The Book of Numbers is a book of the Bible that Christians tend to skim or avoid. I say this because I’ve heard others complain about reading Numbers, and I plead guilty also. The general complaints are “too many names” and “too many numbers.” But after all, the Bible is the Word of God, and Numbers is just as important as any other book of the Bible. I’m focused on Numbers now because I’m reading it slowly, circling and underlining words and making notes in the margins.
The book starts out in the wilderness of Sinai. The first thing that leaps off the page is the phrase “The LORD spoke to Moses.” THAT is profound. The phrase is repeated throughout Numbers. Moses had a one on one relationship with the God of the universe. How would you like to have that kind of intimacy with God? I would.
Numbers refers to the Hebrew tribes and the number of men within each–“from 20 years old and upward, whoever was able to go out to war” (Numbers 1: 20 NASB). As you go through Numbers, you learn that Judah was the tribe with the largest number of fighting men, and Manasseh was the smallest. Eleven of the twelve tribes were numbered. The Levites were not part of the census because they were assigned to setting up and taking down the tabernacle and it’s furnishings. They did not fight. Their duties centered strictly around the tabernacle or tent of meeting.
The tabernacle was in the center of the encampment, bordered by tribes on the north, south, east, and west. A cloud, representing the presence of God, covered the tabernacle by day and had the appearance of fire by night. The cloud was continuously over the tabernacle. When the cloud lifted, the tribes set out; and wherever the cloud settled, the tribes encamped around it (Numbers 9: 15-23).
Most people are familiar with the story of Samson and Delilah, recorded in the Book of Judges. Samson was a Nazarite. Numbers 6: 1-21 defines the Nazarite vow and who could make the vow. Either a man or a woman could make a Nazarite vow to dedicate himself or herself to the Lord for a period of time. During this time the Nazarite abstained from wine, strong drink, vinegar, grape juice, dried or fresh grapes, including grape seeds and skins. Also, the Nazarite could not cut his hair or go near a dead person.
My favorite part of Numbers is the Aaronic blessing:
“The LORD bless thee, and keep thee: The LORD make His face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee: The LORD lift up His countenance upon thee, and give thee peace” (Numbers 6: 24-26 KJV).
Numbers is an intriguing book, and what I’ve written is less than an introduction, but I hope it’s enough to encourage others to read it.