent. They must look after everything that is in it. They must take care of it. They must camp round it. And they must carry it whenever you move the *Israelites’ camp. v51 Whenever you leave a place, Levi’s *tribe must take apart *God’s Tent. When you arrive at a new place, Levi’s *tribe must put *God’s Tent together again. If anyone from another *tribe comes near to *God’s Tent, that person will die. v52 All the other *tribes must camp in their own groups, with their own flags. v53 But Levi’s *tribe must camp round *God’s Tent. They must look after it. They must not let people go near to it. If people go near to it, I shall be very angry with the *Israelites.’

v54 The *Israelites did everything that God ordered Moses to do.

Verses 47-54 God did not want Levi’s *tribe to be soldiers. They had a different job. It was a very important job. They had to look after *God’s Tent.

Levi was Jacob’s third son (Genesis 29:34). Levi had three sons. Their names were Gershon, Kohath and Merari (Genesis 46:11). Moses and Aaron were Kohath’s *descendants (Numbers 3:14-24). Aaron was the first *High Priest. The *High Priest had the most important duties in *God’s Tent. Aaron’s sons were priests. They helped Aaron. Men from Levi’s *tribe helped the priests to do their duties. The *High Priest was their leader. They had to carry the parts of *God’s Tent whenever the *Israelites travelled. Men from Levi’s *tribe had to put the parts together again when the *Israelites stopped to camp.

Also, Levi’s *tribe had to look after *God’s Tent. It was the most important place in the camp. God is everywhere. But he was in *God’s Tent in a special way. The priests *worshipped God there. It was a very *holy place. The *Israelites had to respect it. If they came too near to it, they would die.

God is good completely. But every person has *sinned. So, in order to come close to God, the *Israelites had to offer *sacrifices.

But it is different for us. *Christians can be close to God. This is not because we do good things. It is because Jesus, God’s son, suffered the punishment for our *sins on our behalf. Jesus was the perfect *sacrifice. So we do not need to offer *sacrifices of animals. Jesus’ blood takes away all our *sins and makes us *clean inside our hearts. We must confess our *sins to God, so that he will forgive us. We must believe that Jesus died on our behalf. And we must invite him into our lives. We can come and talk to God at any time. God invites us to come close to him! (Hebrews chapter 10).

Only Levi’s *tribe served God in his *holy Tent. They belonged to God in a special way. But, because of Jesus’ *sacrifice, all *Christians belong to God in a special way, like priests (1 Peter 2:5).

But the events in this book happened many centuries before Jesus came. So Levi’s *tribe had to make sure that the *Israelites respected *God’s Tent.

The people did everything that God wanted (verse 54). They obeyed him completely. But they did not obey him afterwards. The rest of the book emphasises this.

Chapter 2

The position of the *tribes in the camp – Numbers 2:1-34

v1 The *LORD gave instructions to Moses and Aaron v2 about how to set up the *Israelites’ camp. The *LORD said:

‘Each man must camp under his *tribe’s flag, and by his own family’s flag, too. *God’s Tent will be in the middle of the *tribes’ camps. But the *tribes must not camp close to it.

The three *tribes in Judah’s group

v3 Judah’s *tribe must camp by their flag to the east of *God’s Tent. The *tribes that walk with Judah’s *tribe must camp there, too. The leader of Judah’s *tribe is Nahshon, Amminadab’s son. v4 There are 74 600 soldiers in his group.

v5 Issachar’s *tribe must camp on one side of Judah’s *tribe. Their leader is Nethanel, Zuar’s son. v6 There are 54 400 soldiers in his group.

v7 Zebulun’s *tribe must camp on the other side of Judah’s *tribe. Their leader is Eliab, Helon’s son. v8 There are 57 400 soldiers in his group.

v9 All three groups in Judah’s camp total 186 400 soldiers. They must set out first.

The three *tribes in Reuben’s group

v10 Reuben’s *tribe must camp by their flag to the south of *God’s Tent. The *tribes that walk with Reuben’s *tribe must camp there, too. The leader of Reuben’s *tribe is Elizur, Shedeur’s son. v11 There are 46 500 soldiers in his group.

v12 Simeon’s *tribe must camp on one side of Reuben’s *tribe. The leader of Simeon’s *tribe is Shelumiel, Zurishaddai’s son. v13 There are 59 300 soldiers in his group.

v14 Gad’s *tribe must camp on the other side of Reuben’s *tribe. The leader of Gad’s *tribe is Eliasaph, Deuel’s son. v15 There are 45 650 soldiers in his group.

v16 All three groups in Reuben’s camp total 151 450 soldiers. They must set out second, after the three groups in Judah’s camp.

The camp of Levi’s *tribe and *God’s tent

v17 Levi’s *tribe must set out behind Reuben’s *tribe. They must walk between the first two groups and the last two groups of *tribes. They must walk in the same order as they camped. They must carry *God’s Tent and their own flags.

The three *tribes in Ephraim’s group

v18 Ephraim’s *tribe must camp by their flag to the west of *God’s Tent. The *tribes that walk with Ephraim’s *tribe must camp there, too. The leader of Ephraim’s *tribe is Elishama, Ammihud’s son. v19 There are 40 500 soldiers in his group.

v20 Manasseh’s *tribe must camp on one side of Ephraim’s *tribe. The leader of Manasseh’s *tribe is Gamaliel, Pedahzur’s son. v21 There are 32 200 soldiers in his group.

v22 Benjamin’s *tribe must camp on the other side of Ephraim’s *tribe. The leader of Benjamin’s *tribe is Abidan, Gideoni’s son. v23 There are 35 400 soldiers in his group.

v24 All three groups in Ephraim’s camp total 108 100 soldiers. They must set out third, behind Reuben’s camp.

The three *tribes in Dan’s group

v25 Dan’s *tribe must camp by their flag to the north of *God’s Tent. The *tribes that walk with them must camp there, too. The leader of Dan’s *tribe is Ahiezer, Ammishaddai’s son. v26 There are 62 700 soldiers in his group.

v27 Asher’s *tribe must camp on one side of Dan’s *tribe. The leader of Asher’s *tribe is Pagiel, Ocran’s son. v28 There are 41 500 soldiers in his group.

v29 Naphtali’s *tribe must camp on the other side of Dan’s *tribe. The leader of Naphtali’s *tribe is Ahira, Enan’s son. v30 There are 53 400 soldiers in his group.

v31 All three groups in Dan’s camp total 157 600 soldiers. They must set out last with their flags.’

The arrangement of the camp

v32 Moses and his helpers had counted all the *Israelite men who were able to fight. They had counted them in groups. The total number of soldiers was 603 550. v33 But they did not register the men in Levi’s *tribe. The *LORD had ordered Moses not to do this.

v34 So the *Israelites did everything that the *LORD had told Moses to do. They arranged their camp in the way that the *LORD wanted. Each *tribe camped under its own flag. When they set out, each man walked with his own *clan and his own family.

Verses 1-34 God told Moses and Aaron how to arrange the *Israelites’ camp. So each person knew the exact place where they must put their tent.

The *tribes formed a square with *God’s Tent in the middle. In the 13th century *BC, the army of Egypt camped in a square. (BC is the period of time before Jesus was born.) The king’s tent was in the middle. In the *Israelites’ camp, *God’s Tent was in the middle, because God was *Israel’s king.

Levi’s *tribe camped in the space between the other *tribes and *God’s Tent. They looked after it. They did not allow the other *Israelites to come too close to *God’s Tent.

The *tribes camped in four groups. There were three *tribes in each group. The *tribes of Judah, Reuben, Ephraim and Dan commanded one group each. Each group had its own flag. They would carry this flag in a battle. Also, each *tribe had its own flag. There was a *Jewish tradition that the *tribes’ flags were the colours of the 12 jewels (precious stones) in the *High Priest’s special clothes (Exodus 28:15-24). But there is nothing in the Bible about the colours of the flags.

It seems the *tribes had to camp in order of importance. East was the most important position. It was on the same side as the entrance to *God’s Tent. So the largest and most important group of *tribes (Judah’s group) looked after it. Reuben’s group of *tribes camped on the south side. Ephraim’s group camped on the west side. Lastly, Dan’s group camped on the north side.

Whenever the *Israelites travelled, the *tribes had to walk in this same order. Levi’s *tribe carried the parts of *God’s Tent. They walked between the other *tribes. *God’s Tent should have reminded them that God was with them always. When they camped, God was with them. When they travelled, God travelled with them.

God told Moses and Aaron to arrange the camp in a military way. Every time the *Israelites set off, they marched as an army. They had to be ready to fight for the *Promised Land.

Chapter 3

Aaron’s sons – Numbers 3:1-4

v1 The *LORD spoke to Moses on Sinai mountain. This is the family of Aaron and Moses at that time. v2 Aaron had four sons. Nadab was the oldest son. The other sons were Abihu, Eleazar and Ithamar.

v3 Aaron *anointed them. And he ordained them (gave them authority to work as priests). They served God in *God’s Tent.

v4 But Nadab and Abihu fell down and died in front of the *LORD. This happened when they offered unholy fire (see note below) to the *LORD in the Sinai *desert. They had no children. So only Eleazar and Ithamar worked as priests while their father Aaron was alive.

Verses 1-4 Aaron was the *High Priest (Leviticus chapter 8). All his sons were priests. But Nadab and Abihu did something that was very wrong. God punished them. He sent fire to burn them until they were dead. We know this because this story is in Leviticus 10:1-3, too.

However, it is not certain what ‘unholy fire’ means. Priests sometimes burned *incense in *God’s Tent. Nadab and Abihu were burning *incense when they died. The fire was ‘unholy’ because God had not ordered them to offer it (Leviticus 10:1). So they were opposing God on purpose.

Nadab and Abihu had not obeyed God. They were his priests. They had neglected to serve him properly. They had not shown honour to God. This teaches us something very important. God loves us. He is our friend. But also he is the maker of everything that exists. He is *holy completely. We must remember this. We must show honour to God always.

The duties of Levi’s *tribe – Numbers 3:5-13

v5 The *LORD said to Moses, v6 ‘Bring Levi’s *tribe to Aaron the priest. They must help him. v7-8 They must work for him and all the *Israelites in *God’s Tent. They will be responsible for everything in *God’s Tent. They will take care of it. They will carry on these duties on behalf of the *Israelites. v9 Give Levi’s *tribe to Aaron and his sons. So they will be the *Israelites who belong completely to him. v10 Appoint Aaron and his sons as priests. Anyone else who tries to do the priests’ duties will die.’

v11-13 Also, the *LORD said to Moses, ‘I have chosen Levi’s *tribe from the other *Israelites. Levi’s *tribe will belong to me in a special way. I had decided that the *Israelites’ *first-born sons would belong to me. Also, I had decided that all their *first-born male animals would belong to me. I made this decision when I let the *Egyptians’ *first-born sons die. But now I have decided that Levi’s *tribe will belong to me, instead of the *Israelites’ *first-born sons. Levi’s *tribe are mine. I am the *LORD!’

Verses 5-10 Aaron and his sons were the priests. The rest of Levi’s *tribe acted as their servants. These servants helped the priests to look after *God’s Tent. They had two main duties. Whenever the *Israelites travelled, Levi’s *tribe had to take down *God’s Tent. Then they had to carry the parts as they travelled. This was heavy work!

Also, they had to look after *God’s Tent always. If any of the other *Israelites came too near to *God’s Tent, that person would die. Then God would not punish all the *Israelites because one person had not obeyed him (see Numbers 1:53; 16:40; 25:8).

Verses 11-13 Before they escaped into the *desert, the *Israelites were *slaves in the country called Egypt. Moses had asked the king of Egypt to let the *Israelites go free. But the king had refused. So God had allowed 10 bad things to happen to the *Egyptians (Exodus chapters 7-11). For example, their main river had changed into blood. And many insects had eaten their crops. Finally, all the *Egyptians’ *first-born sons had died. But all the *Israelites’ *first-born sons had remained alive. When this happened, the king of Egypt let the *Israelites go free.

The *Israelites’ *first-born male animals and also their *first-born sons belonged to God. They had to redeem both their animals and their sons (Exodus 13:1-2; chapters 11 to 13; 22:29-30; 34:19-20). (To redeem means to buy back by means of a *sacrifice or a payment).

But when God was giving the *Law to Moses, the *Israelites made an *idol. They *worshipped it. Only Levi’s *tribe were loyal to God (Exodus chapter 32). So God wanted Levi’s *tribe to serve him, instead of the other *Israelites’ *first-born sons. And so Levi’s *tribe served God instead of the *Israelites’ *first-born sons.

Moses counts Levi’s *tribe – Numbers 3:14-39

v14 In the Sinai *desert, the *LORD spoke to Moses. The *LORD said, v15 ‘Count Levi’s *tribe by *clans and families. Register every male who is a month old or older.’ v16 Moses obeyed the *LORD. So Moses counted Levi’s *tribe.

v17 Levi’s sons were Gershon, Kohath and Merari. They had become the leaders of their own *clans. v18 Gershon’s sons were Libni and Shimei. v19 Kohath’s sons were Amram, Izhar, Hebron and Uzziel. v20 Merari’s sons were Mahli and Mushi. They were Levi’s sons and grandsons. They had become the leaders of the *clans of Levi’s *tribe.

v21 There were two families in Gershon’s *clan. They were the families of Libni and Shimei. v22 They had 7500 males who were one month or older. v23 Gershon’s *clan had to camp on the west side of *God’s Tent. v24 Their leader was Eliasaph, Lael’s son. v25 Their duties were to look after *God’s Tent, its outside cover and the curtain over the entrance. v26 There was a yard outside *God’s Tent. This yard was round the *altar. There were curtains that hung round this yard. Gershon’s *clan were responsible for these curtains. Also, this *clan was responsible for the *ropes and the curtain for the entrance to the yard. And they also looked after everything else that had a relationship with these things.

v27 There were four families in Kohath’s *clan. They were the families of Amram, Izhar, Hebron and Uzziel. v28 They had 8600 males who were one month old or older. Kohath’s *clan had to look after the objects inside *God’s Tent. v29 Kohath’s *clan had to camp on the south side of *God’s Tent. v30 Their leader was Elizaphan, Uzziel’s son. v31 They had to look after the *Ark, the table for the special bread and the *stand for the lamp. They also looked after the *altars. They were responsible for the objects that the priests used to *worship God in the *Holy Place. Also they were responsible for the curtain in front of the *Most Holy Place. And they also looked after everything else that had a relationship with these things.

v32 Eleazar, Aaron’s son, was the chief leader of Levi’s *tribe. He governed those people who looked after *God’s Tent.

v33 There were two families in Merari’s *clan. They were the families of Mahli and Mushi. v34 They had 6200 males who were one month old or older. v35 Merari’s *clan had to camp on the north side of *God’s Tent. Their leader was Zuriel, Abihail’s son. v36 They had to look after the *frames of *God’s Tent and all the things that supported it. v37 Also, they were responsible for the poles, bases and all the other objects in the yard.

v38 Moses, Aaron and Aaron’s sons had to camp in front of *God’s Tent, on the east side. They had to carry out duties in *God’s Tent on behalf of the *Israelites. Anyone else who tried to do the priests’ work would die.

v39 So Moses and Aaron obeyed the *LORD. They counted Levi’s *tribe by their *clans. There were 22 000 males in Levi’s *tribe who were one month old or older.

Verses 14-39 God told Moses to count all the males in Levi’s *tribe who were one month old or older. The men from Levi’s *tribe would help the priests. So the members of that *tribe belonged to God in a special way. He had accepted them to belong to him instead of the *Israelites’ *first-born sons (Numbers 3:11-13).

Again, Moses did what God asked him to do. Moses counted Levi’s *tribe by *clan. He told each *clan where to camp.

The priests camped on the east side of *God’s Tent (verse 38). Kohath’s *clan camped on the south side of *God’s Tent (verse 29). Kohath’s *clan was the biggest group. They had a very important job. They were responsible for the special furniture in *God’s Tent.

Gershon’s *clan camped on the west side of *God’s Tent. They were responsible for the covers, curtains and *ropes.

Merari’s *clan was the smallest group. They camped on the north side of *God’s Tent. They had to look after all the parts of the Tent’s *frame and the things in the yard that surrounded it. Whenever the *Israelites travelled, each *clan had to carry their own parts of *God’s Tent.

Moses counts the *Israelites’ *first-born sons – Numbers 3:40-51

v40 The *LORD said to Moses, ‘Now count the *Israelites’ *first-born sons. Register all those who are one month old or older. Write their names in a list. v41 The *Israelites’ *first-born sons belong to me. But instead, I shall accept the males who are in Levi’s *tribe. They will be mine. I am the *LORD! Also, I shall accept the animals that Levi’s *tribe own, instead of the *Israelites’ *first-born animals.’

v42 Moses obeyed the *LORD. He counted the *Israelites’ *first-born sons. v43 He registered the names of all the *first-born males of one month old or older. There were 22 273 names in this list. v44 The *LORD said to Moses, v45 ‘Give Levi’s *tribe to me instead of the *Israelites’ *first-born sons. Give to me the animals that Levi’s *tribe own, instead of the *Israelites’ animals. Levi’s *tribe will belong to me. I am the *LORD! v46 There are 273 more *first-born *Israelites than males in Levi’s *tribe. You must buy the extra *Israelites from me. v47 You must collect five pieces of silver for each *Israelite. The pieces of silver must be the official weight (see note). v48 You must give this money to Aaron and his sons.’

v49 So Moses collected the money for the extra 273 *first-born sons. v50 He collected 1365 pieces of silver from them. The pieces of silver were the official weight. v51 Then, he gave the money to Aaron and his sons, as the *LORD had ordered him.

Verses 40-51 The *first-born *Israelites belonged to God (see note on verses 11-13). A person who belongs to someone is a slave. So these *first-born *Israelites were really God’s slaves. But God had decided to accept the males from Levi’s *tribe instead of the *first-born *Israelites. However, there were 273 more *first-born *Israelites than males from Levi’s *tribe. So Moses had to buy these 273 *first-born *Israelites from God.

Moses had to collect five pieces of silver for each *first-born *Israelite. This was the price of a slave at that time. It was a lot of money. Many people earned less than one piece of silver in a month. We do not know who paid the five pieces of silver. Perhaps Moses collected it from all the *first-born *Israelites. Perhaps just the 273 males paid it. But again, Moses obeyed God.

At that time, people used pieces of silver for money. But the pieces of silver were not all the same weight. The ‘official weight’ (verse 47) was the same weight as a piece of silver that people kept in *God’s Tent. The weight of this piece of silver was about 11.5 *grams. So the pieces of silver that people paid for their *first-born sons had to weigh about 11.5 *grams. Still the *Jews today make this payment to redeem their *first-born sons. (To redeem means to buy back by means of a *sacrifice or a payment.)

