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Analysis And Synthesis Of Numbers

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The analysis and synthesis approach to biblical studies applied here to Numbers is a methodology developed by the author (DeCanio, 2007) in conjunction with his doctoral studies at the University of South Africa. An abbreviated version of this work entitled, Biblical Hermeneutics and a Methodology for Studying the Bible, will be posted as an article on bible.org.

The bibliography for this study of Numbers is presented at the end of the article, Introduction to the Pentateuch.

Analysis Of The Context

Authorship

The Book of Numbers is traditionally ascribed to Moses though little in the book explicitly confirms it (see, for example, however, 33:2; 36:13). Nevertheless, Mosaic authorship is assumed. Support for this assumption is presented in the Introduction to the Pentateuch.

Recipients

The original recipients of the book were the sons of Israel who made up the next generation from the Exodus. These were the people of the “Conquest” generation, who were awaiting the command of God to cross the River Jordan and enter the land of Canaan to take possession of it. While the book, for the most part, describes the affairs of the people of the Exodus generation, its teachings are directed toward their children who are about to inherit the land promised to Abraham.

Time Period Of Historical Events And Composition

Date Of Events

The events recorded in the Book of Numbers covers a span of 38 years, from the first day of the first month of the second year of the Exodus (see, for example Num 1:1; 7:1; Exod 40:2, 17) until the first day of the eleventh month of the fortieth year (Deut 1:3). The whole of the wilderness years experience is usually designated as “forty years” (see, for example Num 14:33). Assuming that the Exodus occurred in 1446 B.C. (see Introduction to the Pentateuch for a discussion of the dating of the Exodus), then the events described in Numbers would have spanned a time period of approximately from 1445 to 1406 B.C.

Date Of Composition

If Moses was the author of the Pentateuch, as this analysis assumes, then it is likely that the writing of the accounts recorded in this book took place over a 38 year period of time during which Israel journeyed from the Sinai to Kadesh-Barnea, and then wandered in the wilderness, coming at last to the Plains of Moab. This suggests that the Book of Numbers could not have been completed any later than about 1406 B.C., the year that Israel was encamped on the Plains of Moab and poised to enter the Land of Promise (36:13) and the same year that Moses died (Deut 34:1-5).

Biblical Context

The biblical context consists of three components; the historical element, the socio–cultural element, and the theological element.

Historical Element

The historical context of the Book of Numbers is a part of the larger historical context for the Pentateuch. Although it follows Leviticus both chronologically and canonically its historical context is more immediate with the end of Exodus and the beginning of Deuteronomy. The Book of Exodus records Israel’s deliverance from bondage in Egypt to its entrance into covenant-relationship with Yahweh at Sinai. The Book of Leviticus, which further defines the covenant stipulations, does not advance the historical narrative. This narrative is picked up again in the Book of Numbers where it is recorded that Moses was commanded to order the tribes of Israel, primarily from a military perspective, in preparation for the march to Kadesh-Barnea and entrance into the Land of Promise. Israel’s defiant refusal to enter and take possession of the land of Canaan led to their wandering in the wilderness for some 38 years as the Exodus generation died off. With the passing of that generation, God began to prepare the new generation for entering the land of Canaan to possess it by conquest.

Socio-Cultural Element

The socio-cultural context of Numbers begins where Exodus and Leviticus end—Israel is encamped at Sinai. However, by the start of chapter 20, Israel has moved on to the region of Kadesh. From that point on the nation wanders in the wilderness for the next thirty-eight plus years, eventually ending up on the Plains of Moab across the Jordan opposite Jericho. Throughout these thirty-eight years, the people live a nomadic lifestyle as they move from place to place. Although their covenant-relationship with Yahweh has been disturbed, it has not been terminated. As a result, Israelite society is yet bound by the stipulations of the Mosaic Covenant. As significant and complex is this socio-cultural context, it has little affect on understanding the theological message of Numbers, other than that it is part of the contextual framework within which that message is developed.

