In the Desert
An EasyEnglish Bible Version and Commentary (2800 word vocabulary) on the Book of Numbers
This commentary has been through Advanced Checking.
Words in boxes are from the Bible.
A word list at the end explains words with a *star by them.
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.
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 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.
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.
This book teaches us some very important things about God.
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).
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).
God never allowed the *Israelites to *worship false gods (Numbers chapter 25).
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.)
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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