Chapter 4

The duties of Kohath’s *clan – Numbers 4:1-20

v1 The *LORD spoke to Moses and Aaron. He said, v2-3 ‘Kohath’s *clan is part of Levi’s *tribe. Prepare a list of the men in their families. Register all those men who are between 30 and 50 years old. Only count those men who can work in *God’s Tent.

v4 Kohath’s *clan will be responsible for the most *sacred objects that people use to *worship in *God’s Tent. v5 When the *Israelites are ready to move the camp, Aaron and his sons must go into *God’s Tent. They must take down the curtain that is in front of the *Ark. They must cover the *Ark with it. v6 They must put a special cover of leather over this. They must put a blue cloth on the top. Then they must put in place the poles that they use to carry the *Ark.

v7 Next, Aaron and his sons must cover the table for the bread that they offer to the *LORD. They must use a blue cloth. They must put on it the plates, dishes, bowls and jugs. These are the jugs for the wine that they offer to the *LORD. Some bread must be on the table always. v8 They must put a red cloth over all of this. They must put a special cover of leather on the top. Then they must put in place the poles that they use to carry the table.

v9 They must cover the *stand for the lamp with a blue cloth. They must cover all the lamps, trays, holders for oil and snuffers. (A snuffer is a tool. People use it to cover a lamp so that the flame disappears.) v10 They must wrap the *stand and its equipment in a special cover of leather. Then they must put it on a *frame to carry it.

v11 They must put a blue cloth over the *altar of gold. They must put a special cover of leather on the top. They must put in place the poles that they use to carry the *altar. v12 Then Aaron and his sons must take all the objects that people use to *worship in *God’s Tent. They must wrap the objects in a blue cloth. They must put a special cover of leather over them. Then they must put the objects in a *frame to carry them.

v13 They must remove the ashes from the *altar of *bronze. They must put a purple cloth over it. v14 On the cloth, they must put all the equipment that people use at the *altar. This includes the pans for the fire, the forks for the meat, the shovels (a type of tool) and the bowls. They must put a special cover of leather over it. Then they must put in place the poles that they use to carry the *altar.

v15 When the camp is ready to move, the men from Kohath’s *clan must be ready to carry all these things. But they must wait until Aaron and his sons have covered all the *sacred objects. The members of Kohath’s *clan must not touch the *sacred objects. They will die if they touch the *sacred objects. These are the duties of Kohath’s *clan. They must carry the *sacred objects whenever the *Israelites travel.

v16 Aaron’s son, Eleazar the priest, must look after the oil for the lamps and the *incense. He must look after the grain that people offer to God. Also, he must look after the oil that the priests use to *anoint people. He is responsible for *God’s Tent and everything that is in it.’

v17 The *LORD said to Moses and Aaron, v18-19 ‘Do not cause the end of Kohath’s *clan. Do not let its members die. This will happen if they come near to the *sacred objects. So Aaron and his sons must go into *God’s Tent with Kohath’s *clan to prevent this. They must tell each man what to do and what to carry. v20 But the men from Kohath’s *clan must not go into *God’s Tent in order to look at the *sacred objects. If the men from Kohath’s *clan just glance at the *sacred objects, they will die.’

Verses 1-3 There were three groups of families in Levi’s *tribe. These were Gershon’s *clan, Kohath’s *clan and Merari’s *clan. Each *clan had different duties. The priests told them what to do.

Moses counted all the men in Levi’s *tribe who were between 30 and 50 years old. These men had to work in *God’s Tent and in the yard that surrounded it. They had to take all the parts down and to carry them whenever the camp moved.

Verses 4-6 Moses counted Kohath’s *clan first. They were responsible for the most *sacred objects in *God’s Tent. But the priests had to cover these *sacred objects before Kohath’s *clan saw them. Only priests could look at the *sacred objects. Anyone else would die if they looked at the *sacred objects.

The most *sacred object was the *Ark. There were two rooms in *God’s Tent. The *Ark was in the smaller room. This room was called the *Most Holy Place.

A curtain divided the smaller room from the larger room. The larger room was called the *Holy Place. The priests wrapped the *Ark in this curtain. They put a cover of leather over this. The *Hebrew word that we translate as ‘leather’ means ‘the skin of an animal’. But we do not know to which type of animal the skin belonged. Experts think that it was probably an unusual animal.

Lastly, the priests wrapped the *Ark in a blue cloth. Probably, the colour blue reminded the people of heaven (see Exodus 24:10).

There were rings on the *Ark. The priests put poles through these rings. When the camp travelled, four men lifted these poles onto their shoulders. They carried the *Ark in front of all the *Israelites as they marched. This showed that God was leading them.

Verses 7-15 Next, the priests wrapped all the *sacred objects that were in the *Holy Place.

There was a special table in the *Holy Place. There were 12 loaves of bread on it (see Leviticus 24:5-9). This was the number of the *tribes of *Israel. The loaves showed that God was with all the *Israelites. On every *Sabbath, the *High Priest took away the old loaves. He put new loaves on the table. There was bread on the table always. This showed that God was with his people always.

The priests covered the special table first. Next, they covered the *stand for the lamps. This *stand was very important. We shall write more about it in the notes on chapter 8:1-4. Also, they covered the *altar of gold. The priests did not *sacrifice animals to burn on this *altar. Instead, they burned special *incense.

Then, they covered the *altar on which the priests burned *sacrifices of animals. Also, they wrapped all the things that they used with the table, the *stand for the lamps and the *altars.

The priests had to prepare everything so that it was ready for Kohath’s *clan. The men from that *clan had to carry these objects on their shoulders. The poles made it easier for the men to move all the objects. They carried the *sacred objects on poles so that they did not touch them.

Verse 16 Aaron’s older son, Eleazar, had a very important job. He had to make sure that everyone obeyed these instructions. He told everyone what to do in *God’s Tent. Also, he carried the different oils, the *incense and the grain for the *sacrifices.

Verses 17-20 Again, God warned Moses and Aaron. Only the priests could look at these *sacred objects. If anyone from Kohath’s *clans saw the *sacred objects, they would die.

God is *holy completely. When we *worship him, we must remember this. We can come near to God only by means of Jesus, God’s Son. Jesus became the only *sacrifice for our *sins that God accepts. When we *believe in Jesus, God allows us to come near to him. In fact, he invites us to come near to him!

The duties of Gershon’s *clan – Numbers 4:21-28

v21 The *LORD spoke to Moses. The *LORD said, v22-23 ‘Also prepare a list of the men in the families that belong to Gershon’s *clan. Register all the men who are between 30 and 50 years old. Only count those men who can work in *God’s Tent. v24 These are the duties of Gershon’s *clan. v25 The men from this *clan must carry *God’s Tent, its curtains and its two outer covers. They must carry the curtain for the entrance v26 and the curtains of the yard that surrounds *God’s Tent. Also, they must carry the curtain and *ropes for the entrance to the yard. The men from Gershon’s *clan are responsible for all the equipment that belongs with these curtains. They must look after all these things. v27 Moses and Aaron will tell them what to do and where to carry these things. v28 These are the duties of Gershon’s *clan in *God’s Tent. Aaron’s son, Ithamar the priest, must direct them in this work.’

Verses 21-28 Gershon’s *clan was responsible for all the curtains and *ropes in *God’s Tent. This included the curtains that surrounded the *Most Holy Place and the *Holy Place. Also, it included the outer covers of leather.

Gershon’s *clan was responsible for the curtains and equipment of the yard, too. God allowed the men from Gershon’s *clan to touch these things. But the priests, especially Ithamar, watched them and gave them instructions.

The duties of Merari’s *clan – Numbers 4:29-33

v29-30 The *LORD said to Moses, ‘Count the men who are in the families that belong to Merari’s *clan. Register all the men who are between 30 and 50 years old. Only count those men who can work in *God’s Tent. v31 These are the duties of Merari’s *clan. The men from this *clan must carry the *frames of *God’s Tent and its bars, poles and bases. v32 They must carry the poles, bases, pegs (like thick nails – see note below) and *ropes of the yard that surrounds *God’s Tent. Merari’s *clan is responsible for all the equipment that belongs with these things. Each man in Merari’s *clan is responsible for particular things. Tell each man which things he must carry. v33 These are the duties of Merari’s *clan in *God’s Tent. Aaron’s son, Ithamar, will direct them.’

Verses 29-33 Merari’s *clan was the smallest *clan in Levi’s *tribe. Their duties may not seem as important as the duties of Kohath’s and Gershon’s *clans. Merari’s *clans were responsible for the equipment that supported *God’s Tent. This included the pegs. The pegs were like thick nails. People hammered the pegs in to the ground. They tied *rope round each peg. They attached the other end of the *rope to the corner of the tent. This held the tent’s cover in place over the *frame.

If any of this equipment broke, *God’s Tent would fall down. The *Israelites needed all of it, even the smallest parts. So the tasks that God gave to Merari’s *clan were as important as the other *clans’ tasks. The *clans worked together to serve God. *Christians must work together to serve God, too. Every task that we do for God is necessary. God has important work for every *Christian to do.

Moses counts Levi’s *tribe again – Numbers 4:34-49

v34-49 Moses, Aaron and the leaders of the people obeyed the *LORD’s command. They counted Levi’s *tribe by *clans and families. They registered all the men who were between 30 and 50 years old. These men were able to work in *God’s Tent. There were 2750 men from Kohath’s *clan. There were 2630 men from Gershon’s *clan. There were 3200 men from Merari’s *clan. This made a total of 8580 men. They had duties to serve and to carry *God’s Tent. Moses, Aaron and the leaders told each man what duties he had to do. This is what the *LORD had told Moses to do.

Verses 34-49 In this second *census of Levi’s *tribe, Moses and his helpers counted the men who could work in *God’s Tent. The beginning and end of this passage emphasises again that Moses and the leaders obeyed God. However, later in the book, we shall read about how the *Israelites did not obey God.

Chapter 5

*Unclean people – Numbers 5:1-4

v1 The *LORD spoke to Moses. v2-3 He told Moses to speak to the *Israelites. He said, ‘Give these commands to them. Tell them to send away anyone who has an infectious disease of the skin, or a *bodily discharge. (‘Infectious’ means the disease can spread from one person to another.) Those people must leave the camp. Tell the *Israelites to send away from the camp anyone who has touched a dead body. Deal in this manner with both males and females. I live among my people now. So their camp must be *clean.’ v4 The *Israelites obeyed the instructions that the *LORD had given to Moses. They sent these *unclean people away from the camp.

Verses 1-4 In *Old Testament times, it was not proper for an *unclean person to enter a holy place. It was not proper for an *unclean person to mix with other people. In the camp, people might be unkind to a person with an infectious disease of the skin. ‘Infectious’ means the disease can spread from one person to another. So people with infectious diseases of the skin lived together outside the camp, where they would be safe. Also, the people inside the camp would be safe, because the disease would not spread. ‘Outside’ meant at the edge of the camp. They lived in caves or in tents there.

Everyone was *unclean sometimes. There were many reasons why a person was *unclean. It did not mean just that the person needed to wash their hands or body. Leviticus chapter 15 and Numbers chapter 19 describe the laws about this. For example:

·  A person became *unclean if they had a disease of the skin. They might give this disease to another person.

·  A person became *unclean if blood or other liquid came out of the sex parts of their bodies. A disease might have caused this. Also, women were *unclean during the time of the month when they were bleeding.

·  A person who touched a dead human body was *unclean for a week.

God was living among the *Israelites in a special way, in *God’s Tent. Anyone who came near to *God’s Tent had to be *clean. God is not like a man. He is *holy completely.

There were different ways that people became *unclean. So there were different rules about this. Some people who were *unclean had to separate themselves from the rest of the camp. Other people had to wash in a special way.

Today, people do not need to follow these rules in order for God to accept them. Everything changed when Jesus came. He touched people who had diseases of the skin. He cured them. He touched dead people and they became alive again (for example, Luke 17:12-19; Luke 8:40-56).

However, people who do not *believe in Jesus are *unclean because of their *sins. They cannot come near to God. The only way to come near to God is by means of Jesus. We must believe that Jesus died as a *sacrifice for us. If we *repent, his blood cleans us from all our *sins (1 John 1:7). Only Jesus can make us *clean, so that God will accept us.

People who hurt other people – Numbers 5:5-10

v5 The *LORD said to Moses, v6 ‘Give these commands to the *Israelites. A person might do a wrong act against another person. If they do, then they have done a wrong act against me. v7 The guilty person must agree that they have done a wrong act. They must pay the other person completely for the damage that they have done. Also, they must pay an extra one fifth of the total amount. v8 But the other person may have died. The other person may not have a relative who can accept the money. If so, the money belongs to me. The priest must accept the money on my behalf. In addition to this money, the guilty person must buy a male sheep. He must bring the sheep to the priest. The priest must *sacrifice it. Then I shall forgive the guilty person. v9 When the *Israelites give money to a priest as a *sacred payment, the money belongs to that priest. v10 Each priest must keep the money that people give to him.’

Verses 5-6 ‘Do a wrong act’ probably refers to Leviticus 6:1-5. Leviticus 6:1-5 describes the rules about a person who takes something for himself. And then he is not honest about the matter. All *sins against other people are *sins against God, too. In this passage, God reminds Moses of this fact.

Verse 7 The laws of *Israel were much more strict than the laws of other nations. A person had to confess that they had done a wrong act. But this was not enough. Also, they had to pay money to the person against whom they had done the wrong act. This amount of money paid for any loss or damage. Then, the guilty person had to add an extra one fifth to the amount. They had to give that, too.

So, God taught the *Israelites that it costs a lot to *sin! If a person was really sorry, they would be glad to pay more. This showed that they were sincere. Also, when a person paid this money, the other person had to forgive him or her. The other person must not try to do another wrong act against the guilty person.

Verses 8-10 The guilty person had to pay money, even if the other person had died. The dead person’s relatives received the money instead. If the relatives were all dead, the guilty person had to pay the priest. The priest was God’s representative (a person who acts on behalf of someone else). Also, the priest had to *sacrifice a male sheep that the guilty person had bought.

This law was very important. The *Israelites were preparing to march together to the *Promised Land. There had to be no quarrels between them. They had to respect God and other people. This law helped to prevent crimes. It helped people whom other people had hurt in any way. Also, it helped people who had hurt other people. They could show God that they were sorry. Then he could forgive them.

Husbands who suspect that their wives have been *unfaithful – Numbers 5:11-31

v11 Then the *LORD said to Moses, v12-14 ‘Speak to the *Israelites. Tell them to follow these instructions if a husband suspects his wife. Perhaps she has been *unfaithful to him, or perhaps she has not been *unfaithful. Perhaps she has had sex with another man. But her husband cannot be certain. He does not have any evidence.

v15 The husband must take his wife to the priest. He must bring one *kilogram of barley flour with him. (Barley was a type of cheap grain – see note below). This is an *offering to discover if his wife is guilty. He must not put oil or *incense on the *offering. v16 The priest must make the woman stand in front of the *altar. v17 He must pour some holy water into a bowl. He must take some dust from the floor of *God’s Tent. He must put this dust into the bowl with the water. This makes the water become bitter.

v18 Then the priest must untie the woman’s hair. He must put into her hands the *offering of flour. The priest must hold the bowl that contains the bitter water. The bitter water brings a *curse. v19 Then the priest must make the woman agree to the special promise that he speaks. He must say, “This water brings a *curse. If you have not been *unfaithful, it will not hurt you. v20 But if you have been *unfaithful, v21-22 it will bring the *LORD’s *curse on you. You will not be able to have babies that live. Your people will *curse you.” The woman must reply, “I agree. Let this happen.”

v23 The priest must write this *curse on special paper. Then he must wash off the words into the bitter water. v24 He must make the woman drink the bitter water. This water that brings a *curse will enter her body. It may cause her to suffer. v25 But first, the priest must take the *offering of flour from her hands. He must lift it up in front of the *LORD. Then he must put it on the *altar. v26 He must burn a part of it as a *sacrifice. After that, the woman must drink the bitter water.

v27 If the woman has been *unfaithful, the water will cause her to suffer. She will not be able to have babies. People will *curse her. v28 However, if she is innocent, the water will not hurt her. She will be able to have babies.

v29-30 When a husband suspects his wife, you must do this. This is the law. The priest must make the woman stand in front of my *altar. He must follow these instructions. v31 If the woman is innocent, you must not punish her husband. But if the woman is guilty, you must punish her.’

Verses 11-14 Families were very important to the *Israelites. They kept records of their *ancestors. If a man’s wife had sex with another man, this was a serious crime. Her husband could not be certain that he was the father of her children. God’s *Law warns husbands and wives that they must never be *unfaithful to each other (Exodus 20:14).

The punishment for this crime was death. But there had to be evidence. The husband had to prove that his wife was guilty. If the husband had no evidence, he could follow the instructions in this passage. And then God would act as the judge.

It is likely that many innocent women carried out this *ritual. Because they were innocent, they would not be afraid to follow the *ritual. God would protect them. But if a woman was guilty, she would be very afraid of God’s judgement. So probably she would tell her husband that she was guilty first. And she would hope that he would forgive her. Or she might run away.

However, if a woman was not guilty of *adultery, this *ritual proved this fact to her husband and everyone else. Her husband would not be able to punish her. He had to take her back to live with him as his wife again. So, this *ritual provided God’s protection for innocent women.

The passage includes many details about this ancient *ritual. It records the words that the people had to say. The husband and wife went to the priest with an *offering. Barley was a type of cheap grain. The man did not add oil or *incense to the *offering. So it was like a poor man’s *offering, for when someone was *unclean (Leviticus 5:11-13).

‘Holy water’ (verse 17) was water that the priests kept in *God’s Tent. The priest mixed it with dust. Also, he mixed it with the ink that he had used to write the *curses. This was not magic. The water and the dust were *symbols. Perhaps the dust reminded people that the *unclean snake ate dust (Genesis 3:14). Perhaps it reminded them also that God had made people from dust (Genesis 2:7). However, we cannot be certain, because the passage does not explain the meaning.

‘Then the priest must untie the woman’s hair’ (verse 18). This showed that the woman was *unclean. People who had diseases of the skin had to untie their hair.

‘The bitter water brings a *curse’ (verse 18). The water was not just bitter because it tasted bad. It was bitter because it could cause bad things to happen. If the woman was guilty, she would not be able have babies. In the *Israelites’ society, this was a bad thing to happen to a woman. A woman who was not able to have babies felt very sad.

But if the woman were not guilty, the water would not hurt her. It proved that she was innocent.

This passage reminds us that *adultery is a serious *sin. God does not want husbands or wives to be *unfaithful. *Adultery hurts people and destroys families. But also we need to remember that God forgives *sins if people are sorry. Jesus forgave a woman who had been *unfaithful (John 8:2-11). He did not punish her. However, he told her that she must not *sin again.

Also, Paul warned people that they must not continue to *sin in this way. If they did continue, they could not belong to the *church (1 Corinthians 5:11-13).

God’s people must not be *unfaithful to their husbands or wives. Also, it is bad for a husband to suspect his wife without evidence. It can destroy his love for her. It can destroy her love for him. Husbands must be able to trust their wives. Wives must be able to trust their husbands.

By means of this *ritual, God showed everyone whether a woman was guilty or innocent.

Chapter 6

Rules for *Nazirites – Numbers 6:1-21

v1 The *LORD said to Moses, v2 ‘Speak to the *Israelites and tell them this: ‘A man or woman might want to make a special promise to me. That man or woman may become a *Nazirite. v3 If so, he (or she) must not drink wine. He must not drink any beer or vinegar (a type of sour wine). He must not drink the juice of *grapes or eat *grapes or raisins. (Raisins are *grapes that people have dried in the sun.) v4 He must not eat even the seeds or the skins (outer covers) of *grapes.

v5 A person must not cut his hair during the time that he is a *Nazirite. A *Nazirite’s hair shows that he is holy. That person has made a special promise to me.

v6 During the time that the person is a *Nazirite, he must not go near to a dead body. v7 Even if the dead person is his father, mother, brother, or sister, the *Nazirite must stay away from the dead body. He must obey this rule because he is a *Nazirite. His hair shows that he is holy. v8 During the time that the person is a *Nazirite, he must remain holy.

v9 If someone dies suddenly next to a *Nazirite, the *Nazirite must shave off his own hair 7 days later. This will make the *Nazirite *clean again. v10 On the next day, he must bring two doves or two pigeons. He must hand them to the priest at the entrance to *God’s Tent. (Doves and pigeons are similar types of birds.) v11 The priest must *sacrifice one bird as a *sin offering and the other bird as a *burnt offering. The priest must do this because the *Nazirite went too near to a dead body. This will make the *Nazirite *clean again. On the same day, the *Nazirite must make his special promise again and let his hair grow again. v12 He has to begin his time as a *Nazirite again, with a new promise. He cannot include the days before he became *unclean. He must bring a male sheep that is one year old. This is a *sacrifice to make things right again between himself and God.

v13 He is a *Nazirite for a certain period of time. When that period of time finishes, he must go to *God’s Tent. v14 He must offer to me three animals that have nothing wrong with them. He must offer a young male sheep that is one year old. This is a *burnt offering. He must offer a young female sheep that is one year old. This is a *sin offering. He must offer a male sheep. This is a *peace offering. v15 He must bring *offerings of wine and grain too. He must bring a basket of bread that people have made with the best flour and oil. But the bread must not have any *yeast in it. Also, he must bring thin biscuits with oil on them.

v16 The priest must take these gifts to my *altar and he must offer them to me. He must make the *sin offering and the *burnt offering. v17 Then the priest must *sacrifice the male sheep as a *peace offering. He must offer to me the wine, the grain and the bread.

v18 Afterwards, the *Nazirite must stand at the entrance to *God’s Tent. He must shave his head. He must put his hair into the same fire where the priest has cooked the male sheep. v19 When the male sheep is ready to eat, the priest must take it. Also, he must take a loaf and a thin biscuit from the basket. Both the loaf and the biscuit must not have *yeast in them. The priest must give the sheep’s shoulder, the loaf and the biscuit to the *Nazirite who has shaved his head. v20 The *Nazirite must give them back to the priest. The priest must lift them up to me as a special gift. They belong to the priest. Also, the priest can eat the front part of the sheep and its back leg. After that, the *Nazirite may drink wine.

v21 This is what *Nazirites must do at the end of their time as *Nazirites. In addition to these *sacrifices, the *Nazirite may give whatever else he can afford. And he must bring any other *offering that he promised to me.’