Theological Element

The theological element for Exodus looks back on Genesis, Exodus and Leviticus and subsumes all of their theological revelations as its context. A major addition to this context must be made as in the Book of Numbers Yahweh males it clear that in spite of Israel’s continuing rebellion against Him with the result that the covenant-relationship is disrupted, He will not terminate the covenant He made with them at Sinai. The basis for Yahweh’s faithfulness to this conditional covenant is founded on the unconditional covenant He made with Abraham. This is significant because it demonstrates that God will fulfill all the promises He made with Abraham independent of Israel’s faithfulness to Him. Just what this means in practice becomes evident in Deuteronomy and the rest of the Old Testament.

Analysis Of The Text

Broad Descriptive Overview

Chapter

Descriptive Summary

1

census of Exodus generation;

2

positioning of tribes and armies around the Tabernacle in camp and on the march;

4-Mar

appointment, census, and positioning of Levites;

5

separation of unclean and defiling things from the camp

6

Law of the Nazirite vow

7

offerings of the tribal leaders at dedication of Tabernacle;

8

consecration/separation of the Levites for Tabernacle service;

9

first observation of annual Passover festival;

 

Yahweh’s presence through the cloud by day and fire by night;

10

silver trumpets for sounding assembly;

 

start of the march to Kadesh-Barnea; murmuring/complaining/grumbling on the way to Kadesh-Barnea about lack of meat;

######

12

murmuring of Miriam and Aaron about Moses on the way to Kadesh-Barnea;

13-14

refusal of Exodus generation at Kadesh-Barnea to enter the Land in response to report of the spies;

15

miscellaneous laws concerning offerings;

16

rebellion of Korah and other Levites;

17

validation of Aaronic priesthood;

18

duties and support of the Levites;

19

red heifer sacrifice for purification from defilement;

20

arrival at Wilderness of Zin/Kadesh-Barnea (38 years later);

 

Israel’s grumbling, complaining about lack of water;

 

Yahweh’s provision of water from the rock;

 

sin of Moses;

 

defiance of Edom to Israel’s request for passage;

 

death of Aaron;

21

defeat of Arad

 

Israel’s grumbling about lack of food and water;

 

journey to Moab;

 

defeat of Sihon and Og;

22

summoning of Balaam by Balak to curse Israel on Plains of Moab

23

Balaam’s blessing of Israel

24

Balaam’s blessing of Israel;

 

Balaam’s prophecies over Israel;

25

Israel’s worship of Baal;

 

Yahweh’s judgment of a plague;

26

census of new generation;

27

laws of inheritance as pertaining to daughters

 

appointment of Joshua

28-29

reminder to keep the feasts after Moses dies

 

order of the festivals

30

laws for vows

31

 

defeat of the Midianites settling of Transjordan by tribes of Gad & Reuben & 1/2 tribe of Manasseh;

33

review of Israel's journey from Egypt to Moab

 

instructions for possessing the Land

34

instructions on the boundaries and allotment of the Land

35

cities for Levites

 

cities of refuge

36

inheritance rights of women

Major Theological Theme: Israel’s Continual Rebellion Against Yahweh

According to Allen (1990:662), the Book of Numbers contains much material that is similar to the Books of Exodus and Leviticus in terms of legislation for the people and particularly material dealing with the rights and regulations of the Levites and the priests. However, the dramatic narrative is what gives the book its distinctive and this is what is significant for determining the message of Numbers. It is through the narrative sections of the book that Moses records Israel’s continual murmuring and rebellion against Yahweh over the forty year period. Though judgment was effected, yet grace was shown but Israel continued to rebel. Those whom God had redeemed from slavery in Egypt and to whom He had displayed grace at Mount Sinai responded with indifference, ingratitude, and repeated acts of rebellion. The Exodus generation was ultimately forbidden to enter the Land of Promise, and was made to live out their lives in the wilderness because they defiantly refused to obey Yahweh and enter the Land of Promise to take possession of it. That privilege was given to their children who would enjoy the blessings of Yahweh in the land promised to Abraham.

