Marching And Murmuring

Book of the Month Club

Michael G. Foresha

Numbers contains 36 chapters, 1,288 verses, and 32,902 words. When Numbers opens, it has been a year since the Exodus out of Egypt and the people are still at Mt. Sinai. The remainder of the book spans 39 years. It records the events of the Israelites' wanderings from Mt. Sinai to the eastern bank of the Jordan. The title "Numbers" (Greek, Arithmoi) is so named because of the censuses that were taken at the beginning and near the end of the book (chapter 1, the exodus generation, and chapter 26, their children's generation). The Hebrew title, Bemidhar, meaning In the Wilderness, describes the contents of this book. The title, Marching and Murmuring, describes the character of the people.

The first section, chapters 1:1-10:36, records the events of the Preparation Period. The tribes were counted and arranged (Levi separately). Purity of the camp is next discussed in chapters 5-6 (i.e. Law of Jealousy and the Nazarite Vow). Chapter 7 records the offerings of the Leaders and the Dedication of the Altar. In chapters 8 and 9, the Levites are pressed into service and the 2nd Passover is observed, with exception. Chapter 10:1-11 records the Departure from Sinai, the Guiding cloud, and the Silver Trumpets.

The second section records the events of the Punishment Period (10:11-25:18). It begins with a three-day journey from Sinai to Kadesh Barnea. At Kadesh Barnea, 12 spies were sent into the land. The people followed the majority and did not enter Canaan. The punishment: a plague that resulted in the death of the ten unfaithful spies, Joshua and Caleb being spared. The rest of the generation (those 20 years and older.) wandered 40 years (a year for a day) in the wilderness and died. The journey from Egypt to Canaan could have been completed in a matter of weeks, instead it turned into a 40-year journey. The section includes the ordinance of the Red Heifer and punishment for the Sabbath violator. The murmuring of the people (11:1-3; 4-9; 10-30; 31-35; 12:1-3; 13-14; 16:1-50; 20:2-13; 21:4-10). The deaths of Miriam and Aaron are recorded. On account of Moses' sin at Meribah, he did not lead the Israelites into Canaan. Other events: Challenges of leadership (12:1-3; 16:1-50; 17:1-13), Victories and defeat (14:40-45; 21:1-3; 21:21-35). Edom, Moab, and Midian cause problems. Notable characters: Eleazar, Balaam, Balak, Korah, and Phinehas.

The third section, chapters 26:1-36:13, covers the Prospective Period which includes a second census of Israel (26:1-51) and fair methods of land division (26:57-62). Discussion: Laws of inheritance, replacement of Moses by Joshua (27), rules concerning sacrifices and vows (28-30), vengeance on the Midianites, victory without loss (31:1-54), early settlement of Reuben, Gad, and one-half tribe of Manasseh (32:1-42), and a history of their journey (33:1-56). The borders of the Promised Land are outlined, officials appointed for dividing the land (34:1-29), special cities assigned 48 cities for Levites, and 6 cities of refuge (35:1-39.) The book closes with the problem of female inheritance (36:1-12).

The book demonstrates the goodness (Deuteronomy 29:5 "And I have led you forty years in the wilderness: your clothes are not waxen old upon you, and thy shoe is not waxen old upon thy foot.") and severity (the carcasses fell in the wilderness) of God (Rom. 11:22.). Murmuring is one of the key terms of the book. The Israelites murmured against Moses and Aaron (14:2), which was ultimately murmuring against God (14:27). Murmuring is equal to rebellion (14:9); it reflects a despising of the Lord (14:11,23). The New Testament writer calls it unbelief. Let us use this book as a preventive of apostasy (1 Corinthians 10:1-12.). 90 Pleasants Ave., Shinnston, WV 26431.


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