Verses 1-21 The word ‘*Nazirite’ is from the *Hebrew word ‘nazir’. ‘Nazir’ means to separate someone (or something) from everything else for a special purpose. The *Nazirites’ special purpose was to give themselves to God completely for a period of time.

*Nazirites were not priests. A person chose to become a *Nazirite. Women could become *Nazirites too. But in this passage and notes, we have used the word ‘he’ to make it easier to read.

A person did not have to be a *Nazirite for all of his life. He promised to give himself to God completely for a particular period of time. This period of time varied. When his time as a *Nazirite finished, he had to bring *sacrifices to *God’s Tent (verses 13-20). Then, he was free from the promise.

It was usual for the *Israelites to make promises to God. Usually, people promised to give or to do something for God. People became *Nazirites for different reasons. Perhaps they had problems that had made them depend on God only. So they wanted to show this when they gave themselves to him completely.

*Nazirites made special promises. In verse 2, the *Hebrew word for ‘to make a promise’ means ‘to do something wonderful or extraordinary’. *Nazirites had to obey special rules.

1. God did not allow them to eat *grapes or raisins (*grapes that people have dried in the sun), or to drink alcohol or vinegar (a type of sour wine). A *Nazirite could never become a drunk!

2. *Nazirites had to grow their hair. Hair that was growing was a *symbol of their life. They had given their life to God for a particular period of time. During that time, they did not cut their hair. Their long hair showed that they belonged to God completely. Female *Nazirites had long hair anyway. Probably, they did not tie it up.

3. *Nazirites had to avoid dead bodies. If an ordinary *Israelite touched a dead body, he had to wash in a special liquid (Numbers chapter 19). But if someone died near a *Nazirite, the *Nazirite had to bring expensive *offerings to *God’s Tent. He had to shave off his hair and he had to make his promises again. Even if his time as a *Nazirite had finished almost, he had to start again!

*Nazirites were holy, like priests. But *Nazirites could not enter *God’s Tent or offer *sacrifices. Priests wore special clothes, but *Nazirites did not. People gave *offerings to the priests. *Nazirites did not receive *offerings. They had to give *offerings to the priests, too. When a person’s time as a *Nazirite was over, they gave the four main types of *offering (see Leviticus chapters 1 to 4).

1. The *burnt offering

The animal that the person offered had to be perfect, without any spots or marks. The person put his hands on the animal. This showed that the animal represented him. (To represent means to do something on behalf of someone else.) He wanted to show that he had given himself to God completely.

This offering showed the end of a person’s time as a *Nazirite. Then the priest burned the whole animal on the *altar. The smell pleased God. It was an act of the total *sacrifice of the *Nazirite.

2. The *grain offering

Flour, bread and biscuits were types of *grain offerings. People burned part of the *grain offering on the *altar. The grain had to be the best that the person could give. It was a gift to God. Also, it was a gift for the priests.

3. The *peace offering

This was similar to the *burnt offering. However, the priests burned the animal’s fat only. The *Israelites thought that this was the best part of the animal. But they offered it to God because God had told them to offer it. It was usual for the person who brought it to share the meat with their family. The priest received some of the meat also. Usually, he received the front part and the back leg only. But from a *Nazirite, the priest received the shoulder, a loaf and a biscuit too. This was an *offering to show that the person was at *peace with God. It showed that God accepted that person.

4. The *sin offering

The person made this *offering so that God would forgive their *sins.

It was the custom to give *offerings of wine with the *burnt offering and the *peace offering.

The priest’s prayer for the people – Numbers 6:22-27

v22 The *LORD spoke to Moses. He said, v23 ‘When Aaron and his sons bless the *Israelites, they must say certain words.

v24 They must say, “I pray for the *LORD to *bless you.

I pray that the *LORD will protect you.

v25 I pray that the *LORD will be kind and merciful (not to punish people when they deserve it).

v26 I pray that the *LORD will be good to you.

I pray that he will give you *peace.” ’

v27 Then the *LORD said, ‘I shall *bless the *Israelites. Aaron and his sons will speak my name as they bless the *Israelites. So I shall give my *blessing to them.’

Verses 22-27 This beautiful prayer is one of the most popular poems in the Bible. Both *Jews and *Christians still say it today. The prayer asks for God’s *blessing. His *blessing is life with him always. His *blessing includes all that we need to live this kind of life. It includes all that we need to help other people. It includes strength to do what God wants. And it includes God’s protection from bad things. We must not use God’s gifts to do things that are wrong and selfish.

All of us deserve God’s punishment for our *sins. But God is kind. We can ask him to forgive us. He will answer that prayer always, if we are sincere (1 John 1:9). Then we will know his *peace. Jesus died to make this possible (John 3:16).

The *Hebrew word for *peace is ‘shalom’. It is one of the most important words in the *Hebrew language. It is a gift from God. We have *peace when we obey God. God’s *peace helps us not to be anxious, even when we are in danger. We feel content inside our spirits, whatever happens to us. God takes care of us. He provides everything that we need. When we realise this, we have *peace.

Chapter 7

The leaders bring gifts to *God’s Tent – Numbers 7:1-89

v1 As soon as Moses had set up *God’s Tent, he *dedicated it to the *LORD. He *dedicated everything, the *altar, the furniture and all the equipment. v2-3 Then the 12 leaders of *Israel’s *tribes came to *God’s Tent. They brought gifts for the *LORD. These men were the leaders of the people whom they had counted. They brought 6 strong carts and 12 *oxen. There was a cart from every two leaders and an *ox from every leader.

v4 The *LORD said to Moses, v5 ‘Accept these gifts. Levi’s *tribe can use them for the work at *God’s Tent.’

v6 So Moses gave the carts and the *oxen to Levi’s *tribe. v7 He gave 2 carts and 4 *oxen to Gershon’s *clan for their work. v8 He gave 4 carts and 8 *oxen to Merari’s *clan for their work. Ithamar the priest, Aaron’s son, was their leader. v9 But Moses did not give anything to Kohath’s *clan. They were responsible for the *sacred objects. They had to carry the *sacred objects on their shoulders.

v10 The 12 leaders also brought *offerings when Moses *dedicated the *altar. v11 The *LORD said to Moses, ‘For a period of 12 days, the leaders must give their *offerings. Each leader must give his *offering on a different day.’

v12-83 Each leader brought the same gifts:

·  A plate and a basin that people had made from silver. The plate weighed 1.5 *kilograms. The basin weighed almost 1 *kilogram. They had weighed the silver by the official weight (see note on Numbers 3:47). Both the plate and the basin had *grain offerings in them, of flour and oil.

·  A small dish that people had made from gold. It weighed 110 *grams. It was full of *incense.

·  A young *bull, an adult male sheep and a male sheep that was a year old. These were for the *burnt offerings.

·  A male goat for the *sin offering.

·  Two *bulls, 5 adult male sheep, 5 male goats, and 5 male sheep that were one year old. These were for the *peace offerings.

The 12 leaders gave their *offerings on different days, in this order.

1. Nahshon (Amminadab’s son) from Judah’s *tribe.

2. Nethanel (Zuar’s son) from Issachar’s *tribe.

3. Eliab (Helon’s son) from Zebulun’s *tribe.

4. Elizur (Shedeur’s son) from Reuben’s *tribe.

5. Shelumiel (Zurishaddai’s son) from Simeon’s *tribe.

6. Eliasaph (Deuel’s son) from Gad’s *tribe.

7. Elishama (Ammihud’s son) from Ephraim’s *tribe.

8. Gamaliel (Pedahzur’s son) from Manasseh’s *tribe.

9. Abidan (Gideoni’s son) from Benjamin’s *tribe.

10. Ahiezer (Ammishaddai’s son) from Dan’s *tribe.

11. Pagiel (Ocran’s son) from Asher’s *tribe.

12. Ahira (Enan’s son) from Naphtali’s *tribe.

v84-88 So when Moses *dedicated the *altar, the 12 leaders brought all the gifts in the list below.

12 plates and 12 basins that people had made from silver. Their total official weight (see note on Numbers 3:47) was 27.6 *kilograms.

12 small dishes that people had made from gold. They were each full of *incense. Their total official weight was 1.32 *kilograms.

12 *bulls, 12 adult male sheep and 12 male sheep who were one year old, for the *burnt offerings, and the proper *grain offerings.

12 male goats for the *sin offerings.

24 *bulls, 60 adult male sheep, 60 male goats, and 60 male sheep that were one year old. These were for the *peace offerings.

v89 Whenever Moses needed to speak to the *LORD, he went into *God’s Tent. He heard the *LORD’s voice. The voice came from above the cover which was on the top of the *Ark. On the lid, there were two models of *angels. The voice came from between these models. And the *LORD spoke with Moses.

Verses 1-89 This is the longest chapter in the *Old Testament, apart from Psalm 119. The original text repeats the same list of gifts 12 times, once for each leader. However, to make it easier to read, there is just one list of gifts in our translation of verses 12-83.

These events happened one month before the *census in Numbers 1:1-4. The list of men and *tribes is in the same order as in Numbers 2:1-34. Each leader brought the same gifts. Each *tribe was equally important to God. Perhaps the author repeated the list 12 times to show this. The list of the leaders reminds us that God knows every person’s name. Every person is special to God.

The leaders gave carts and *oxen to transport *God’s Tent. They gave objects for the priests to use in *God’s Tent. The objects were beautiful and practical, too. Also, the leaders brought animals to offer as *sacrifices.

The gifts and *offerings were very expensive. But the leaders were happy to give them. The *Hebrew word for *offering is from a word that means ‘to come near’ to someone or something. When the leaders brought gifts to *God’s Tent, they brought them near to God.

*God’s Tent was the special place where God met with the *Israelites. But we know that God does not live in one place only. He is everywhere.

God spoke to Moses in *God’s Tent, when Moses stood by the *Ark. Although the *Ark was very holy, God did not live in it! Verse 89 reminds us of this. When God spoke, his voice came from above the *Ark.

Gold covered the *Ark on the inside and the outside. On the top, there was a big piece of gold. There was a model of an *angel at each end. God’s voice came from between these *angels.

Today, we do not have to go to a special place to meet God. We can meet God by means of his son, Jesus *Christ. When we pray to Jesus, we are talking to God. Jesus brings God’s message to us also, by means of the *Holy Spirit. We can pray to Jesus wherever we are. We can speak to him at any time.

Chapter 8

Aaron sets up the lamps – Numbers 8:1-4

v1 The *LORD said to Moses, v2 ‘Speak to Aaron. Give these instructions to him. He must put the 7 lamps on their *stand so that they shine towards the front.’

v3 Aaron obeyed. He set up the lamps in the way that the *LORD had described. v4 A skilled workman had made the *stand from gold that he had hammered. He had made it all with gold, from the base to the top, where there were models of flowers. It was a perfect copy of the design that the *LORD had shown to Moses.

Verses 1-4 The *stand for the lamps was in the *Holy Place. It was with the table for the special bread and the *altar of gold. There is a longer description of it in Exodus 25:31-40.

The person who made it used one piece of gold only. That person hammered the gold to make a beautiful object. This was very difficult to do. The *stand was very precious.

The *stand was the shape of a tree with 6 branches. There were models of flowers on the branches. Each branch held one lamp. The trunk (main stem) of the tree held the 7th lamp. The *Israelites gave oil to burn in the lamps.

There were no windows in the *Holy Place. The lamps provided the light so that the priests could do their work. It was the priests’ duty to look after the lamps so that there was light always.

The table with the special bread was in front of the lamps. When the light shone towards the front, it shone on this table. The 12 loaves were a *symbol of the 12 *tribes. The light was a *symbol of God. It reminded the *Israelites that God was with them always. It reminded them that he wanted to *bless them.

Also, it reminds us that Jesus described himself as ‘the light of the world’ (John 8:12). Jesus is like a light for all people. He shows us the way to live. He guides us. He *blesses us. Nothing can hide in the light. Jesus knows everything about us.

But also the *stand is very important because it is a *symbol of *Christ and his people. Jesus said that he is like a *vine (John 15:1-8). And we, his people, are like the branches. The branches stay strong and alive because they are part of the *vine. The branches cannot live away from the *vine. They cannot produce fruit if they are not part of the *vine.

People had made this *stand from one piece of metal. It would have been easier for them to stick different pieces of metal together. But they had not done this. They had made the main part of the *stand and its branches from one piece of metal. This reminds us that we are one with *Christ. He is like a *vine and we are like its branches. We cannot do God’s work if we are not united with *Christ. Jesus said this (John 15:5).

The *dedication of Levi’s *tribe – Numbers 8:5-26

v5 The *LORD said to Moses, v6 ‘Separate Levi’s *tribe from the rest of the *Israelites. Make them *clean. v7 To do this, you must splash special water that *purifies on them. They must shave their whole bodies and they must wash their clothes. Then they will be *clean.

v8 They must bring a young *bull, with the proper *grain offering of flour and oil. They must bring another young *bull as a *sin offering. v9 Bring Levi’s *tribe to the front of *God’s Tent. Call all the *Israelites to meet together. v10 You must bring Levi’s *tribe in front of me. Then the *Israelites must put their hands on Levi’s *tribe. v11 Aaron must give Levi’s *tribe to me as an *offering from the people. Then Levi’s *tribe will be ready to do my work.

v12 Then Levi’s *tribe must put their hands on the heads of the *bulls. They must offer to me one *bull as a *sin offering and the other *bull as a *burnt offering. These *sacrifices are on behalf of Levi’s *tribe. v13 Levi’s *tribe must stand in front of Aaron and his sons. Aaron and his sons will then give Levi’s *tribe to me, as an *offering. v14 In this way, you must show that Levi’s *tribe are different from the other *Israelites. They belong to me.

v15 After you have done all these things, Levi’s *tribe can work in *God’s Tent. v16 They are mine. They belong to me instead of the *Israelites’ *first-born sons. v17 When I killed all the *Egyptians’ *first-born sons, all the *Israelites’ *first-born sons became mine. I decided that they belonged to me, together with all the *first-born male animals. v18 But now I have chosen Levi’s *tribe to be mine, instead of the *Israelites’ *first-born sons. v19 I have given Levi’s *tribe as gifts to Aaron and his sons. They must work in *God’s Tent on behalf of the *Israelites. Levi’s *tribe must not allow any *Israelite to come near to the *Holy Place. Then no bad thing will happen.’

Verses 5-7 Levi’s *tribe belonged to God in a special way. God accepted them instead of the *Israelites’ *first-born sons (see note on Numbers 3:40-51). Levi’s *tribe had remained loyal to God when the other *Israelites had *rejected him (Exodus 32:25-29). He had chosen them to belong to him and to serve him.

But before they could work in *God’s Tent, Moses had to make them *clean. He had to splash on them the special water that *purifies. This was important because they had to carry *sacred objects. Also, they had to camp near to *God’s Tent.

‘The special water that *purifies’ (verse 7). Numbers 19:1-10 describes how people made this special water. They mixed water with the ashes of the reddish brown cow that they had burnt in a special ceremony. Also, this water was called ‘the water of the *sin offering’.

This special water made Levi’s *tribe *clean. The water washed away the physical dirt. Also, it was a *symbol to show that they were *clean from their *sins. Then God could accept them, because they were *clean physically and *spiritually. Then they could serve God properly. Hebrews chapters 9 to 11 explain how Jesus’ blood makes us *clean inside our hearts so that we can serve God properly. Hebrews 9:13 refers to the water of the *sin offering. Jesus’ *sacrifice of himself on the *cross is the *sin offering on behalf of all people. His blood makes us *clean so that God will accept us. Moses had to splash the special water on Levi’s *tribe. In the same way, we must allow the *Holy Spirit to make us *clean by means of Jesus’ blood.

Verses 8-19 Levi’s *tribe had to bring *sacrifices. Then, the *Israelites had to put their hands on Levi’s *tribe. This act showed that the other *tribes recognised Levi’s *tribe as God’s choice. (To recognise means to accept as correct and legal). Also, this showed that they agreed with God’s choice.

After this, Levi’s *tribe had to put their hands on the animals. When they did this, they passed on their *sins to the animals. The animals died instead of Levi’s *tribe. They had to die because death was the punishment for *sin. The animals became *sacrifices instead of Levi’s *tribe.

There was a *burnt offering and a *sin offering. The *burnt offering showed that Levi’s *tribe were giving themselves to God completely. The *sin offering made them *clean from *sin. In this way, they showed that they would serve God instead of the *Israelites’ *first-born sons.

*Sin is like a wall that separates all people from God. In the period of the *Old Testament, people could offer *sacrifices for *sins that they had done by accident. This might be if they touched something that was *unclean. They could offer *sacrifices with payment for a few particular *sins that they had done on purpose (Leviticus 6:1-7). But in general, if someone *sinned on purpose, they could not make this right with a *sacrifice. That person had to *repent and ask God to forgive them. King David did this (Psalm 51).

Jesus died on behalf of us. He received the punishment that we deserve for our *sins. He became the one *sacrifice for all people, for all time. Jesus removed the wall (*sin) that separates us from God. Every time that we *sin, we must ask God to forgive us. If we are sincere, he will forgive us.

Levi’s *tribe belonged to God. But the work that they did in God’s Tent was God’s gift to the priests. Levi’s *tribe could never become priests. God did not allow Levi’s *tribe to serve him at the *altar. He did not allow them to wear special clothes or to enter the *Holy Place (Numbers 3:10-38 and 18:1-7; Exodus 28:1 and 29:8-9). They had to guard *God’s Tent, so that the *Israelites did not come too near (see note on Numbers 1:47-54). The *Hebrew word for ‘bad things’ (verse 19) means a disease that can cause death.

v20 Moses, Aaron and all the *Israelites obeyed the *LORD’s instructions about Levi’s *tribe. v21 Levi’s *tribe made themselves *clean with the special water. And they washed their clothes. Then Aaron offered them in front of the *LORD. Aaron offered *sacrifices so that they would be able to perform their duties. v22 After this, Levi’s *tribe helped Aaron and his sons in *God’s Tent, as the *LORD had ordered.

v23 The *LORD gave to Moses more instructions about Levi’s *tribe. He said, ‘The men will begin to work in *God’s Tent when they are 25 years old. v25 But they must stop this work when they are 50 years old. v26 After this, they can help the younger men. But they must not have any responsibilities. Remember this when you give Levi’s *tribe jobs to do in *God’s Tent.’

Verses 20-22 Again, this passage emphasises that the people obeyed God’s instructions. God had decided to accept Levi’s *tribe instead of the *Israelites *first-born sons. Aaron offered them to God by means of a special ceremony. They *sacrificed the *bulls on behalf of Levi’s *tribe. Levi’s *tribe made themselves *clean, so that God could accept them.

Verses 23-26 From the ages of 25 to 50, men from Levi’s *tribe did heavy work. They carried the parts of *God’s Tent when the *Israelites moved. But they did not help the priests in *God’s Tent until they were 30 years old (Numbers 4:3). When they were 50 years old, they did not have to work any longer. But if they wanted to work, they could do other things to help. For example, they could help to teach the young men who had just started their duties.