Although the second generation had seen the rebellion of the Exodus generation and experienced the judgment of wilderness wandering for forty years, they did not fully learn from this for on the eve of their entering the Land of Promise, while en route to the Plains of Moab, and even while encamped on the Plains, they too rebelled against Yahweh. Yet through all of these years of rebellion God gave assurance that the covenant, though disrupted, had not failed.

Literary Characteristics

Some biblical scholars contend that the Book of Numbers is not easy to analyze, or to outline because the contents of the material appear varied and the arrangement of the material seems to lack a literary sense of unity and coherence that is characteristic of a “book” (Allen 1990:670). However, when the Book of Numbers is viewed from the broad sense of Israel’s rebellions and God’s assurances that the covenant, though interrupted, has not failed, a pattern of material organization emerges that displays coherence.

Literally, and theologically as well, the Book of Numbers is structured around the organizational ordering of the Exodus generation for their march to, and conquest of, the Land of Promise, and the reordering of the second generation as they are poised, in the failure of the first generation, to enter the Land and take possession of it. In between these two major events stand the whole of Israel’s forty year history of rebellion and God’s acts of grace and mercy as He patiently waits for the dying off of the Exodus generation. In a broad sense, the whole of the book can be characterized by periods of rebellion followed by assurance from Yahweh that the covenant has not failed. This characterization is seen broadly in the arrangement of material in the form of the following alternating pattern which reflects the oscillation between rebellion and assurance:

Israel’s rebellion (chs. 11-14)

·         en route from Sinai to the Land of Promise (chs. 11-12)

·         at Kadesh-Barnea (chs. 13-14)

Yahwehs assurance that the covenant, though disrupted, has not failed (ch. 15)

Israels rebellion during the years of wandering in the wilderness (chs. 16-17)

Yahwehs assurance that the covenant has not failed (chs. 18-19)

Israels rebellion en route from Kadesh-Barnea to the Plains of Moab (chs. 20-21)

Yahwehs assurance that the covenant has not failed (chs. 22-24)

Israels rebellion on the Plains of Moab (ch. 25)

Yahwehs assurance that the covenant has not failed (chs. 26-36)

While such an understanding seems to reflect the development of the text which expresses the author’s intended meaning, there are other portions of the text, particularly having to do with the ordering of the people and laws specifically related to Israel’s living in the Land, which do not exactly fit an alternating pattern of rebellion followed by assurance. This suggests that the book of Numbers is more complex than might be indicated by the events of census and ordering of the people.

Synthesis Of The Text As A Unified And Coherent Whole

The analyses discussed above have been used, implicitly and explicitly, to obtain an initial exegesis of the text and from that an understanding of Numbers as a unified and coherent whole. This understanding is expressed in the form the statement of its message, its synthetic structure, and the synthesis of the text which follows from that message and structure.

Development And Statement Of The Message

The message of the Book of Numbers is controlled by the consequences of Israel’s climactic rebellion against Yahweh in refusing to enter the Land. After realizing that they had sinned greatly by defiantly refusing to enter and take possession of the Land of Promise, the sons of Israel decided that they would now go up to “the place which Yahweh has promised” (14:40). But it was too late; judgment had been passed. That generation—the Exodus generation which had experienced Yahweh’s faithfulness and mighty power to redeem, provide and protect for the past two years (14:22a) continually rebelled against Him (14:22b)—would not enter into the land Yahweh promised to the Patriarchs (14:23). Rather the men of that generation would die in the wilderness (14:29) and their sons would suffer for forty years (14:33a)—one year for each day they had spied out the land (14:34)—until they all lay dead in the wilderness (14:33b).