Chapter 9

The *Passover – Numbers 9:1-14

v1 The *LORD spoke to Moses in the *desert called Sinai. It was the second year after the *Israelites had left the country called Egypt. It was the first month during that year. The *LORD said, v2 ‘Tell the people to *celebrate the *Passover this month, at the proper time. v3 The proper time is during the evening of the 14th day. Follow all the rules.’

v4-5 Moses told the people what the *LORD had said. And they obeyed the *LORD’s instructions. They *celebrated the *Passover in the *desert called Sinai. They *celebrated it during the evening of the 14th day.

v6 But some of the people had touched a dead body. They could not *celebrate the *Passover on that day, because they were *unclean. They said to Moses and Aaron, v7 ‘We have touched a dead body. So we are *unclean. But we would like to *celebrate the *Passover at the proper time. And we would like to offer *sacrifices to the *LORD with the other *Israelites.’

v8 Moses said, ‘Wait here. I shall find out what the *LORD orders you to do.’

v9 Then, the *LORD told Moses v10 to give these instructions to the *Israelites.

‘If anyone has touched a dead body, still they may *celebrate my *Passover. Although they are *unclean, still they may *celebrate the *Passover. Also, if anyone is away on a journey, still they may *celebrate the *Passover. These rules are for the *Israelites and for their *descendants. v11 They must *celebrate it one month later, during the evening of the 14th day. They must eat the young sheep with thin bread and bitter herbs (plants that people use to give flavour). The bread must not have *yeast in it. v12 No food must remain until the next morning. They must not break any of the sheep’s bones. Follow all these rules.

v13 But every *clean person in the camp must *celebrate the *Passover. If any person refuses, that person cannot belong to my people any longer. That person did not offer *sacrifices to me at the proper time. So he or she must suffer the punishment for that *sin.

v14 Foreigners can *celebrate my *Passover too if they are living among you. But they must follow these rules. These rules are for everyone.’

Verses 1-5 This passage refers to events during the month before the *census (Numbers 1:1). It is about the second *Passover. There is a description of the first *Passover in Exodus chapter 12. Exodus chapters 7 to 11 describe the events that happened before the *Passover. We shall examine these events first. It will help us to understand why the *Passover was so important.

The *Israelites had been *slaves in the country called Egypt. Moses had asked the king to let them leave that country. But the king had refused. So God let 10 bad things happen in Egypt (see note on Numbers 3:11-13). Finally, God let all the *Egyptians’ *first-born sons die. This had happened during the night of the first *Passover.

God had spoken to Moses and Aaron. He had given instructions to them for the *Israelites. He had wanted each family to kill and to eat a young sheep. He had told them to eat the meat with thin bread and bitter herbs (plants that people use to give flavour). The bitter taste would remind them of their bad life in Egypt. There was no *yeast in the bread, because they could not wait for it to rise. They were ready to leave immediately.

God had told them to put some of the sheep’s blood round their doors. That night, God had allowed all the *Egyptians’ *first-born sons to die. But he had promised to ‘pass over’ the houses that had blood on them. So the *Israelites’ *first-born sons did not die. That same night, the king had let the *Israelites leave the country.

This passage describes the second *Passover. The *Israelites *celebrated it regularly every year after this. Today, *Jewish people all over the world *celebrate the *Passover still. It is very important for them to remember how God rescued them.

Verses 6-14 God expected all the *Israelites to *celebrate the *Passover. But there was a problem with three groups of people.

1. *Unclean people. *Unclean people could not eat meat from *sacrifices (Leviticus 7:19-21).

2. People who were away from the camp.

3. People who were not *Israelites. This referred to people who had left Egypt with the *Israelites.

Moses did not answer these people immediately. Instead, he waited for God’s decision. God told him what to do. God wanted everyone to *celebrate the *Passover. So he allowed the first two groups of people to *celebrate it one month later.

Nobody could make an excuse not to *celebrate the *Passover. If someone refused, they would not belong to God’s people. They were not an *Israelite! In the *Old Testament, this *Hebrew word for ‘cannot belong’ (verse 13) meant sometimes that the person or people died (for example, Genesis 9:11; Isaiah 29:20). Sometimes it meant that people killed them. Sometimes it meant that they could not continue to live among the *Israelites. So the *Israelites sent them away. This was to punish them, because they had not obeyed God’s commands (for example Genesis 17:14; Leviticus 7:20-27 and 19:8). So people who refused to *celebrate the *Passover were guilty of a serious crime. They received a serious punishment, perhaps death. They did not deserve to live with God’s people.

God allowed foreigners in the camp to *celebrate the *Passover too. They wanted to *worship him, so he allowed them to. They became his people, like the *Israelites. But before they could *celebrate the *Passover they had to follow all the rules of the *Jewish religion. This included circumcision (to cut off the end part of skin from the male sex part. For *Jews this showed that the man agreed to obey God) – Exodus 12:48.

The cloud that covered *God’s Tent – Numbers 9:15-23

v15-16 A cloud covered *God’s Tent during the day that the people set it up. And the cloud continued to cover *God’s Tent. At night, the cloud seemed to have fire in it. v17 Whenever the cloud rose away from *God’s Tent, the *Israelites set out. They camped wherever the cloud stopped. v18 The *Israelites set out at the *LORD’s command. They stopped and they set up the camp again at his command, too. They stayed in a place for the period of time that the cloud remained over *God’s Tent. v19 When the cloud remained over *God’s Tent for a long period of time, still the *Israelites obeyed the *LORD. They did not move the camp.

v20-22 The cloud could remain there during one night, a few days, a month or a year. But the *Israelites stayed in that place until the cloud moved. Then they set out whether it was day or night. They did these things at the *LORD’s command. v23 They set up the camp at the *LORD’s command. They moved at the *LORD’s command. They obeyed the commands that the *LORD had given to Moses.

Verses 15-23 When the *Israelites had escaped from the country called Egypt, God had guided them through the *desert (Exodus 13:21-22). They could not see him because a cloud and fire hid him. When they set up *God’s Tent, God came to guide them again. Again, the cloud and the fire hid him. They set up *God’s Tent on the first day of the second year. They were preparing to travel to the *Promised Land.

The priests and Levi’s *tribe camped near to *God’s Tent. Probably, some of them watched the cloud in the day and the night. Then, they could tell the other *Israelites when the cloud moved.

Again, this passage emphasises that the people obeyed God. They did not decide when to move the camp. God decided. He was with them always. He guided them and he protected them. But not all the *Israelites realised this. That is why they complained often to Moses. However, they stayed under the cloud. It gave to them shelter from the sun during the day. And it gave to them heat during the night.

Chapter 10

The two *trumpets – Numbers 10:1-10

v1 The *LORD said to Moses, v2 ‘Make two *trumpets. Make them from silver and use a hammer to make them into the correct shape. Use the *trumpets to call the people together. Also, use the *trumpets to tell the people that they must move the camp. v3 When the priests blow into both the *trumpets, everyone must come. They must meet you at the entrance to *God’s Tent. v4 If the priests blow into just one *trumpet, only the leaders of Israel’s *tribes need to meet you.

v5-7 When it is time to move, make sounds with the *trumpet. The first sound is a signal for the *tribes on the east side to set out. The second sound is a signal for the *tribes on the south side to set out. But when you want everyone to meet together, make a different sound as a signal. v8 Only the priests can use the *trumpets. This rule will never change.

v9 Use the *trumpets to warn when an enemy is attacking your country. Make a sound on the *trumpets as a signal to fight the enemy. I am the *LORD your God and I will help you. I will save you from your enemies.

v10 You must make sounds with the *trumpets on happy occasions, too. You must blow into the *trumpets when you offer *sacrifices at your monthly *festivals and your other *festivals. This will help you to remember me. I am the *LORD your God.’

Verses 1-10 The *trumpets were long, thin tubes. They were wider at one end. We know this because there are pictures of this type of *trumpet on ancient coins. Josephus, a *Jewish writer, described this type of *trumpet also.

The priests used the *trumpets for four reasons:

1. To call the *Israelites or their leaders to meet together.

2. To give the signal to set out.

3. To ask God for help in a battle.

4. To call the *Israelites together at their *festivals.

The priests made different sounds to give different signals. Probably, they made long sounds to call the people to meet together. And probably, short sounds were a signal to set out and to ask God for help. The priests also used the *trumpets at their *festivals. They used them when there was a war. Also, they used them when there was peace.

In verse 10, God said, ‘This will help you to remember me’. This reminded the *Israelites that they must ask God to help them. Also, it reminded them that he had helped them before. He had rescued them from the *Egyptians. He would rescue them from their enemies again. But they had to ask him!

When we need God to help us, we must pray to him. God wants to help us, but he wants us to talk to him first. God is our friend. We talk to our friends. We tell them how we are feeling. We ask for their help. We must talk to God like this, too.

The *Israelites begin their journey – Numbers 10:11-28

v11 It was the 20th day of the second month of that same year. The cloud rose away from *God’s Tent. v12 Then the *Israelites began their journey out of the Sinai *desert. They travelled until the cloud stopped in the Paran *desert. v13 They set out, this first time, as the *LORD ordered them by means of Moses.

v14 Judah’s *tribe and the *tribes that camped next to it marched out first. They carried their flag. The leader of Judah’s *tribe was Nahshon, Amminadab’s son. He was in command of this group of *tribes. v15 Nethanel, Zuar’s son, was the leader of Issachar’s *tribe. v16 Eliab, Helon’s son, was the leader of Zebulun’s *tribe.

v17 Men took down *God’s Tent. The *clans of Gershon and Merari carried it. They marched behind Judah’s group of *tribes.

v18 Reuben’s *tribe and the *tribes that camped next to it marched out second. They carried their flag. The leader of Reuben’s *tribe was Elizur, Shedeur’s son. He was in command of this group of *tribes. v19 Shelumiel, Zurishaddai’s son, was the leader of Simeon’s *tribe. v20 Eliasaph, Deuel’s son, was the leader of Gad’s *tribe.

v21 Then, Kohath’s *clan set out. They carried the *sacred objects. Before Kohath’s *clan arrived at the next camp, Levi’s *tribe put up *God’s Tent there.

v22 Ephraim’s *tribe and the *tribes that camped next to it marched out next. They carried their flag. The leader of Ephraim’s *tribe was Elishama, Ammihud’s son. He was in command of this group of *tribes. v23 Gamaliel, Pedahzur’s son, was the leader of Manasseh’s *tribe. v24 Abidan, Gideoni’s son, was the leader of Benjamin’s *tribe.

v25 Dan’s *tribe and the *tribes that camped next to it set out last. They could protect the *Israelites if an enemy attacked them from behind. They carried their flag. The leader of Dan’s *tribe was Ahiezer, Ammishaddai’s son. He was in command of this group of *tribes. v26 Pagiel, Ochran’s son, was the leader of Asher’s *tribe. v27 Ahira, Enan’s son, was the leader of Naphtali’s *tribe. v28 The *Israelites marched out in this order every time that they moved their camp.

Verses 11-28 The *Israelites had been in the Sinai *desert for nearly one year. They set out in the order that God had described in chapter 2. Levi’s *tribe carried the *Ark in front of the *Israelites’ army (verse 33). This showed that God was their leader. But the *clans in Levi’s *tribe did not march together. Gershon’s *clan and Merari’s *clan marched before Kohath’s *clan. This was so that they could put up *God’s Tent to be ready for the *sacred objects.

Moses speaks to Hobab – Numbers 10:29-36

v29 Moses spoke to Hobab. Hobab was the brother of Moses’ wife. His father was Jethro who came from Midian.

Moses said, ‘We are setting out now. We are going to the place that the *LORD has promised to us. Come with us! The *LORD has promised good things to us. You will have these good things, too.’

v30 Hobab answered, ‘No, I will not go. I am returning to my own country and my own people.’

v31 Moses said, ‘Please do not leave us. You can guide us. You know where to camp in the *desert. v32 If you come with us, we will share with you the good gifts from the *LORD.’

v33 So the *Israelites left Sinai, the holy mountain. They travelled for three days. Levi’s *tribe carried the *Ark ahead of them. This was so that the *LORD could show them where to camp.

v34 The *LORD’s cloud stayed over them every day. It was over them whenever they set out from their camp. v35 Each day when the *Israelites set out behind the *Ark, Moses prayed. He said:

‘Get up, *LORD! Scatter your enemies! Make them run away!’

v36 When the *Israelites stopped to camp round the *Ark, Moses prayed again. He said:

‘*LORD, stay close to *Israel’s thousands of families.’

Verses 29-36 Moses invited his relative Hobab to come to the country called Canaan with them. Hobab was not an *Israelite. He came from the *tribes of Midian. The *tribes of Midian lived in the *desert that was next to Canaan. Hobab knew the *desert well. So he was able to give them practical advice. For example, he could tell them where to find water.

This teaches us something very important. God guides us by means of the *Holy Spirit. But also, he helps us by means of people. We must let God speak to us by means of people.

Although the passage does not record Hobab’s answer, he agreed to come. We know this because his *descendants lived with the *Israelites (Judges 1:16 and 4:11).

Whenever the cloud started to move, Moses prayed. He asked God to protect the *Israelites. Whenever the cloud stopped, Moses prayed again. He asked God to live among them in the camp. Moses prayed every time that the *Israelites set off. And he prayed every time that they stopped. Moses knew that God, not Moses, commanded *Israel’s army. The *Israelites needed God to protect them from their enemies. They needed God more than anyone or anything else.

We need God more than anyone or anything else, too. When we trust him completely, he will look after us, too. *Christians are in a battle against the devil. The devil tries to make us do bad things. He makes troubles for us. But when we ask God for his help, he will protect us. He has defeated the devil already. He did this at the time of Jesus’ death, and when Jesus became alive again. So we must remember to pray for God’s help always.

This passage ends the first part of the Book of Numbers. The *Israelites had begun their journey to the *Promised Land.

 

Chapters 11-20: The *Israelites travel through the *desert

Chapter 11

God sends fire – Numbers 11:1-3

v1 The people started to complain about their problems. The *LORD heard them. He became very angry. He sent fire. The fire burned among them and it destroyed the edges of the camp. v2 The people cried out to Moses for help. He prayed to the *LORD and the fire stopped. v3 So they called that place ‘Taberah’ (‘Taberah’ means ‘it is burning’). They gave it that name because the *LORD had sent fire to their camp.

Verses 1-3 This passage records the first of many times when the *Israelites complained on their journey. In the camp near Sinai mountain, they had obeyed God completely. But on their journey to the *Promised Land, often they did not obey him. They complained often, too.

The *Israelites had travelled for three days only. But already they had begun to complain. The text does not tell us why they complained. Perhaps they did not like to travel in the *desert. Perhaps they were tired. But they did not trust God to look after them. They did not thank him because he was leading them to the *Promised Land. This upset the *Holy Spirit (Ephesians 4:30). So the *Israelites had removed themselves from God’s protection.

This first time, God sent fire to their camp to show that he was angry. When the people saw the fire, they were afraid. They asked Moses to speak to God on their behalf. Moses did this and the fire stopped.

In chapter 33, there is a list of places where the *Israelites camped. But the list does not include Taberah. However, experts think that it was probably near Kibroth Hattaavah (see Numbers 11:34).

God provides food – Numbers 11:4-9

v4 Some foreigners were travelling with the *Israelites. They wanted to eat meat very much. Again, the *Israelites started to cry and to complain. They said, ‘We wish that we had some meat. v5 In the country called Egypt, we ate as much fish as we wanted. It cost us nothing. Also, we ate different types of vegetables and fruit. We ate the fruit called melons. We ate the vegetables called cucumbers, leeks, onions and garlic. v6 But now we do not want to eat. That is because we have only *manna to eat.’

v7 The *manna was like small seeds. It was pale yellow. v8-9 The *manna appeared with the dew (water that appears on the ground by night). In the morning, the people collected the *manna. They made flour from it. Then they boiled it and they made thin biscuits. It tasted like something that had *olive oil in it.

Verses 4-9 When the *Israelites left the country called Egypt, some foreigners came with them. We do not know why these foreigners came. Perhaps some of them were slaves who wanted to escape, too. But they did not know God. They complained because they had no meat. Then, the *Israelites started to complain, too.

God was providing food for them every day. They called this food ‘*manna’. There is a description of *manna in Exodus 16:14-16, too. They had plenty of it. It tasted good. Exodus 16:31 says that the *manna had the flavour of honey.

But on this occasion, the people wanted to eat different food. They talked about the different foods that they had eaten in Egypt. But they did not talk about the bad things that had happened there!

They were not grateful that God had rescued them. They were not grateful that he was providing lots of food in the *desert. They did not thank God because he gave them food. Instead, they complained about it! Still the *manna tasted good. But the people did not enjoy it because they wanted other things to eat. The *manna had not changed. But the people had changed. They had become greedy and selfish.

There is a lesson here for us. Nothing can satisfy people who are greedy and selfish. They are unhappy because always they want more.

We must remember to thank God always for everything that he provides. We must be grateful for the good things that we have.

Moses complains to God – Numbers 11:10-15

v10 The people stood near to their tents. They were crying and they were complaining. Moses heard them. This upset him, because the *LORD was angry with them. v11 Moses prayed to the *LORD:

‘I am your servant. But you have given this problem to me! It seems as if I have done something to upset you. You have made me responsible for all these people. v12 But they are not my children! However, you asked me to look after them as if they were babies. You want me to carry them to the *Promised Land! v13 They are crying and they are complaining. They want meat. But I cannot get enough meat for all these people. v14 I cannot look after all these people. This job is too difficult for me. v15 If you continue to do this to me, please kill me now! Otherwise, my life would have achieved nothing!’

Verses 11-15 God had chosen Moses to be the *Israelites’ leader. But Moses did not want to be their leader still. He felt that God had given to him too many responsibilities. He was desperate. So he prayed about the matter. And he told God about how he felt.

Moses had obeyed God. Moses had led the people out of the country called Egypt. But he realised that he could not do the work of a leader alone. He felt that he was failing as a leader. And he was so desperate that he asked God to let him die.

God answered his prayer. But God did not let him die. God did not expect him to do all the work of a leader without any help. The work was God’s work. So God would provide the help that Moses needed. God would tell Moses what he had to do.

Moses chooses 70 helpers – Numbers 11:16-17

v16 The *LORD said to Moses, ‘Choose 70 of *Israel’s leaders. They must be men whom the people respect. Go with them to *God’s Tent. v17 I will talk with you there. I will give to them some of your authority. Then the *Spirit, which is upon you, will be upon them. And they can help you. They can share the responsibility for my people. You will not have to look after them alone.’

Verses 16-17 God did not do what Moses asked. He did not let Moses die. Instead, he told Moses to be the leader. But he wanted him to share his responsibilities. So he answered Moses’ prayer, but not in the way that Moses expected.

God had given his *Spirit to Moses. God’s Spirit is the *Holy Spirit. He gave his *Spirit to the 70 leaders, too. God’s *Spirit gave them special authority to lead his people. Also, God’s *Spirit gave to them the power to do what God wanted.

These leaders were not priests. But they had special tasks to do. In the *Old Testament, God gave his *Spirit to particular people to do particular work for him. God gave his *Spirit to Moses. So the people recognised that God was with Moses in a special way. Like Moses, these leaders could *prophesy. So, the people would recognise that God was with these leaders, too.

But in the *New Testament, we read about how God gives his *Holy Spirit to all *Christians (Romans 8:9 and 8:14-17). The *Holy Spirit helps us to do things for God that we could not do alone. Whenever we need God’s power and strength, we can ask the *Holy Spirit to help us.

God promises meat – Numbers 11:18-23

v18 The *LORD said, ‘Tell the people to prepare themselves so that I will accept them. They must prepare themselves for tomorrow, when they will have meat. I heard them when they were crying. I heard them when they were complaining. They said, “We wish that we had some meat! Things were better for us in the country called Egypt!”

Now I will give meat to them. They will have to eat it. v19-20 They will eat it for a whole month, not just for a few days, or even 10 or 20 days. They *rejected me although I am among them. They cried and they complained. They wanted to return to Egypt. Now they will eat meat until it makes them sick.’

v21 Moses answered, ‘There are at least 600 000 men here. You say that you will give to them meat to eat for a month. v22 We would not have enough meat for them if we killed all our sheep and cows. If we caught every fish in the sea, we would not have enough!’

v23 The *LORD answered, ‘I can do anything. I have said that I will do this. Soon, you will see whether it happens!’

Verses 18-23 Also, God solved Moses’ other problem. The people wanted meat. So God promised to provide it. But he was angry that they preferred to live as *slaves in Egypt. So he promised to provide so much meat that they would hate it!

But Moses argued with God. He did not believe that God could provide so much meat. Moses was looking for a natural solution to the problem. But God intended to solve the problem with a *miracle. God did not become angry with Moses because Moses had doubts. He told Moses to wait. God would do what he had said.

‘Tell the people to prepare themselves so that I will accept them’ (verse 18). God would provide food for the people by means of a *miracle. The people had to prepare themselves to receive this wonderful gift. They should have been expecting God to do what he said. They should have been humble and grateful. Instead, they were greedy and they were complaining. So they needed to change their bad attitude. They needed to prepare themselves so that God would accept them.

God gives authority to the leaders – Numbers 11:24-30

v24 Moses told the people what the *LORD had said. He chose 70 leaders. He went with them to *God’s Tent. He made them stand in a circle, so that they surrounded *God’s Tent. v25 Then the *LORD came down in the cloud. He spoke to Moses. The *LORD took some of the authority that he had given to Moses. He gave it to the 70 leaders. So the *Spirit, which was upon Moses, was upon the 70 leaders too. When the *LORD’s *Spirit controlled them, they began to *prophesy. They did this only once.

v26 Two of the 70 leaders had stayed in the camp. Their names were Eldad and Medad. They did not go with the other leaders to *God’s Tent. However, the *LORD’s *Spirit controlled them, too. They *prophesied in the camp. v27 A young man ran to Moses. He said, ‘Eldad and Medad are *prophesying in the camp.’

v28 Joshua, Nun’s son, said to Moses, ‘You must stop them, sir!’ Joshua had been Moses’ helper since he (Joshua) was a young man.

v29 Moses answered, ‘You think that this might upset me. And that is why you are worried. But I wish that the *LORD would give his *Spirit to all his people. I wish that they were all *prophets!’

v30 Then Moses and the 70 leaders returned to the camp.

Verses 24-30 When God gave his Spirit to the 70 leaders, they all *prophesied. They did not do this by natural, human means. God’s *Spirit gave to them the power to do this. This included Eldad and Medad, who had stayed in the camp. We do not know why they had stayed in the camp. But they began to *prophesy too. A young man went to Moses and told him. We know that Eldad and Medad had God’s *Spirit because they *prophesied. This shows that they were not doing anything wrong.

However, Joshua, Moses’ helper, was worried about what was happening. Perhaps also he thought that Moses might lose all of his authority. But Moses was not worried. He was happy that these men had God’s Spirit, too. He was happy that they were not complaining. Instead, they were praising God. In this case, that is what the word ‘*prophesy’ means. These men were not telling people what would happen in the future. They were not doing the special work of a *prophet. But they were praising God. And they were speaking about the wonderful things that he does. This would encourage the people to praise God, too (see 1 Corinthians 14:3). The *Holy Spirit gave to them the power to do this (see Joel 2:28).

The *LORD provides meat – Numbers 11:31-35

v31 Suddenly, the *LORD sent a wind. It blew in quails (a kind of bird) from the sea. They surrounded the camp. There were piles of these birds everywhere, for many kilometres. These piles were about a metre high. v32 The people were picking up the birds during the next two days. Each person gathered at least 1000 *kilograms of birds. They spread the birds’ bodies out to dry the meat. v33 But as soon as the people started to eat the meat, the *LORD became angry. He sent a disease to the camp. v34 The people buried those greedy people who had wished for meat. So they called the place ‘Kibroth Hattaavah’. This means ‘graves for greedy people.’

v35 Then they moved to Hazeroth. They set up their camp there.

Verse 31-32 ‘These piles were about a metre high’ (verse 31). God provided as much meat as he had promised. There were piles of birds everywhere! It is possible to translate this sentence in a different way. The *Hebrew words could mean also that the birds were flying about a metre from the ground. Anyway, the birds were easy to collect.

The people dried the meat so that they could keep it for a long time.

Verses 33-34 God gave to the people what they wanted. But also he punished them. They had not prepared themselves as God had ordered. They had not changed their attitude so that God would accept them (Numbers 11:18). God had given them an opportunity to do this. But they had not done it. Still they were greedy and ungrateful. So many of them died from a disease.

The *Hebrew word that we have translated as ‘greedy’ means ‘to want something very much.’ That thing can be good or bad. They were greedy for the wrong things. So many of them died.

Verse 35 ‘Hazeroth’ comes from a *Hebrew word that means ‘a place to make a home.’ It was a temporary home for the *Israelites as they travelled north to the *Promised Land.

Chapter 12

Miriam and Aaron are jealous of Moses – Numbers 12:1-16

v1 Moses’ wife was a woman from Cush (a place in the country called Midian). Miriam and Aaron said bad things about him because of this.

v2 They said, ‘Moses speaks the *LORD’s messages. But he is not the only person who does this. The *LORD has spoken by means of us, too.’

The *LORD heard what they were saying. (v3 Moses was a very humble man. He was the most humble person in the world.) v4 Immediately, the *LORD told Moses, Aaron and Miriam to come to the entrance of *God’s Tent. So they went to *God’s Tent. v5 Then the *LORD came down in the cloud. He stood at the entrance of *God’s Tent. He told Aaron and Miriam to come closer. They stepped forward.

v6 ‘Listen to what I say!’ the *LORD said.

‘I show myself to my *prophets by means of *visions.

I speak to them by means of dreams.

v7 But my servant Moses

is completely loyal to me among my people, the *Israelites.

v8 So I speak to him clearly.

He sees me face to face (see note below).

Everything that I say to him is easy to understand.

And he sees me as I am.

You should not say bad things about my servant Moses!’

v9 The *LORD was very angry with Aaron and Miriam. He left them.

v10 When the cloud rose away from *God’s Tent, Miriam’s skin suddenly became white. It was as white as snow. A bad disease had affected her skin. Aaron saw that she had this disease. v11 He said to Moses, ‘Sir! Please do not punish us because we have done such a foolish thing! v12 Do not let this disease eat Miriam’s skin! Do not let it damage her, so that she becomes like a stillborn baby (a baby that dies before its birth).’

v13 So Moses cried out to the *LORD, ‘Oh God! Please cure her!’

v14 The *LORD answered Moses, ‘Make Miriam stay outside the camp for 7 days. If her father had spat in her face, she would feel her shame for 7 days. (To spit means to send liquid out of the mouth.) Bring her back inside the camp after this period of time.’

v15 So Miriam stayed outside the camp for 7 days. The people did not move their camp until she returned. v16 Then they left Hazeroth. They set up their camp again in the Paran *desert.

Verses 1-2 Aaron, Moses’ brother, and Miriam, Moses’ sister, were leaders too. They helped Moses. But they had become jealous of him. Actually, they were accusing Moses. He was not the only person to speak on God’s behalf. Because of this, they were saying that Moses was not special. Also, they seemed to accuse him because he had married a foreigner.

To accuse an innocent person in this way is bad. In fact, the name ‘Satan’ (a name for the devil) means ‘the accuser’. It is the devil’s nature to accuse. It is very wrong to have this kind of attitude. It is the devil’s attitude. Paul warned about this in 1 Timothy 3:11. That passage is about the attitude that leaders and their relatives should have.

Aaron and Miriam did important work for God. Aaron was the *High Priest. Miriam was a *prophet (Exodus 15:20). But they were jealous because Moses was God’s special servant.

Verse 3 But Moses was not proud because he was God’s special servant. The word ‘humble’ refers to someone who depends on God completely. Moses knew that God gave him the power and strength to lead the *Israelites. Moses knew that he could not do this without God’s help. So he talked to God often. He asked God what to do.

God considered that Moses was great. This was because Moses was humble. God considers people who serve other people to be great (Matthew 23:11). Jesus was humble. He came to serve us and to show us how to have this same attitude (Philippians 2:5-11).

Verses 4-9 Aaron and Miriam had important responsibilities. They were Moses’ helpers. But they were opposing him. They were saying wicked things. When leaders *sin, this affects the people that they lead. Leaders of *churches today should remember this!

God appeared to Moses, Aaron and Miriam. He spoke to them by means of a poem (verses 6-8). He said that he spoke to *prophets by means of dreams and *visions. But Moses was different. God spoke to Moses as a person speaks to another person. This is what the words ‘face to face’ mean (verse 8).

Miriam and Aaron had no right to complain about this. So God acted against them. He punished Miriam. He gave to her a disease that affected her skin. However, he did not punish Aaron like this. Perhaps Miriam was more guilty than Aaron. The author puts Miriam’s name before Aaron’s name in verse 1. This was not the custom usually, because Miriam was a woman. Also, the word ‘said’ in verse 1 actually means ‘she said’ in *Hebrew.

But Moses was not glad because God punished Miriam. When Aaron asked Moses to help Miriam, Moses prayed immediately. It was a very short prayer. But it was very sincere. Immediately, God answered Moses. He cured Miriam!

But Miriam had to stay outside the camp for a week. This was because she was *unclean (see Leviticus 13:1-6). So everyone in the camp knew that Miriam had done a bad thing. It was a sign of shame for a parent to spit in their child’s face (Deuteronomy 25:9; Job 30:10; Isaiah 50:6). (To spit means to send liquid out of the mouth.) Miriam felt this kind of shame. The camp could not move until she returned. People with diseases that affected the skin had to live away from other people. This was so that they did not give the disease to other people. But also, they had to stay outside the camp after the disease had gone. They had to show that it had gone. Also, they had to *purify themselves by means of special ceremonies (Leviticus 14:1-32). These were the rules about people with diseases that affected the skin. So her *sin delayed the *Israelites’ journey to the *Promised Land.

Miriam’s shame should have been an example to warn the people. They should have realised that it is very wrong to say such evil things about someone. This is what the devil does. The devil is the accuser of God’s people.

Also, it is wrong to be jealous of other people who have important jobs. We should be content to do the work that God gives to us. But the next chapter shows that the people did not learn from Miriam’s example.

Chapter 13

Moses sends 12 men into the country called Canaan – Numbers 13:1-24

v1 The *LORD said to Moses, v2 ‘Choose a leader from each *tribe. Send them into the country called Canaan. They must explore the land that I am giving to you.’

v3 Moses obeyed the *LORD. He sent 12 leaders from *Israel’s camp in the Paran *desert. v4-15 This is a list of their names:

Shammua, Zaccur’s son, from Reuben’s *tribe.

Shaphat, Hori’s son, from Simeon’s *tribe.

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

Igal, Joseph’s son, from Issachar’s *tribe.

Hoshea, Nun’s son, from Ephraim’s *tribe.

Palti, Raphu’s son, from Benjamin’s *tribe.

Gaddiel, Sodi’s son, from Zebulun’s *tribe.

Gaddi, Susi’s son, from Joseph’s *tribe (that is, from Manasseh’s *tribe).

Ammiel, Gemalli’s son, from Dan’s *tribe.

Sethur, Michael’s son, from Asher’s *tribe.

Nahbi, Vophsi’s son, from Naphtali’s *tribe.

Geuel, Machi’s son, from Gad’s *tribe.

v16 These are the names of the men that Moses sent to explore the land. At this time, Moses changed Hoshea’s name to Joshua.

v17 Moses sent them to look at the land in the country called Canaan. He said, ‘Go north from here. Go through the southern *desert of Canaan. Then continue north, into the country where there are hills. v18 Find out about those regions. Discover how many people live there. Discover whether they are strong or weak. v19 Find out whether their land is good or bad. Find out whether they live in open towns or cities with walls. v20 Find out whether the soil is good for crops. Discover whether trees grow there. Try to bring back some of the fruit that grows there.’ (It was time for *grapes to be ripe).

v21 The 12 men left. They explored the land, from the Zin *desert to Rehob near Lebo Hamath. (The Zin *desert was in the south and Rehob was in the north.) v22 As they went through the southern *desert, they came to the city called Hebron. They saw the *clans of Ahiman, Sheshai and Talmai. These *clans were the *descendants of the giant people called the *Anakim. (The city called Hebron was 7 years older than the city called Zoan. Zoan was in the country called Egypt).

v23 When they reached the valley called Eshcol, they cut down just one *bunch of *grapes. But the *bunch was so large that two men carried it between them on a pole. Also they took some pomegranates and figs (two different kinds of fruit). v24 That place was called ‘Eshcol’, which means ‘*bunch’. This was because the *Israelites had taken that *bunch of *grapes from there.

Verses 1-15 The *Israelites had reached the borders of the *Promised Land. But they did not enter it for another 40 years! This was because they did not believe God’s promises. They did not trust God. Instead, they became afraid of the people who lived in the country called Canaan.

But before they entered the *Promised Land, the *Israelites wanted to know more about that country. So God allowed them to send some men there. God had not ordered the *Israelites to discover more about the country. Already he had given it to them. They should have gone in and lived there. It was the *Israelites’ idea to send men ahead in order to discover what was there. (Deuteronomy 1:20-25).

These men were leaders. But they were different leaders from the leaders in the lists for the *census (Numbers chapters 1, 2, 7 and 10). Probably, these men were younger and more healthy. They had to be able to walk a long distance.

There were 12 leaders. But 40 years later, only two of these leaders entered the *Promised Land with the *Israelites. The two leaders were Joshua and Caleb.

Verse 16 When Moses died, Joshua became the *Israelites’ leader. Before, he was called Hoshea, which means ‘(God) saves.’ Moses changed this name to Joshua, which means ‘the *LORD saves. The name Joshua (*Hebrew: Y’shua) included God’s name, Yahweh. God had told this name to Moses (Exodus 6:3).

Verses 17-20 The *Israelites were preparing to enter the country called Canaan. So they wanted to know several things about the land. They wanted to know whether many people lived there. They wanted to know if these people were strong or weak. Then they could prepare for any battles. Also, they wanted to know about the trees that grew there. Some kinds of trees had wood that they could use to build things. Other kinds of trees produced special oils. So they wanted to know if they could use the trees for themselves and for commerce.

‘It was time for *grapes to be ripe’ (verse 20). From this verse, we know that it was the end of the summer.

Verses 21-22 The 12 men travelled through the country called Canaan from the south to the north. They visited the city called Hebron. The graves of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were in this city. But the men did not seem to notice this. Instead, they noticed that the people were very tall. Also, they compared the city called Hebron with the city called Zoan (verse 22). Zoan was the capital city of the country called Egypt. Probably, they compared Zoan with Hebron because Hebron had many strong buildings too.

They noticed the size of the people and their city, as Moses had requested. But they did not seem to remember God’s promises that he would give this country to them.

Verses 23-24 The soil of the country was very good for crops. The men cut an enormous *bunch of *grapes as the proof. There was plenty of food and drink for everyone in the *Promised Land.

The 12 men report back to the *Israelites – Numbers 13:25-33

v25 The 12 men travelled in the country called Canaan for 40 days. v26 Then they returned to Kadesh in the Paran *desert. They told Moses, Aaron and all the *Israelites what they had seen. They showed the fruit to them. v27 They told Moses:

‘You sent us to this country. We entered it. We discovered that it is a very good land. The milk and honey that it produces are plentiful. It is rich and many crops grow there. Here is some of its fruit as proof. v28 But the people who live there are powerful. Their cities are large and strong walls protect them. We saw the *Anakim *clans there. v29 Also, the *Amalekites live in the southern *desert. The *Hittites, *Jebusites and *Amorites live in the hills. The *Canaanites live by the Mediterranean Sea and along the Jordan river.’

v30 Then Caleb insisted that the people should be silent in front of Moses. Caleb said, ‘We should enter the land. And we should take the land. I know that we can do this!’

v31 But the other men who had explored the land said, ‘We cannot attack these people. They are stronger than we are.’ v32 Then they spread a bad report about the *Promised Land among the people. They said, ‘We went through this country. It is a country that seems to eat its inhabitants! (see note). All the people that we saw there were huge. v33 In fact, we saw the *Nephilim, who were the *ancestors of the *Anakim. They were very tall. We felt as if we were very small, like insects! And that is how we seemed to them.’

Verses 25-29 When the 12 men returned, they gave a report about the *Promised Land to Moses and the *Israelites. They started with good news. The soil could produce good crops. The men had brought some fruit to prove this.

But then they said some bad things about the *Promised Land. The people who lived there were strong and powerful. The buildings in their cities were strong, too, to protect these people from an attack. The men mentioned the different groups of people who lived in the country (verse 29). The men were speaking the truth, but their intentions were wrong. The men were trying to oppose God, who had given the *Promised Land to them. The country was good. But the men were giving reasons why they should not enter it. They did not want to obey God. In fact, they were persuading the people not to obey God, too.

The *sin of the people against God was becoming worse. In chapter 11, they had been greedy. In chapter 12, Miriam and Aaron had said bad things about Moses. And in chapter 13, the people were not obeying God. They were *rejecting the land that he had given to them.

Verses 30-33 Caleb encouraged them to enter the land. This was because he believed God’s promises. He was humble and he trusted God completely. With God, it is possible to do anything. But the people did not listen to Caleb.

The other men said more bad things about the *Promised Land. They said that the *Promised Land ‘seems to eat its inhabitants’ (verse 32). They meant that it was a difficult and dangerous place to live. The men also mentioned the *Nephilim, the giant people who lived on the earth before the big flood (Genesis 6:4). This would make the people become even more afraid. They felt very small. They forgot that God was bigger than all their problems!

When we have problems, it is easy to worry or to be afraid. Like the *Israelites, we need to remember that God will look after us. We must believe that he can help us. Like Caleb, we must trust him and we must obey him always.

Chapter 14

The people complain to Moses and Aaron – Numbers 14:1-10

v1 That night, the people shouted and they cried aloud. v2 All the *Israelites complained against Moses and Aaron. The *Israelites said to them: ‘We wish that we had died in the country called Egypt, or even in this *desert! v3 The *LORD should not be leading us into the country called Canaan. The people there will kill us and they will take our wives and children. It would be better to return to Egypt.’ v4 Then they said to each other, ‘We should choose our own leader! Then we can return to Egypt.’

v5 Moses and Aaron lay down with their faces on the ground. They did this in front of all the *Israelites. v6 Joshua (Nun’s son) and Caleb (Jephunneh’s son) were among the men who explored the land. Joshua and Caleb tore their clothes because they were so unhappy. v7 They said to all the people, ‘We saw this country. It is very good. v8 If the *LORD is pleased with us, he will lead us into this country. He will give it to us. The milk and honey that it produces are plentiful. It is rich and many crops grow there. v9 Do not refuse to obey the *LORD. Do not be afraid of the people who live in that country. We will beat them easily. The *LORD is with us. Their protection has gone. Do not be afraid of them.’

v10 All the *Israelites wanted to throw stones at Moses and Aaron in order to kill them. But suddenly, all the people saw the *LORD appear in his *glory. He was in a cloud over *God’s Tent.

Verses 1-6 Everyone in the camp became afraid to enter the country called Canaan. God wanted to give to them this land. But they did not want it. They complained again, as they had complained many times before. They had been afraid of the *Egyptian army when they had left the country called Egypt (Exodus 14:10-14). They had complained then. They had thought that they would die. Also, they had complained when they had no water to drink in the *desert (Exodus 15:22-27 and 17:1-7). Some of the people had complained at Taberah and God had sent fire (Numbers 11:1-3). They had complained about the *manna (Numbers 11:6).

We can learn something very important from this. When we have problems, we have a choice. We can cry out to God, or we can complain against him. We can ask for his help, or we can fight against him. The *Israelites made the wrong choice, not just once, but many times.

They did not trust God’s promise to give to them their own land. So they wanted to choose a new leader who would take them back to Egypt! They were opposing God and his special servant, Moses.