Moses, in response to their decision to now go up and take the land of Canaan, warns them that they are going to transgress Yahweh’s revealed will for them and they therefore will not succeed (14:41). And then comes the most devastating revelation as Moses further warns them not to go up lest their enemies strike them down because Yahweh is not among you . . . and Yahweh will not be with you (14:42-43). This declaration by Moses reveals that Israel’s walk in covenant-relationship has been disrupted. The covenant, however, is still in effect, a fact that is evidenced by the instructions Yahweh gave for the sons of Israel to follow “when you enter the land where you are to live, which I am giving to you” (15:2). Whether these instructions were given chronologically before or after Israel’s act of defiant disobedience is immaterial from the perspective of the author’s development of his message. Coming on the heels of Israel’s fateful act of disobedience and his declaration that Yahweh is not with them, these instructions bring assurance that Yahweh has not abandoned Israel as a nation, but only that generation, and that He will remain faithful to the promises He gave to the Patriarchs. Thus, while Israel’s walk in covenant-relationship has been disrupted for the Exodus generation, it will be renewed with the new, or next generation, for the covenant is still in effect.

The message of the Book of Numbers may be determined on the basis of the analyses and previous consideration. From this comes the suggestion that a possible subject for Numbers is “Israels walk in covenant-relationship. When viewed from this perspective, the text of Numbers may be understood as making the following theological judgment/evaluation about this subject:

This understanding of Numbers, together with the considerations discussed above, leads to the following synthetic structure and synthesis of its text as a unified and coherent whole.

Synthetic Structure Of The Text

The synthetic structure of Numbers is presented first in broad form to gain an overview perspective of the text, and then in detailed form which expresses more completely how all the portions of the text relate together in a unified and coherent manner.

Broad Synthetic Structure

I. The ordering of Israel’s walk in covenant-relationship in preparation for journeying to, and taking possession of, the Land of Promise (1:1-10:10)

A. The organization of Israel for military service and for service in the Tabernacle (1:1-4:49)

B. The sanctification of Israel to Yahweh (5:1-10:10)

II. The disruptions to Israel’s walk in covenant-relationship and Yahweh’s assurances that the covenant has not failed (10:11-25:18)

A. The Exodus generation’s rebellion en route to the Land of Promise (10:11-12:16)

B. The Exodus generation’s rebellion at Kadesh-Barnea: Israel’s defiant disobedience to enter and take possession of the Land of Promise (13:1-14:45)

C. Yahweh’s assurance that a new generation will enter and possess the Land of Promise: Laws to be obeyed after entering the Land (15:1-41)

D. The Exodus generation’s rebellion during the years of wandering in the wilderness (16:1-19:22)

E. The new generation’s rebellion en route from Kadesh to the Plains of Moab (20:1-21:35)

Yahweh’s assurance of Israel’s covenant-relationship in spite of the new generation’s rebellion on the Plains of Moab at the instigation of Balaam (22:1-25:18)

III. The renewing of Israel’s walk in covenant-relationship through Yahweh’s ordering of the new generation to enter and take possession of the Land of Promise (26:1-36:13)

A. The organization of the new generation (26:1-27:23)

B. The renewal of the regulations of sacrifices to be offered at the appointed times and festivals, and of the regulations of vows (28:1-30:16)

C. The beginning of the Conquest and division of the land east of the Jordan (31:1-32:42)

D. Instructions for the conquest and division of Canaan, the Land of Promise west of the Jordan (33:1-36:13)

Detailed Synthetic Structure

I. The ordering of Israel’s walk in covenant-relationship in preparation for journeying to, and taking possession of, the Land of Promise (1:1-10:10)

A. The organization of Israel for military service and for service in the Tabernacle (1:1-4:49)

1. The organization of the tribes into armies for war and service groups for the Tabernacle (1:1-2:34)

a. Census of the Israel’s fighting men according to their tribal armies (1:1-46)

b. Appointment of the Levites to serve in the Tabernacle (1:47-54)

c. Arrangement of the tribes/tribal armies about the Tent of Meeting in camp and on the march (2:1-34)

2. The organization of the Levites for serving Yahweh in the Tabernacle (3:1-4:49)

a. The census of the Levites (3:1-39)

b. The substitution of the Levites for the first-born of Israel (3:40-51)

c. The details of the ministry of the Levites in the Tent of Meeting (4:1-49)

B. The sanctification of Israel to Yahweh (5:1-10:10)

1. Sanctification through separation from defiling things (5:1-31)

a. Sanctification through separation from unclean people (5:1-4)

b. Sanctification through obedience to the law of restitution for personal wrongs committed (5:5-10)

c. Sanctification through obedience to the law of jealousy in the marriage relationship (5:11-31)