This situation upset Moses and Aaron very much. So they lay down with their faces on the ground. This showed that they respected God very much. They were praying. They knew that he was angry. They knew that he had to punish the people.

‘Joshua and Caleb tore their clothes’ (verse 6). The *Israelites used to tear their own clothes to show that they were very unhappy. Usually, people tore their clothes when someone had died. Joshua had not spoken when Caleb gave his report. But he showed that he was on Caleb’s side. Moses, Aaron, Caleb and Joshua all trusted God to give the *Promised Land to them. The rest of the *Israelites did not trust God.

Verses 7-10 But still Joshua and Caleb tried to encourage the people to trust God. They told them that the country was good. The *LORD would lead them all into the country called Canaan. But they had to do two things. They should not oppose God. Also, they should not be afraid of the people who lived in Canaan. God was with them. He would protect them. The people in Canaan had no protection. They would not be able to defend themselves against the *Israelites.

But the people did not believe Joshua and Caleb. Instead, they became more angry with them. They wanted to kill Moses, Aaron, Joshua and Caleb. Then suddenly, God appeared. All the *Israelites saw the cloud.

Moses talks to God on behalf of the *Israelites – Numbers 14:11-25

v11 The *LORD said to Moses, ‘I have done many great things on behalf of these people. But still they *reject me. They refuse to trust me. v12 I will send a disease that will kill them all. But I will make you, Moses, the *ancestor of a nation. It will be a bigger and more powerful nation than they are.’

v13 But Moses replied to the *LORD, ‘You rescued these people from the country called Egypt by means of your power. Please do not kill them all in this *desert. The *Egyptians will hear about this. v14 They will tell the people who live in the country called Canaan. The people in that country know already that we are your people. They know that you talk to us. They have heard that you lead us by means of a cloud and fire. They know that you protect us during the day and the night. v15 If you kill all of your people together, the people in these other nations will talk about it. They will say, v16 “The *LORD had to kill them all in the *desert. He was not powerful enough to lead them into Canaan, as he had promised.” ’

v17 Moses continued to speak. ‘Show us your great power, *Lord,’ he said. ‘You promised v18 that you will not become angry quickly. Your people can trust you to love them always. You forgive their *sin. But you do not allow guilty people to go without punishment. When parents do bad things, you punish their children and grandchildren. v19 Your love is great and it never changes! Always you have forgiven these people since they left Egypt. So please forgive them now!’

v20 Then the *LORD said to Moses, ‘I forgive them. You asked me and I have answered your prayer. v21-23 But not one of these *Israelites will enter the land that I promised to their *ancestors. This is absolutely definite. It is as certain as the fact that my power has no limit. These people have seen my power in Egypt and in the *desert. But they will never see Canaan. They have refused to trust and to obey me 10 times! They have *rebelled against me, so they will never see Canaan.

v24 But my servant Caleb is not like them. He has remained completely loyal to me. So I will bring him into the country that he explored. His *descendants will own that land. v25 The *Amalekites and the *Canaanites live in the valleys of Canaan. Tomorrow, you must turn back. Go into the *desert towards the Red Sea.'

Verses 11-12 But when God spoke, he did not speak to the people. Instead, he spoke to his servant Moses about the people’s wicked behaviour. He was very angry because they did not trust him.

God had already done so many wonderful things to help the *Israelites. He had allowed 10 bad things to happen in the country called Egypt. This was so that the king would let the *Israelites leave (Exodus chapters 7-12). God had made the Red Sea separate into two parts, so that the *Israelites could walk through it (Exodus chapter 14). He had provided food and water for them in the *desert (Exodus chapters 16 and 17). But still they did not believe that he had power to give to them the *Promised Land.

God wanted to destroy *Israel suddenly. In other words, he intended to let a disease kill all the *Israelites. He had already allowed the *Egyptians’ *first-born sons to die in a similar manner. God wanted to make a new nation from Moses’ family. This was the second time that God had wanted to do this (see Exodus 32:10). The people in this new nation, like Moses and Aaron, would trust and obey God.

Verses 13-16 But Moses did not want God to start a new nation with his family. He was a really humble man! Instead, he worried that the people in Egypt and the other nations might say bad things about God. These other nations knew that the *Israelites were special to God. God spoke to the *Israelites. He looked after them. If God killed all the *Israelites, the other nations would not know the real reason. So they might say that God was not powerful enough. He could not do what he had promised. He could not lead his people into the *Promised Land.

Moses was not worried about what the other nations might say about him, or the *Israelites. He was worried that they might insult God.

Verses 17-18 Next, Moses described God’s special qualities. Moses referred to God’s own words in Exodus 34:6-7. God is kind. He forgives people even when they do not deserve it. He does not become angry quickly. But also he is *holy. He is fair. So he must punish people when they *sin. *Sin is serious. When a person *sins, it can affect their whole family and even their *descendants (Exodus 20:3-5).

The special word for ‘love’ in verses 18 and 19 means that God will keep his special promise (his *covenant) to his people, the *Israelites.

Some people think that, in the *Old Testament, God is always strict and angry. They think that, in the *New Testament, he is different! But God does not change. His character is the same always. He loves us always. But because he is fair, he must punish us for our *sins. So he sent his son Jesus to take the punishment that we all deserve. God loves us so much that he *sacrificed his only son! If we are sorry for our *sins, God will forgive us. He will not punish us, because Jesus had already received our punishment on our behalf.

Verse 19 Then, Moses remembered that already God had forgiven the *Israelites many times. He asked God to forgive them again. Moses knew God well. He knew that God could be very angry. But he also knew that God had forgiven the *Israelites before.

Verses 20-23 God listened to Moses. Moses’ words affected God. This encourages us all when we pray. Our prayers affect God, too. The words that we use are not important. But God knows what is in our hearts. If we are humble and honest, like Moses, God will answer our prayers.

God agreed to forgive the *Israelites. But this did not mean that they would escape from his judgement. So they would not receive the good things that he had promised. The people who had left the country called Egypt would never enter the *Promised Land.

The words ‘10 times’ (verse 22) might refer to the actual number of times that the people had not trusted God. Or it might just mean ‘too many times’!

Verse 24 However, Caleb was the exception to God’s judgement. He had remained loyal to God. So God would allow him to enter the *Promised Land. Also, God allowed Joshua to enter the *Promised Land. Both Joshua and Caleb had tried to persuade the people that the *Promised Land was a good place (verses 7-9). Joshua had remained loyal to God, too.

Verse 25 God told the *Israelites to turn back towards the Red Sea. They would not fight the *Amalekites or the *Canaanites. These were the people who lived in the country called Canaan.

They had wanted to die in the *desert or to return to the country called Egypt. It seemed that God had granted their request! They would wander in the *desert for nearly 40 years, until their *generation had all died. God would give the *Promised Land to their children, who had not *rejected him.

God punishes the *Israelites – Numbers 14:26-38

v26 The *LORD said to Moses and Aaron, v27 ‘These wicked people have complained about me too many times! I have heard how they have complained. v28 I will do to them what they have asked for. I promise that this will happen. Tell them what I have said. I am the *LORD and I have said this. v29-30 Tell them, “Your dead bodies will lie in this *desert. You have complained against me. The punishment will be against all the men who were over 20 years old at the time of the *census. None of those men will enter the *Promised Land. Only Joshua (Nun’s son) and Caleb (Jephunneh’s son) will enter the land that I promised to give to you.

v31 You worried that your enemies would take your children away from you. But I will bring your children into the country that you *rejected. It will be their home. v32 But you will die in this *desert! v33 Your children will wander in this *desert with their animals for 40 years. They will suffer because of your *sins, until you (their parents) have all died. v34 You will suffer because of your *sins for 40 years. That is one year for each day that you explored the land. You will know that I am opposing you! v35 You wicked people! You have opposed me and so you will die in this *desert. I, the *LORD, have said this.” ’

v36-38 10 of the men that Moses sent into the country called Canaan had brought back bad news. They had made the people complain against the *LORD. So the *LORD sent a bad disease that killed those 10 men. But the *LORD let Joshua (Nun’s son) and Caleb (Jephunneh’s son) live.

Verses 26-35 God repeated his judgement against the *Israelites. They had wanted to die in the *desert (Numbers 14:2). So they would get what they wanted. They would die in the *desert! God promised that this would happen.

Only Joshua and Caleb would enter the *Promised Land, because they had remained loyal to God. They had believed in God’s promises. The people had been afraid that their children would die (Numbers 14:3). They had not trusted God to protect their children. But God promised that he would look after their children. He would lead their children into the *Promised Land. But first, they would wander in the *desert for nearly 40 years. This was their parents’ fault. Their parents had not obeyed God. So they could not enter the *Promised Land until all their parents had died.

Verses 36-38 God had wanted to kill all the *Israelites immediately. But after Moses had prayed, God had let them live. However, the men who had said bad things about the *Promised Land died immediately. Verse 38 emphasises again that God did not punish Joshua and Caleb. This was because they trusted him.

The *Israelites fail to enter the *Promised Land – Numbers 14:39-45

v39 Moses told to the *Israelites what the *LORD had said. They were very sad. v40 The next morning, they got up early. They went up towards the hills in the country called Canaan.

‘We were wrong to complain against the *LORD,’ they said. ‘We will enter the country that he promised to give to us.’

v41 But Moses said, ‘You are not obeying the *LORD! Your plan will not succeed. v42 Do not go into that country. The *LORD is not with you. So your enemies will defeat you. v43 When you fight the *Amalekites and the *Canaanites, you will die in the battle. The *LORD will not help you because you have refused to follow him.’

v44 But still the *Israelites dared to go towards the hills of the country called Canaan. They went, although neither Moses nor the *Ark went with them. v45 Then the *Amalekites and the *Canaanites who lived among the hills came down. They attacked the *Israelites. They chased them as far as Hormah village.

Verses 39-45 The *Israelites had not learned anything from their mistakes. Again, they did not obey God. They did not turn back to the *desert. Instead, they decided to enter the country called Canaan without Moses or God!

They said that they should not have complained against God. Perhaps they thought that God would help them again. But Moses warned them that God was not on their side (verse 43). The people should have been afraid. But they were not afraid.

The people who lived in Canaan defeated the *Israelites. This happened because the *Israelites had not obeyed God. In fact, they had done the opposite of what God had told them to do. Hormah was a village on the southern borders of Canaan (see Joshua 15:30).

Chapter 15

Laws about *sacrifices – Numbers 15:1-29

v1 The *LORD spoke to Moses. v2 He told Moses to give these instructions to the *Israelites. The instructions were about how to offer *sacrifices when they were in the *Promised Land.

v3 ‘You may *sacrifice *bulls, male sheep or goats and burn them on the *altar. These are *burnt offerings.

You may offer other *sacrifices because you want to do this. Or you may offer *sacrifices because you have made a promise. Also you may offer *sacrifices during your regular ceremonies. The smell of the smoke from these *sacrifices pleases me.

v4-5 When you *sacrifice a young male sheep or a goat, also you must offer a *kilogram of your best flour. Mix this flour with a litre of *olive oil. This is a *grain offering. Also you must pour a litre of wine on the *altar.

v6-7 If the animal is an adult male sheep, also you must offer two *kilograms of flour. Mix this flour with one and a half litres of *olive oil. Also you must pour one and a half litres of wine on the *altar. The smell of the smoke from this *sacrifice pleases me.

v8-9 When you *sacrifice a young *bull, also you must offer three *kilograms of flour. Mix this flour with two litres of *olive oil. Do this if the *bull is a *burnt offering, or a *peace offering. Do the same if you offer this *sacrifice because of a promise. v10 Also, you must pour two litres of wine on the *altar. The smell of this smoke pleases me.

v11-13 If you are an *Israelite, you must follow these rules. You must do these things each time that you *sacrifice a *bull, a male sheep or a goat. Then the smell of the smoke from your *sacrifice will please me. v14 The foreigners who live among you must obey these rules, too. And the smell of the smoke from their *sacrifices will please me. v15-16 This law will never change. I am the *LORD. I consider everyone as equal, both you *Israelites and the foreigners who live among you. So the *Israelites and the foreigners among you must always obey the same laws and rules.’

v17-19 The *LORD gave Moses these instructions for the *Israelites. ‘When you eat in the *Promised Land, remember to offer some food to me. v20 After every harvest, bake some bread from the first dough (a mixture of flour, oil and water) that you make. Offer this bread to me, in the same way that you offer grain to me. v21 All your *descendants must obey this law. They must offer to me some of the first dough (a mixture of flour, oil and water).’

v22-23 The *LORD also told Moses to give other instructions to the people. They had to follow these instructions if they had not obeyed any laws by accident.

The *LORD said, v24 ‘Perhaps all the people intend to obey all my laws. But perhaps they will fail. Then they must *sacrifice a *bull as a *burnt offering. The smell of the smoke from this *sacrifice pleases me. Also, they must offer to me a *grain offering, an *offering of wine and a male goat as a *sin offering. v25-26 Then the priest will pray. He will ask me to forgive you. I will forgive you, both you *Israelites and the foreigners who live among you. This is because you did not intend to do wrong things. And also you offered the proper *sacrifices to me.

v27 If one person does not obey my laws by accident, that person must *sacrifice a female goat. The goat must be one year old. It is a *sin offering. v28 Then the priest will ask me to forgive that person. I will forgive that person’s *sin.

v29 This law is for anyone who *sins by accident. It is for the *Israelites and for the foreigners who live among you.’

Verses 1-2 Some people think that it is strange to interrupt the story with another list of rules. This chapter is similar to some chapters in the first part of the book, before the *Israelites began their journey. So it seems as if nothing bad has happened!

But there is a possible reason why this chapter is here, at this place in the book. It reminds us that God had promised the land to the *Israelites’ children. Therefore, they had to prepare for the time when their children would live in it. They had to know God’s rules, so that they could tell their children. God was punishing the *Israelites. But also, he was promising them that their children would live in the country called Canaan.

Still, the *Israelites were the people whom God had chosen to belong to him. These rules and laws showed that they had to live as God’s people in the *Promised Land. If they *sinned, they had to offer *sacrifices. Then God would forgive their *sins and he would *bless them.

Verses 3-16 When the people burned an animal as a *sacrifice, they also had to offer grain, *olive oil and wine. The people burned only some of the *grain offering. They gave the rest to the priests. They poured the wine over the *altar.

The smell from these *sacrifices pleased God (verses 3, 6-7, 10). People offered them to show that they were God’s people. They wanted to show God that they loved him. They wanted to thank him for his good gifts.

Verses 17-21 This rule reminded the *Israelites again about their children’s good future in the country called Canaan. They would produce crops there. God told them to give to him some of the first dough (a mixture of flour, oil and water) that they made after each harvest.

God would provide food for them. So they had to offer some food to him in order to thank him. We must never forget that God provides our food, too. We should remember to pray to him before we eat. We should always thank him for our food.

Verses 22-29 The *Israelites had many rules and laws. It was easy to do something wrong by accident. So if all the people, or even just one person *sinned by accident, they had to offer a *sacrifice.

A person who *sins *defiantly against God – Numbers 15:30-36

v30-31 The *LORD said, ‘But if someone *sins *defiantly, that person is guilty of *blasphemy against me. They have hated my words and they have not obeyed my laws. You must send that person away. Such a person must not live among you. This rule is for both *Israelites and for the foreigners who live among you.’

v32 While the *Israelites were travelling through the *desert, a man went to collect some wood. It was the *Sabbath. v33 Some of the *Israelites caught him. They took him to Moses, Aaron and the rest of the people. v34 But nobody knew what to do about the man. So they kept him as a prisoner.

v35 Then the *LORD said to Moses, ‘This man must die. Take him outside the camp. Tell all the people to throw stones at him until he dies!’

v36 So the people followed the *LORD’s instructions. They took the man outside the camp and they killed him.

Verses 30-31 The *Hebrew words in these verses refer to proud people who opposed God. These wicked people understood what God wanted them to do. But they refused to obey his rules. They *rejected him. So they did what they wanted to do. This was a very serious matter. They were *blaspheming against God. And they were not sorry for their *sins. They would not *repent. So God could not forgive them. These wicked people did not have the protection of God. They did not belong to him. They could never benefit from his special promises to his people. He had separated them from his people for all time.

Verses 32-36 This passage provides an example of a person who was *sinning *defiantly. He was opposing God’s laws on purpose. The *Sabbath was (and it is still) a very special day for the *Jews. They did no work. This was because God had told them to rest.

One of the 10 most important rules that God gave to Moses was about the *Sabbath (Deuteronomy 5:12). God told the people to remember always that the *Sabbath was a *holy day. All the people had to rest. God did not want them to work. On the *Sabbath, he wanted them to remember that he had rescued them from the *Egyptians. He wanted them to remember that they belonged to him.

It was a very serious crime to work on the *Sabbath. Every *Israelite knew this. The punishment was death for anyone who worked on the *Sabbath (Exodus 31:15; 35:2-3). But ‘nobody knew what to do’ about this man (verse 34). They did not know whether he had *sinned *defiantly. Perhaps he had not realised that it was the *Sabbath. Or perhaps he had a mental illness, so he was not able to understand about God’s laws. Because of these or other reasons, the man may not have *sinned *defiantly. The man was clearly guilty because of his actions. But only God knew whether he had *blasphemed. Only God knew whether he had *sinned *defiantly.

God told Moses that they had to punish the man. He had *sinned *defiantly. The man knew God’s rules. But he had decided not to obey them. In other words, the man was *rebelling against God on purpose. The man was guilty of *blasphemy. The punishment for *blasphemy was death. So the people obeyed God’s rules (Leviticus 24:10-23).

It is important to realise that God wants to forgive all our *sin. He is eager to forgive; he does not want to punish us. But he will only forgive us if we *repent.

King David was another man who *sinned on purpose. He had sex with a married woman called Bathsheba. Afterwards, David did not want anyone to know about his *sin. So he caused the death of Bathsheba’s husband. And then David married Bathsheba. But David was guilty of *adultery and murder (2 Samuel chapter 11). God sent a *prophet to speak to David. And then David *repented. David’s prayer, when he confessed his *sin to God, is in Psalm 51.

The Bible says that David loved God with all his heart (for example, 1 Kings 11:4). And it says that David obeyed God completely (for example, 1 Kings 11:6). We can see that David was guilty of terrible *sins. And he *sinned on purpose. But God forgave David because David *repented.

The *tassels on the *Israelites’ clothes – Numbers 15:37-41

v37 The *LORD said to Moses, v38 ‘Speak to the *Israelites. Tell them, “You must sew *tassels onto the bottom edge of your clothes. Tie a blue string to each *tassel. You must do this for all time in the future. v39-40 These *tassels will remind you to obey all my laws. When you obey my laws, you will belong to me completely. Then you will not turn away from me. You will not follow your own wishes and desires. v41 I am the *LORD your God who led you out of the country called Egypt. I did that so that I would be your God. I am the *LORD your God.’

Verses 37-41 Every *Israelite had to sew *tassels onto their clothes. Whenever they saw these *tassels, they should remember God’s laws. They should remember that they were God’s special people. They should remember his special promises to them. Therefore they would not want to think about their own selfish and greedy wishes and desires.

Blue was a special colour. A blue cloth covered the *Ark (Numbers 4:6). There were blue curtains in *God’s Tent. Also, kings often wore blue clothes. The blue string reminded the people that they belonged to God, the king of kings.

Chapter 16

Korah, Dathan and Abiram oppose Moses – Numbers 16:1-35

v1-2 Korah, Izhar’s son, belonged to Levi’s *tribe. He was in Kohath’s *clan. On a certain day, he met with three men from Reuben’s *tribe. They were Dathan and Abiram, Eliab’s sons, and On, Peleth’s son. They decided to oppose Moses. They asked 250 other leaders of the *Israelites to join them. These leaders were well-known men whom the people respected. v3 Together, they all went to Moses and Aaron.

Korah and his *followers said to Moses and Aaron, ‘All the people here belong to the *LORD. But you think that you are so much better than anyone else! The *LORD is with all of us. But you think that you are more important. You have made yourselves our leaders!’

The next stories follow the passage about the *tassels for a reason. The people looked at the *tassels to remind them about God’s special promises to them. They were his special people. He had given his *Law to them. He had promised to give to them their own land. But it seems that Korah did not look at the *tassels. He did not want to think about God’s promises. Instead, he thought only about his own wishes and desires.

Moses and Aaron were leaders, but they were God’s servants, too. Korah did not want to serve God. He did not want to serve the people. He wanted to be a leader so that he would have power. So he opposed Moses and Aaron and he tried to become a leader himself.

Verses 1-3 Korah was from Levi’s *tribe. His duties were to help the priests. He was from Kohath’s *clan. So he looked after the most *sacred objects in *God’s Tent (Numbers 4:1-15). He had a very important job. But he was not content with this. He wanted to be a priest. But he did not want to be a priest for the right reasons. Probably, he thought that it was a more important job. And he wanted more power and authority (Numbers 16:10).

He persuaded 250 other important leaders to join him. Then he went to Moses. But he did not say that he wanted to be a priest. Instead, he said that all the *Israelites were holy. They were all God’s people. He said that Moses and Aaron were not more important or holy than any other *Israelite. He did not care that God had given special authority to Moses and Aaron. Korah was jealous of Moses and Aaron. He saw that they had power over the people. It seems that he wanted to have that same power. So he *rebelled against them.

Moses prays to God – Numbers 16:4-7

v4 When Moses heard this, he prayed. He fell down so that his face touched the ground. v5 Then he spoke to Korah and all his *followers. Moses said, ‘The *LORD has chosen a man to be his priest. Tomorrow morning he will show who this man is. This man is holy. The *LORD will let this man come near to him at the *altar. v6-7 Korah, I will tell you what you and your *followers must do. Tomorrow morning, you must take some pans. Fill them with burning coals and *incense. Put them near to *God’s Tent. The *LORD will show us which man he has chosen. You men from Levi’s *tribe are very arrogant!’ (A person is arrogant when that person is too proud and confident).

Verse 4 Moses did not argue with Korah. Instead, he prayed to God. He trusted God to help him.

Verse 5 When Moses spoke, he spoke God’s words. Moses knew that God had chosen him to lead the *Israelites. God would prove it to them.

Verses 6-7 Moses told Korah and his *followers to fill some pans with coals and *incense. Only priests had the right to carry these pans with fire and *incense in them. So Moses was giving a challenge to them. (To give a challenge to someone means to invite that person to prove something.)

Moses warns Korah and his *followers – Numbers 16:8-11

v8-9 Moses said, ‘The God of *Israel has chosen you, Levi’s *tribe, to serve him. He has separated you from the rest of the *Israelites. He has chosen you to look after *God’s Tent. You help the people to *worship him properly. This is very important work. v10 God has given to you, Korah, a special responsibility. You share this responsibility with the other members of Levi’s *tribe. But now you think that you should be priests, too! v11 You are complaining about Aaron. But really you and your *followers are opposing the *LORD!’

Verses 8-11 Moses reminded Korah and his *followers that Levi’s *tribe had special responsibilities. Already God had chosen them to work for him. But this did not satisfy them. Korah wanted more. He wanted to be a priest. He wanted to do a more important job for God. But really, he was God’s enemy! When he and his *followers opposed God’s priest, Aaron, they were opposing God. Moses and Aaron had not done anything wrong. God had chosen them to do their special jobs.

Dathan and Abiram complain to Moses – Numbers 16:12-14

v12 Then Moses ordered Dathan and Abiram (Eliab’s sons) to come. But they said, ‘We will not come! v13 You took us out of the country called Egypt where many crops grew. That was a country where the milk and honey were plentiful. But we will die in this *desert! Now you want to rule us and to command us! v14 You have not brought us into a country where we can grow many crops. You have not led us to a place where milk and honey are plentiful. You have not given to us fields and *vineyards. You are trying to deceive us. (To deceive means to tell lies. In other words, to make people believe something false.) No, we will not come to you!’

Verses 12-14 Dathan and Abiram were not with Korah. Probably, they were in their tents still. They refused to go to Moses. Instead, they sent a message to him. They complained that Moses had not brought them to the *Promised Land. They even said good things about the country called Egypt. But they did not really believe that their lives in Egypt were good. They said these things on purpose, to insult God’s *Promised Land. They were blaming Moses, God’s servant, because they were in the *desert still. But they were not just insulting God’s servant. They were saying that God’s promises were lies. Therefore, they were insulting God. This was *blasphemy.

God becomes very angry – Numbers 16:15-24

v15 Moses was very angry. He said to the *LORD, ‘Do not accept any *offering from these men. I have taken nothing from them, not even a *donkey. I have not done anything wrong to them.’

v16 Moses said to Korah, ‘Tomorrow, you and all your *followers must go to *God’s Tent. Aaron will be there, too. v17 Each man must take his pan with *incense in it. So there will be 250 pans with *incense. Each man must offer the *incense to the *LORD. Also, you and Aaron must offer *incense to the *LORD.’

v18 The next day, the men put *incense and coals in their pans. They stood at the entrance to *God’s Tent with Moses and Aaron. v19 Korah brought all his *followers to oppose Moses and Aaron. They were at the entrance to *God’s Tent. Then suddenly the *LORD appeared in his *glory. Everyone saw it.

v20 The *LORD said to Moses and Aaron, v21 ‘Move away from these people. I will kill them immediately!’

v22 But Moses and Aaron fell down so that their faces touched the ground. They cried, ‘Our God, you made all the people. That is why they are alive. Only one man has *sinned. Do not be angry with everyone here.’

v23 Then the *LORD said to Moses, v24 ‘Tell the people to move away from the tents of Korah, Dathan and Abiram.’

Verse 15 Moses had been very patient with these men. But he became angry when they insulted him. He had been a fair and responsible leader always. He had never stolen anything from them. He had not hurt anyone. But he did not argue with them. Instead, he talked to God.

Verses 16-17 Moses wanted to prove which men God had chosen as his priests. God allowed only priests to offer *incense to him. So it seemed that Korah and his *followers wanted to be priests! So Moses told them all to offer *incense in *God’s Tent. Then they would see whether God allowed them to do this.

Verses 18-24 But God would not allow them to do this! They were proud. They wanted power and authority that God had not given to them. So God decided that he would act against them.

God said he would kill all the people. But Moses and Aaron asked God not to punish everyone because of Korah’s *sin. So God said he would punish only Korah, Dathan and Abiram and their families.

God punishes Korah, Dathan and Abiram – Numbers 16:25-35

v25 Moses got up. He went to Dathan and Abiram. The other leaders of *Israel followed him. v26 He warned the people. He said, ‘Move away from the tents of these wicked men! You must not touch anything that belongs to them. If you do this, you will die with them. This is because of their *sins.’

v27 So the people moved away from the tents of Korah, Dathan and Abiram. But Dathan and Abiram had come out of their tents. They were standing at the entrances, with their wives and children.

v28 Moses said, ‘The *LORD has chosen me. He has told me to do these things. It was not my own idea to do them. I will prove this to you in this way. v29 If these men die naturally, without a punishment from God, then the *LORD has not chosen me. v30 But the *LORD may do something new (see note below). The ground may split open. These men, their families and all their possessions may fall alive into *Sheol. This will prove that these men have *rejected the *LORD.’

v31 Immediately after Moses had spoken, the ground split open under Dathan and Abiram. v32 The men, their families and all their possessions fell down into the hole. The earth covered Korah and all his men, too, with all their possessions. v33 They went down alive into *Sheol with all their possessions (see note below). The ground closed over them. They disappeared.

v34 The rest of the *Israelites heard their cries. The other *Israelites ran away. They shouted, ‘The same thing might happen to us, too!’

v35 Then the *LORD sent a fire. It killed the 250 men who were offering the *incense.

Verses 22-35 Moses and Aaron’s prayers saved all the people from death. It seems that Korah had left his 250 *followers. He was standing next to Dathan and Abiram. Moses told the people to move away from the tents of these three wicked men.

The terrible thing that happened next was God’s punishment. It was ‘something new’ (verse 30). Moses wanted everyone to know this. Nobody had seen anything like it before. The ground opened up and the wicked men went down alive into a hole in the ground. The *Israelites understood that these people were going to *Sheol. This was God’s judgement on them.

The *Israelites used the word *Sheol to describe the place where people go after death. Of course, the person’s body remains in the grave. But the person’s spirit does not remain in the body after death. So people would say that the person’s spirit was in *Sheol. For a wicked person, the idea of *Sheol included the idea of punishment. A wicked person would go to a terrible place that is dark and far away from God. The *Israelites actually saw when Korah, Dathan and Abiram suddenly disappeared into this dark place! And everyone was very afraid.

Then, God punished Korah’s 250 *followers. He sent a fire to kill them.

This is a very sad story. These men had opposed God. They had opportunities to *repent. But they continued to oppose God. So God punished them. But God did not kill Korah’s sons (Numbers 26:11). They had not joined their father to oppose Moses and Aaron. Their *descendants wrote many psalms (songs about God that people use to *worship him). The Book of Psalms is in the *Old Testament. See, for example, Psalms 84, 85, 87 and 88.

But the *Jews remembered Korah as a wicked man who opposed God (Jude 11).

The pans – Numbers 16:36-40

v36 Then the *LORD said to Moses, v37 ‘Speak to Eleazar, who is the son of Aaron the priest. Tell him to take the pans out of the hot ashes. He must scatter the coals somewhere else, because the pans are holy. v38 They became holy when the men used them to offer *incense to me. Hammer the pans until they become thin pieces of *bronze. Cover the *altar with these pieces of metal.

Those men died because of their *sin. Their pans will remind the *Israelites that only Aaron’s *descendants can offer *incense to me.’

v39 Eleazar the priest collected the pans that the men had brought before their deaths. He told people to hammer them until they became thin pieces of *bronze. This *bronze covered the *altar. v40 He followed the instructions that the *LORD had given to Moses. This reminded the *Israelites that only Aaron’s *descendants could offer *incense to the *LORD. If any of the other *Israelites offered *incense, that person would suffer punishment like Korah and his *followers.

Verses 36-40 The fire had burned the 250 men until they became ashes. God gave instructions that Eleazar had to collect the pans. The pans had not burned because the people had made them from *bronze. These pans were holy because the men had used them to offer *incense to God. Eleazar used the *bronze from the pans to make a cover for the *altar. This cover would always remind the *Israelites about how God had punished Korah’s *followers. They would remember that God allowed only his priests to offer *incense to him.

The people complain again – Numbers 16:41-50

v41 The next day, all the *Israelites complained about Moses and Aaron again. They said, ‘The people whom you killed were the *LORD’s people!’

v42 The *Israelites met together to oppose Moses and Aaron. Moses and Aaron turned towards *God’s Tent. Suddenly, the cloud covered it. The *LORD appeared in his *glory. v43 Then Moses and Aaron went and they stood in front of *God’s Tent.

v44 The *LORD said to Moses, v45 ‘Move away from these people. Then I can kill them immediately.’ Moses and Aaron fell down so that their faces touched the ground. They prayed.

v46 Then Moses said to Aaron, ‘Take your pan. Fill it with hot coals from the *altar. Put *incense in it, too. Then go quickly to the people. Offer the *incense to the *LORD, so that he will forgive them. The *LORD is so angry that he is acting against the people. People have started to die from a disease!’

v47 Aaron obeyed Moses. He ran into the middle of the crowd. He saw that the bad disease had started to spread. So he offered the *incense to God on behalf of the people, so that God would forgive them. v48 Aaron stood between the dead bodies and the people who were still alive. Immediately, the disease stopped. No more people died. v49 Because of the disease, 14 700 people had died. This number did not include the people who had died with Korah and his *followers. v50 Then Aaron returned to Moses who was at the entrance of *God’s Tent. The disease had ended.

Verses 41-50 Again, the people complained against Moses and Aaron. The people blamed them for the deaths of Korah’s *followers. But the cloud appeared again over *God’s Tent. God showed the people that he was on Moses’ and Aaron’s side. He was angry with the people who opposed them still. He wanted to punish the people. So he told Moses and Aaron to move away from the people.

A bad disease began to spread quickly. It was as if God had allowed an evil spirit to start the disease. (Evil spirits work for the devil. They are alive but we cannot see them.) Aaron offered *incense to God so that God would forgive the people. God accepted the *incense that he offered. God forgave the people’s *sins and the disease stopped. It stopped spreading at the spot where Aaron stood. He stood between the dead people and the people who had not yet got the disease.

Chapter 17

Aaron’s stick – Numbers 17:1-13

v1 The *LORD said to Moses, v2 ‘Speak to the *Israelites. Tell them to give you 12 sticks, one from the leader of each *tribe. Write each leader’s name on his stick. v3 Write Aaron’s name on the stick from Levi’s *tribe. There must be one stick for the leader of each *tribe. v4 Take the sticks to *God’s Tent and put them in front of the *Ark. That is the place where I meet you. v5 Then, I will choose one man to be my priest. Leaves will start to grow on his stick. After that happens, the people will not continue to complain about you.’

v6 So Moses spoke to the *Israelites. Their leaders each gave a stick to him, one for each *tribe. There were 12 sticks. Aaron’s stick was there with the other sticks. v7 Then Moses put all the sticks in *God’s Tent, in front of the *Ark.

v8 The next day, Moses went into *God’s Tent. He saw Aaron’s stick, which he had put there on behalf of Levi’s *tribe. Leaves were growing on it. And flowers were growing on it. Ripe almonds (a type of nut) were already growing on it, too! v9 Moses brought the 12 sticks out of *God’s Tent. He showed the sticks to the people. They saw what had happened. Each leader took his own stick.

v10 The *LORD said to Moses, ‘Put Aaron’s stick in front of the *Ark again. It will remind the people that they must not oppose me. It will warn them that they must not complain about me. If they continue to complain, they will die!’ v11 Moses obeyed the *LORD’s instructions.

v12 The *Israelites said to Moses, ‘We shall die! This is awful! This is awful for us all! v13 Anyone who even comes near to *God’s Tent will die. So we shall die!’

Verses 1-13 This is the third story to show that Aaron was God’s *High Priest. These sticks were not branches that people had just cut off a tree. They were the special sticks that the leaders carried. The sticks were dead. Leaves did not grow on them.

Each leader wrote his name on his stick. So there could not be a mistake about whose stick had started to grow leaves.

Moses put all the sticks close to the *Ark. He returned the next day to collect the sticks. Aaron’s stick had leaves, flowers and nuts on it! God had made a dead stick alive again. This proved that he had chosen Aaron to be his *High Priest. Nobody could doubt it. God told Moses to keep Aaron’s stick in front of the *Ark always.

The *tassels on the *Israelites’ clothes reminded them to obey God’s *Law (Numbers 15:37-41). The cover on the *altar reminded them that they must never oppose God (Numbers 16:36-40). Aaron’s stick reminded them that God had chosen Aaron and his family to be his only priests.

God did not want the people to die. And they would not die if they obeyed God’s *Law. But the people said that this would happen anyway. They had become very afraid. So they said this to show their despair because so many people had died.

Chapter 18

The duties of the priests and the men from Levi’s *tribe – Numbers 18:1-7

v1 The *LORD spoke to Aaron. He said, ‘You and your sons alone are responsible for the *sins that affect the priests. You, your sons and your *clan are responsible if anyone *sins against *God’s Tent. v2 Levi’s *tribe are your relatives. When you and your sons serve me in *God’s Tent, bring in Levi’s *tribe. They must help you. v3 They must work for you and they must do all their duties in *God’s Tent. But they must not go near to any of the *sacred objects or to the *altar. If they do this, all of you will die. v4 They must help you and they must do all their own work in *God’s Tent. But I will not allow anyone else to come near to *God’s Tent.

v5 Only you and your sons must look after the *Holy Place and the *altar. Obey these instructions! Then I will never become angry and punish the *Israelites again. v6 It was I, the *LORD, who chose Levi’s *tribe from all the other *tribes. They belong to me. I have given them to you. They are your helpers in *God’s Tent. v7 But only you and your sons can serve me as priests at the *altar and in the *Most Holy Place. I have given to you these duties as a gift. Anyone else who comes near to the *sacred objects must die.’

Verses 1-7 God had already provided protection for the people. They could not go near to *God’s Tent by accident. Levi’s *tribe guarded *God’s Tent so that this should not happen (Numbers 8:19).

God spoke to Aaron about this. It was unusual for God to speak to Aaron alone. Usually, Moses gave Aaron instructions from God. But Aaron had special responsibilities as the *High Priest. God reminded Aaron about the duties of the priests and also the duties of Levi’s *tribe.

God did not allow Levi’s *tribe to do any of the priests’ duties. If anyone from Levi’s *tribe came too near to the *sacred objects, God would punish both the priests and the people from Levi’s *tribe. It was the priests’ fault if this happened. They had to check that Levi’s *tribe did only their own jobs.

The priests’ share of the *sacrifices – Numbers 18:8-20

v8-9 The *LORD said to Aaron, ‘I have given you responsibility for the *offerings that people give to me. The priests will receive all the most holy things from the *Israelites’ *offerings. I give them to you, your sons and your *descendants. You will receive part of the *sin offerings. You will receive also part of the *grain offerings and the *guilt offerings. These are the most holy *offerings. Your share of these *sacrifices will be the parts that you do not burn on the *altar. v10 You must eat them near to *God’s Tent, because they are holy. Only men may eat them.

v11 Also, you will receive part of the other special gifts and *offerings that the *Israelites bring to me. Any person in your family who is *clean may eat these things.

v12 You may have the first *olive oil that the *Israelites make after the harvest. Also, you may have the first wine and grain that they offer to me after the harvest. v13 The first and the best part of the crops and the *grapes that they produce belong to you, too. Any person in your family who is *clean may eat these things. v14 Everything that the *Israelites have given to me completely belongs to you (see note below).

v15 All the *Israelites’ *first-born sons and their *first-born male animals belong to me. But you must accept a payment to buy back from me every *first-born son and every *first-born *unclean animal. v16 Each *first-born son over one month old costs 5 pieces of silver. Each piece must be the official weight (see Numbers 3:47). v17 But all the *first-born *bulls, sheep and goats belong to me. They are holy. You must not accept a payment to buy them back from me. Throw their blood against the *altar. Burn their fat so that the smell of it pleases me.

v18 The meat of these animals belongs to you. It is like the breast and the right back leg of the special gifts that you lift up to me (see Numbers 6:20).

v19 From this time, the holy things that the *Israelites offer to me will belong to you and your *descendants. This rule will never change.

v20 You will not receive any property or land in *Israel as your own. I am the *LORD. I will give to you everything that you need.’

Verses 8-20 God did not allow the priests to own any property or land. Instead, he promised to provide what they needed by means of the people’s gifts to him (verse 20).

This passage describes which parts of the *sacrifices and *offerings belonged to the priests.

There were two types of *offerings:

1. The ‘most holy things’ (verses 8-9). These were the *sin offering, the *guilt offering and the *grain offering. God allowed only the priests to eat parts of these *offerings.

2. The ‘holy things’ (verses 11-18). The priests could share parts of these *offerings with their families. But anyone who ate them had to be *clean (verses 11 and 13). This was because people had offered the food to God first.

‘Everything that the *Israelites have completely given to me’ (verse 14). Usually, this phrase meant the things that the *Israelites had taken during a war (compare with Leviticus 27:28-29; Joshua 6:18-19; 1 Samuel 15:21).

Also, the priests received money. This money was the payments for the *first-born sons and also the *first-born male animals that were *unclean (see Numbers 3:41).

The people did not give their *first-born sons to the priests. Instead, they paid 5 pieces of silver. This was the same amount of money as a person would earn in six months. The priests could not *sacrifice *unclean animals. So they received a payment for every *first-born animal that was *unclean, too.

By this means, God promised to provide everything that the priests and their families needed.

What Levi’s *tribe receive – Numbers 18:21-24

v21 ‘One-tenth of the *Israelites’ crops and one out of every ten of their animals belong to me. But I give all this to Levi’s *tribe. This is their pay for the work that they do at *God’s Tent. v22-23 They are the only people whom I will allow to work at *God’s Tent. They must not allow any of the other *Israelites to come near to it. If any other *Israelite comes near to it, that person must die. Levi’s *tribe have the responsibility for this matter, so they will suffer punishment too. This law will never change.