2. Sanctification through separation by means of the Nazarite vow (6:1-21)

3. Sanctification through the Aaronic blessing (6:22-27)

4. Sanctification through worship (7:1-9:14)

a. Sanctification through the offerings of the tribal princes set apart for use in the service of the Tent of Meeting (7:1-89)

b. Sanctification through the setting apart of the Levites for service in the Tent of Meeting (8:1-26)

c. Sanctification through the annual celebration of the Passover (9:1-14)

5. Sanctification through divine guidance (9:15-10:10)

a. Sanctification through guidance coming from the movement of the cloud over the Tabernacle (9:15-23)

b. Sanctification through guidance coming from the blowing of the silver trumpets (10:1-10)

II. The disruptions to Israel’s walk in covenant-relationship and Yahweh’s assurances that the covenant has not failed (10:11-25:18)

A. The Exodus generation’s rebellion en route to the Land of Promise (10:11-12:16)

1. The departure from Sinai in accordance with the prescribed order of march (10:11-36)

2. The rebellion of the people against Yahweh (11:1-35)

a. The complaining of the people about the circumstances of journeying through the wilderness (11:1-3)

b. The complaint of the people about the lack of meat to eat and Yahweh’s response (11:4-35)

3. The rebellion against Moses, Yahweh’s appointed leader (12:1-16)

a. The murmuring of Miriam and Aaron against Moses (12:1-3)

b. The judgment of Yahweh against Miriam (12:4-16)

B. The Exodus generation’s rebellion at Kadesh-Barnea: Israel’s defiant disobedience to enter and take possession of the Land of Promise (13:1-14:45)

1. The spying out of the land of Canaan (13:1-33)

a. The reconnaissance of the Land for 40 days (13:1-24)

b. The bad report of the spies (13:25-33)

2. The rebellion of the people against Yahweh’s command to enter the Land (14:1-45)

a. The refusal of the people to enter the Land, choosing instead to return to Egypt (14:1-4)

b. The exhortation of Joshua and Caleb for the people not to rebel but obey Yahweh (14:5-9)

c. Yahweh’s anger toward the people (14:10-12)

d. Moses’ intercession for the people (14:13-19)

e. Yahweh’s judgment against the people (14:20-39)

f. The futile invasion attempt at Hormah (14:40-45)

C. Yahweh’s assurance that a new generation will enter and possess the Land of Promise: Laws to be obeyed after entering the Land (15:1-41)

1. Laws concerning the inclusion of grain and libation offerings with burnt offerings (15:1-16)

2. Law of the cake offering (15:17-22)

3. Laws concerning offerings for unintentional sin (15:23-29)

4. Laws concerning defiant sin: no offering for such sin (15: 30-36)

5. Laws concerning the garment tassel (15:37-41)

D. The Exodus generation’s rebellion during the years of wandering in the wilderness (16:1-19:22)

1. The rebellion against the leadership of Moses and the Aaronic priesthood (16:1-50)

a. The rebellion of Korah and Yahweh’s response (16:1-40)

b. The rebellion of the people against Moses and Aaron and Yahweh’s response (16:41-50)

2. The vindication of the priority of the Aaronic priesthood (17:1-18:32)

a. Validation of the divine calling of the Aaronic priesthood (17:1-13)

b. Affirmation of the priority of the Aaronic priesthood over the Levites (18:1-32)

3. Affirmation of the priority of the Aaronic priesthood as seen in its responsibility to perform the rite of the red heifer sacrifice whose ashes are needed for purification after coming in contact with the dead (19:1-22)

E. The new generation’s rebellion en route from Kadesh to the Plains of Moab (20:1-21:35)

1. The rebellion of Moses and Aaron against Yahweh (20:1-13)

a. The contention of the people with Moses because of a lack of water (20:1-5)

b. Yahweh’s provision of water from the rock (20:6-8)

c. The sin of Moses: striking the rock with Aaron’s rod instead of speaking to it (20:9-11)

d. Yahweh’s judgment on Moses and Aaron: no entry into the Land of Promise (20:12-13)