Levi’s *tribe will not receive any land in *Israel as their own. v24 Instead, I will give to them the crops and animals that the *Israelites offer to me. That is why I said, “Levi’s *tribe will not receive any land in *Israel as their own.” ’

Verses 21-24 Levi’s *tribe did an important job. Their job was dangerous sometimes. They looked after the *sacred objects. They carried the parts of *God’s Tent when the *Israelites travelled. Also, Levi’s *tribe had to guard *God’s Tent so that the other *Israelites did not come too near. If this happened, it was the fault of Levi’s *tribe. So Levi’s *tribe received a punishment, too.

But, like the priests, God did not allow Levi’s *tribe to own land or property. Instead, he gave to them a part of the things that belonged to him.

In ancient *Israel, people gave one-tenth of their crops and animals to God. Both Abraham and Jacob had done this (Genesis 14:20; 28:22). But it was a new rule that Levi’s *tribe must receive it.

What Levi’s *tribe must give – Numbers 18:25-32

v25 Then, the *LORD said to Moses, v26 ‘Speak to Levi’s *tribe. Tell them, “You will receive one-tenth of the *Israelites’ crops and one out of ten of their animals. You must give to me one-tenth of these as a special gift. v27 The *Israelites give to me a part of their grain and their wine. You must give to me a part of the things that you receive, too. v28 So you will give your gift to me. It will come from all the gifts that you receive from the *Israelites. You must give this special gift to Aaron the priest. v29 So the best part of the things that you receive belongs to me.

v30 The other *Israelites offer their grain and their wine to me. But you, Levi’s *tribe, will give the best part to me instead. v31 And then you can eat what remains. You, Levi’s *tribe, and your families may eat your share anywhere. It is your pay for your work in *God’s Tent. v32 If you have offered the best parts to me already, I will not punish you. But remember this! The gifts and the *sacrifices that the people bring to me are holy. If you do not offer to me the best part, you must die.” ’

Verses 25-32 Levi’s *tribe helped the priests. They were not farmers, like the other *Israelites. They did not receive wages for their work. But they did have an income. Their income was one-tenth of the other *Israelites’ food and drink. The other *Israelites had to give to Levi’s *tribe the best part of their food and drink.

Then Levi’s *tribe had to give one-tenth to God of what they received. They had to give to God the best part. The rest belonged to them.

Chapter 19

The ceremony to make a person *clean – Numbers 19:1-10

v1 The *LORD spoke to Moses and Aaron. v2 He gave a law to them. He said, ‘Tell the *Israelites to bring to you a young red cow. It must not have anything wrong with it. People must have never used it to plough.

v3 You must give the cow to Eleazar the priest. Then, people must take the cow outside the camp. Eleazar must watch while they kill it. v4 Then Eleazar the priest must put his finger into the cow’s blood. He must splash some of this blood 7 times towards the front of *God’s Tent. v5 He must watch while people burn the whole cow. They must burn its body with the skin, meat, blood and everything inside its body.

v6 Then the priest must take some cedar wood, a branch of hyssop and some red wool. (Cedar is a type of tree and hyssop is a type of plant.) He must throw these things into the fire when the cow is burning. v7 After this, the priest must wash his clothes and he must bathe his body with water. Then he can enter the camp. But he will remain *unclean until evening. v8 Also, the man who burns the cow must wash his clothes. He must bathe his body in water. He will remain *unclean until evening, too.

v9 A man who is *clean must collect the cow’s ashes. He must put the ashes in a *clean place, outside the camp. The *Israelites will keep these ashes, so that they can mix the ashes with water. Then they will use this water in the ceremony to remove *sin. v10 The man who collects the cow’s ashes must wash his clothes. He will remain *unclean until evening. The *Israelites and the foreigners who live among them must obey this law always.’

In *Jewish *Law, *sin could be *unintentional, *intentional or *defiant. For example, a person could become *unclean in many ways (see Leviticus chapters 11 to 15). It was impossible to avoid this in daily life. So this *sin was *unintentional. But, because the first man Adam *sinned, his punishment was death. And Adam was every person’s *ancestor, so his punishment affected every person. Therefore, a person who became *unclean had to make themselves *clean by means of a special ceremony and a *sacrifice.

*Intentional *sins were *sins that people did on purpose. For example, to kill someone was an *intentional *sin. The person knew that it was wrong. A person had to ask God to forgive them. There was no *sacrifice for this type of *sin.

*Defiant *sin was *blasphemy. God could not forgive that person because they did not *repent. The punishment was death.

It is easy to understand why *intentional and *defiant *sins are wrong. God’s 10 rules are about these types of *sin (Exodus 20:1-17). They are commands that are for all people at all times. But *unintentional *sins are more difficult to understand. God gave rules about such *sin, but the rules did not have a natural explanation. They were for the *Jews only.

To touch a dead body was an *unintentional *sin. People who had touched a dead body had to make themselves *clean. This chapter describes what they had to do.

Verses 1-10 The first part of the chapter describes the first part of the ceremony. It was not a *sacrifice. Here are some of the differences between this ceremony and a *sacrifice:

1. This animal was female.

2. People killed it outside the camp. It was not like a *sacrifice that people killed in front of *God’s Tent. The *Hebrew word for ‘kill’ (verse 3) did not mean ‘to *sacrifice’.

3. An ordinary person, not a priest, killed the animal.

4. People did not collect the blood and pour it on the *altar. Instead, the people burned the blood with the rest of the cow’s body. The *Hebrew word for ‘burn’ (verse 5) was not the same word that people used about *sacrifices.

The priest put cedar wood, hyssop and red wool into the fire. They offered them to God. Cedar is a type of tree and hyssop is a type of plant. People used these things to make people and houses *clean (Leviticus 14:1-7 and 14:48-53).

This ceremony was very important. So the priest and his helper had to wash themselves afterwards. Also, they had to wash their clothes. The *Hebrew word for ‘wash clothes’ (verses 7, 8 and 10) meant also ‘wash away *sins from oneself’ in Psalms 51:2 and Jeremiah 2:22.

Someone put the ashes outside the camp. The ashes were ready then for the *Israelites to mix with water. They used the ashes for the ceremony that God described to Moses next (verses 11-22).

What people must do after they have touched a dead body – Numbers 19:11-22

v11 ‘Any person who touches a dead body will be *unclean for 7 days. v12 That person must wash with the special water that people have mixed with the red cow’s ashes. That person must wash on the third (3rd) day and again on the seventh (7th) day. Then, that person will be *clean. Otherwise, that person will not be *clean.

v13 So a person who touches a dead body must wash with the water and ashes. If that person refuses to do this, he or she makes *God’s Tent *unclean. He or she is guilty of this. Therefore he or she will not be one of my people, the *Israelites, any longer.

v14 A person may be in a tent when someone dies there. That person will be *unclean for 7 days. Anyone who enters the tent will be *unclean too. v15 Any open pot in the tent is *unclean also.

v16 Outdoors, a person might have died because someone killed him or her. Anyone who touches that person’s dead body will be *unclean for 7 days. Or a person might have died because of natural causes. Anyone who touches that person’s dead body will be *unclean for 7 days. Also, anyone who touches a human bone or a grave will be *unclean for 7 days.

v17-18 People who have touched dead bodies must make themselves *clean in this way. Take some ashes from the cow that you burned. Put these ashes into a pot and mix them with fresh water. A *clean person must take a branch of hyssop (a type of plant). That person must put the end of the branch in the water and ashes. He must splash this water over the tent and everything that is in it. He must splash this water over everyone who was inside the tent. He must splash this water over anyone who has touched a human bone, a grave or a dead body. v19 This must happen on the third (3rd) day and the seventh (7th) day after the person touched it. Then that person will be *clean. Afterwards, the person must bathe and wash his clothes. In the evening, that person becomes *clean.

v20 If an *unclean person refuses to become *clean in this way, he makes *God’s Tent *unclean. That person is guilty because he has made it *unclean. Therefore, he will not be one of the *Israelites any longer.

v21 These laws will never change. The person who splashes the water and ashes on the *unclean person must wash his clothes also. Whoever touches this water is *unclean until evening.

v22 Anything that an *unclean person touches becomes *unclean, too. And anyone who touches that *unclean thing becomes *unclean too, until evening.’

Verses 11-22 The first part of chapter 19 gives instructions about how to prepare special water and ashes. If a person touched a dead body, they became *unclean. Of course, the *Israelites had to touch dead bodies. There were thousands of people in the camp, including both young and old people.

But anyone who touched a dead body had to follow these instructions. It was a very serious matter if anyone refused to do this. That person was *unclean. Anything that an *unclean person touched became *unclean, too. Therefore that person made the camp *unclean. So if the person refused to follow the instructions, he or she could not remain with the other *Israelites. The punishment might be death. Or it might be that the person had to leave the *Israelites permanently.

Also, these instructions were for people who had been in a tent with a dead body. People who had touched a human bone or a grave had to follow these instructions, too. Even the person who had splashed water on the *unclean person became *unclean. That person had to wash his or her clothes also. Afterwards, that person had to wait until evening to be *clean.

We do not have to wash in a special way in order to come near to God. After Jesus died as a *sacrifice on our behalf, these instructions were not necessary any longer. His blood makes us *clean inside our hearts and our spirits. But we must *believe in Jesus as our *Lord. We must believe that he died on our behalf. We must be sorry for our *sins. We must not want to *sin again. And we must invite Jesus into our lives.

Chapter 20

Water comes out of a rock – Numbers 20:1-13

v1 The *Israelites arrived at the Zin *desert during the first month. They stayed at Kadesh. Miriam died there and the people buried her.

v2 The *Israelites had no water. They met together in order to oppose Moses and Aaron. v3 They argued with Moses. They said, ‘Those other *Israelites died in front of *God’s Tent. We wish that we had died with them! v4 We are the *LORD’s people. You have brought us into this *desert. And now both we and our animals will die here! v5 You made us leave the country called Egypt and you brought us to this bad place. This place has no grain. It has no figs, *grapes or pomegranates. (Figs, *grapes and pomegranates are types of fruit.) Also, we have no water to drink!’

v6 Moses and Aaron left the people and went to the entrance of *God’s Tent. There, Moses and Aaron fell down and they laid their faces on the ground. The *LORD’s *glory appeared to them.

v7 The *LORD said to Moses, v8 ‘Take the stick. You and Aaron must call the people to meet together. Then, in front of all the people, you must order that rock to give water to you. And water will pour out from it. This is how you will get water for the *Israelites and their animals.’

v9 Moses obeyed God. He took the stick from *God’s Tent.

v10 Moses and Aaron called the *Israelites to meet in front of the rock. Moses said to them, ‘Listen, you rebels! (Rebels are people who oppose their leader.) We will bring water to you. It will come out of this rock.’

v11 Then Moses raised his arm. Twice he hit the rock with his stick. Lots of water poured out. All the *Israelites and their animals drank the water.

v12 But the *LORD said to Moses and Aaron, ‘You did not believe in me. You did not show the *Israelites that I am *holy. So you will not lead them into the *Promised Land.’

v13 They called this place Meribah. (In *Hebrew, this means ‘to complain’.) This was because the *Israelites had complained against the *LORD. And the *LORD had showed himself holy among them.

Verse 1 The *Israelites arrived at the Zin *desert during the ‘first month’. This was the 40th year since they had started their journey. Miriam, Moses’ sister, died in Kadesh. She was over 120 years old. When Moses was a baby, Miriam had saved him from death (Exodus chapter 2). After the *Israelites had escaped across the Red Sea, Miriam led the women to thank God (Exodus chapter 15). She had helped her brothers to lead the *Israelites during their journey in the *desert. She had opposed Moses once and she had suffered a punishment for that (Numbers chapter 12). But she was a very great woman. We can be sure that Moses and Aaron were very sad about her death.

Verses 2-5 The *Israelites had no water. They wished that they had died suddenly, like some of the other *Israelites. They did not want to die slowly because they had no water. They cried out to Moses and Aaron because they were so desperate.

Verse 6 Moses did not argue with them. He went with Aaron to *God’s Tent to pray. This was what he did usually in this type of situation (Numbers 14:5; 16:4; 16:22; 16:45; 22:31).

God told them what to do. He told Moses to get his stick. Moses had used this stick to do God’s *miracles before (Exodus 7:20; 14:16; 17:6). But God did not tell Moses to hit the rock with the stick. Instead, God told Moses that he should just speak to the rock. Moses would order the rock to provide water, and the rock would obey.

Verses 7-13 It was nearly time to enter the *Promised Land. But still there were problems. It seems that Moses was tired and angry. Moses believed that God was able to provide water. But Moses was not patient enough. Instead, he acted suddenly. God had told him to speak to the rock. But Moses did not do this. Instead, he hit the rock twice with his stick.

God provided water from the rock anyway. However, he punished Moses and Aaron. He told them that they would not lead the *Israelites into the *Promised Land. They were the *Israelites’ chief leaders. But Moses had not obeyed God’s instructions. Moses had hit the rock. Due to Moses’ anger, God had not received honour. If Moses had spoken to the rock, the people would have seen the *miracle more clearly. This would have brought greater *glory to God. Moses and Aaron had *sinned, so they had to receive a punishment. But still God allowed them to be the *Israelites’ chief leaders.

God told Moses and Aaron that they did not believe in him (verse 12). This does not mean that they did not trust God. It means that they were not loyal to God. Moses had not obeyed God’s instructions. Instead, Moses acted because of his anger. Therefore Moses and Aaron did not let the people see God’s power. In other words, they did not show God’s true character to the *Israelites. And they did not show the *Israelites how *holy God is. So God punished them (verse 12).

This story is similar to another story in Exodus 17:1-7. That event in Exodus was the first time that the *Israelites complained about the lack of water. But there are several differences. The most important difference is that, in the Exodus story, God told Moses to hit the rock. In the Numbers story, God told Moses to speak to the rock only.

The incident in Exodus happened in Rephidim, not Kadesh. But the *Israelites called both places ‘Meribah’ (‘to complain’). God had provided water for them although they had complained. God was generous to them. They knew that they were wrong to complain. So they called the places ‘Meribah’ to show that they knew this.

Moses accepted his punishment. He did not argue about it. He continued to serve the people as their leader. But his punishment had to be severe. It taught the people that it was very important to obey God. Moses realised this (Deuteronomy 3:26).

The *Israelites and the king of the country called Edom – Numbers 20:14-21

v14 Moses sent some men from the camp to the king of the country called Edom. The *Israelites’ camp was near Kadesh. The men took a message.

They said, ‘This message is from the *Israelites. We are your relatives. Many bad things have happened to us. We are certain that you know about all this. v15 Our *ancestors went to the country called Egypt. So we, the *Israelites, lived there for many years. The *Egyptians were cruel to our *ancestors and to us. v16 We cried to the *LORD, “Help us!” He heard us. He sent a messenger to lead us out of Egypt. (A messenger means someone whom God sends for a particular purpose.) Now we have camped near Kadesh, at the border of your country. v17 Please let us pass through your country. We will not go through your fields or *vineyards. We will not drink any water from your wells. We will stay on the road called the *king’s highway until we have passed through your country. And we will not leave that road.’

v18 The king of Edom answered, ‘No! I will not let you pass through our country. If you try to do this, we will attack you.’

v19 The *Israelites said, ‘We will stay on the *king’s highway. If we or our animals drink any of your water, we will pay for it. We only want to pass through your country. We do not want anything else.’

v20-21 But still the king of Edom said, ‘You cannot pass through our country!’

Then the king of Edom sent a large and powerful army against the *Israelites. The *Israelites could not pass through Edom. So the *Israelites turned away from that country and they went in another direction.

Verses 14-21 The *Israelites were travelling north to the country called Moab (Numbers 33:48). In Moab, Moses would prepare the people to enter the *Promised Land. The road through Edom was the easiest way to Moab. It was called ‘the *king’s highway’. It was the main route for trade, so many people used it.

The people in Edom were the *descendants of Esau (Genesis chapter 36). The *Israelites were the *descendants of Jacob, Esau’s brother. So they shared the same *ancestors.

Probably, verses 14-17 were a letter that Moses wrote to the king of Edom. Moses asked the king to allow the *Israelites to travel through Edom. It was a typical official letter to a ruler. Moses had been a prince in the country called Egypt. So he would have known how to write official letters to other rulers.

Moses reminded the king that the *Israelites were his relatives. He wanted the king not to consider the *Israelites as enemies. Moses wanted the king to realise that the *Israelites did not intend to defeat Edom. They wanted only to pass through it on their way to Moab. Also, Moses reminded the king that God had rescued the *Israelites from the *Egyptians. This showed that God was helping the *Israelites. So the king of Edom should help them, too. He would not want to oppose God!

Moses promised that the *Israelites would stay on the *king’s highway. They would not take any of the crops or water. But the king refused to let the *Israelites pass through Edom. So Moses asked him again. Moses promised to pay for any water that the *Israelites and their animals drank. But still the king refused Moses’ request. He sent a large army to stop the *Israelites. The *Israelites could have fought this army. God had helped them to defeat their enemies before. But this was not part of God’s plan. So Moses decided not to fight them. Instead, the *Israelites went another way.

Many centuries later, the people from Edom helped the *Jews’ enemies. Those enemies attacked Jerusalem. Jerusalem was the *Jews’ most important city. When the *Jews tried to escape from Jerusalem, the people from Edom stopped them (Book of Obadiah; Psalm 137:7). But God punished the people from Edom. He allowed their enemies to defeat them completely. They had to leave their country.

Aaron dies – Numbers 20:22-29

v22 All the *Israelites left Kadesh. They arrived at Hor mountain. v23 Hor mountain was near the border of the country called Edom.

There, the *LORD spoke to Moses and Aaron. He said, v24 ‘Aaron, you will die here. You will not enter the country that I am giving to the *Israelites. This is because you and Moses did not obey my command at Meribah.

v25 Moses, go up Hor mountain with Aaron and his son Eleazar. v26 Then, you must remove the priest’s clothes from Aaron. Put the priest’s clothes on his son Eleazar. Aaron will die in that place.’

v27 Moses obeyed the *LORD. Moses, Aaron and Eleazar went up Hor mountain. Everyone watched them as they went up the mountain. v28 Moses removed the priest’s clothes from Aaron. He put the clothes on Eleazar, who was Aaron’s son. And Aaron died there, on the top of the mountain.

Then Moses and Eleazar went down from the mountain. v29 Then all the *Israelites knew that Aaron had died. And all the *Israelites mourned his death for 30 days. (‘To mourn’ means to be sad after someone has died.)

Verses 22-29 God had said that Moses and Aaron would not enter the *Promised Land. This was their punishment because they had not followed God’s instructions at Meribah (Numbers 20:12).

God told Moses to go with Aaron and Eleazar up Hor mountain. This was because it was time for Aaron to die. He was 123 years old. It was the first day of the 5th month. It was nearly 40 years since the *Israelites had left the country called Egypt. (Numbers 33:38-39).

God did not kill Aaron. Aaron died of natural causes. God had *blessed him with a long life. Malachi 2:4-6 describes Aaron’s character. Aaron respected God. Aaron taught the truth and he did not lie. He led many people to turn away from *sin. He obeyed God.

Aaron was the *High Priest. God wanted Aaron’s son, Eleazar, to be the *High Priest after Aaron died. So God told Moses what to do. The *High Priest wore special clothes. God had told Moses how to make these clothes (Exodus 28:1-39). Moses had put the clothes on Aaron during a special ceremony, when Aaron became the *High Priest (Leviticus 8:7-9). God told Moses to remove these clothes from Aaron and to put them on Eleazar. This showed that Eleazar was the new *High Priest. Then Aaron died.

Moses and Eleazar came down from Hor mountain. The people saw that Eleazar was wearing the *High Priest’s clothes. So they knew that Aaron was dead. All the *Israelites mourned him for 30 days. (To mourn means to be sad after someone has died.) They respected him very much as their *High Priest and their leader.

 

 

Chapters 21-36: The *Israelites prepare to enter the *Promised Land

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

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