2. The refusal of Edom to allow Israel to pass through its territory (20:14-22)

3. Fulfillment of Yahweh’s judgment against Aaron through his death (20:23-29)

a. Yahweh’s decree of Aaron’s death (20:23-24)

b. Transfer of the high priesthood to Aaron’s son Eleazar (20:25-27)

c. The death of Aaron (20:28-29)

4. Israel’s victory over Arad (21:1-3)

5. Israel’s complaining over the lack of food and water (21:4-9)

a. The complaint of the people (21:4-5)

b. Yahweh’s judgment of serpents (21:6)

c. The intercession of Moses–the bronze serpent (21:7-9)

6. Israel’s victory over Sihon and Og (21:10-35)

a. The journey around Edom to the Plains of Moab (21: 10-20)

b. Israel’s victories along the way (21:21-35)

F. Yahweh’s assurance of Israel’s covenant-relationship in spite of the new generation’s rebellion on the Plains of Moab at the instigation of Balaam (22:1-25:18)

1. Balaam’s failure to turn Yahweh against Israel and curse the people because of Yahweh’s word of promise to Abraham (22:1-24:25)

a. The summoning of Balaam by Balak king of Moab to curse Israel (22:1-41)

b. Balaam ‘s oracles of blessing on Israel as decreed by Yahweh (23:1-24:25)

(1) Balaam’s first oracle: The blessing of Israel is irrevocable for she is set apart and cursing her is ineffective (23:1-12)

(2) Balaam’s second oracle: The source of Israel’s blessing is her unique relationship with Yahweh (23:13-26)

(3) Balaam’s third oracle: Israel’s blessing is absolute which allows no compromise or change (23:27-24:13)

(4) Balaam’s fourth oracle: A prophecy of things to come; Israel’s ultimate blessing centers in deliverance from all her enemies through her Deliver (24:14-25)

2. Balaam’s success in turning the new generation against Yahweh through fornication with Baal of Peor (25:1-9)

a. Israel’s fornication with the women of Moab and their worship of Baal of Peor (25:1-3)

b. Yahweh’s judgment on Israel through the execution of the leaders of the people in rebellion (25:4-9)

3. Yahweh’s assurance of Israel’s covenant-relationship through His perpetual covenant of priesthood with Phinehas and his descendants (25:10-13)

a. The defending of Yahweh’s honor by Phinehas through his killing of an Israelite defiantly fornicating himself with a Moabite woman, thereby making atonement for the sons of Israel and stopping the plague (25:6-9)

b. Yahweh’s covenant of peace with Phinehas promising him a perpetual priesthood (25:10-13)

4. The aftermath of the rebellion: Israel charged with the task of striking down Moab (25:14-18)

III. The renewing of Israel’s walk in covenant-relationship through Yahweh’s ordering of the new generation to enter and take possession of the Land of Promise (26:1-36:13)

A. The organization of the new generation (26:1-27:23)

1. Census of the new generation (26:1-51)

2. Instructions for dividing the Land of Promise (26:52-27:11)

3. The appointment of Joshua as Israel’s new leader succeeding Moses (27:12-23)

B. The renewal of the regulations of sacrifices to be offered at the appointed times and festivals, and of the regulations of vows (28:1-30:16)

1. The regulations of sacrifices (28:1-29:40)

a. The command to sacrifice the offerings to Yahweh at their appointed time (28:1-2)

b. The regulations of the daily offering (28:3-8)

The regulations of the weekly offering (28:9-10)

d. The regulations of the monthly offering (28:11-15)

e. The regulations of the yearly offerings (28:16-29:38)

(1) The regulations of the Passover (28:16)

(2) The regulations of the Feast of Unleavened Bread (28:17-25)

(3) The regulations of the Feasts of Weeks (Pentecost) and First Fruits (28:26-31)

(4) The regulations of the Feast of Trumpets (29:1-6)

(5) The regulations of the Day of Atonement (29:7-11)

(6) The regulations of the Feast of Tabernacles (29:12-38)

f. Reiteration of the command (29:39-40)

2. The regulations of vows (30:1-16)

C. The beginning of the Conquest and division of the land east of the Jordan (31:1-32:41)

1. The victory over Midian (31:1-54)

2. The division of the land east of the Jordan: settlement of two and one-half tribes in the Trans-Jordan (32:1-42)

a. The circumstances leading to the decision to settle the land east of the Jordan (32:1-19)

b. The decision of Moses (32:20-33)

c. The territories taken by Reuben, Gad, and Manasseh (32:34-42)

D. Instructions for the conquest and division of Canaan, the Land of Promise, west of the Jordan (33:1-36:13)

1. Review of the journeys of the Exodus generation along with instructions to the new generation for conquering the land of Canaan (33:1-56)

a. Review of the journeys (33:1-49)

(1) The journey from Egypt to Sinai (33:1-15)

(2) The journey from Sinai to Kadesh-Barnea (33:16-17)

(3) The wilderness wanderings (33:18-36)

(4) The journey from Kadesh-Barnea to Moab (33:37-49)

b. Instructions for conquering Canaan (33:50-56)

(1) The command to drive out all the inhabitants of the land and destroy their instruments of idolatry (33:50-52)

(2) The command to take possession of the land as an inheritance from Yahweh (33:53-54)

(3) A warning about the consequences of not driving out the inhabitants of the land (33:55-56)

2. Instructions for dividing the Land west of the Jordan (34:1-29)

a. The boundaries of the Land of Promise (34:1-15)

(1) The southern boundary (34:1-5)

(2) The western boundary (34:6)

(3) The northern boundary (34:7-9)

(4) The eastern boundary (34:10-15)

b. Designation of officials to apportion the Land (34:16-29)

3. Instruction for the designation of special cities (35:1-34)

a. The designation of cities for the Levites (35:1-8)

b. The designation of cities of refuge (35:9-34)

4. Instructions concerning the inheritance of women (36:1-13)

Synthesis Of The Book

Based on the message statement and synthetic structure developed above the synthesis of the text of Numbers may be constructed as:

I. Israel’s walk in covenant-relationship is ordered by Yahweh in preparation for her journey to, and conquest of, the Land of Promise. (1:1-10:10)

A. The organization of Israel for military service and for service in the Tabernacle begins with a census of Israel’s men capable of going to war, but with the exclusion of the Levites who are appointed for serving Yahweh in the Tabernacle. (1:1-4:49)

1. The organization of the tribes into armies for conducting war, and into service groups for conducting the work of the Tabernacle begins with a census of all the men of Israel capable of going to war with the exclusion of the Levites who are appointed by Yahweh to serve Him in the Tabernacle. (1:1-2:34)

2. The organization of the Levites for serving Yahweh in the Tabernacle recognizes the priority of the Aaronic priesthood to minister the holy things before Yahweh while assigning the work of supporting the priests to the sons of Levi–Gershon, Kohath, and Merari, who are taken by Yahweh as His first-born. (3:1-4:49)

B. The sanctification of Israel, important for maintaining her walk in covenant-relationship with Yahweh, requires separation from defiling things, permits periodic consecration to Yahweh through the Nazarite vow, provides for special blessing through the Aaronic benediction, is enhanced through the offerings of Israel’s princes for use in the Tabernacle, and is protected by divine guidance through the cloud of Yahweh’s Presence and through the blowing of the silver trumpets. (5:1-10:10)

II. Israel’s walk in covenant-relationship is disrupted as a result of her continual rebellion and defiant disobedience to Yahweh’s command to enter and take possession of the Land of Promise, yet a new generation is assured that the covenant has not failed and that it will enter the Land. (10:11- 25:18)

A. Israel’s rebellious and unbelieving attitude toward Yahweh manifests itself en route from Sinai to the Land of Promise as the sons of Israel first complain about the lack of meat to eat, and then entertain questions casting doubt on Yahweh’s appointed leader, as Miriam and Aaron challenge whether Yahweh has spoken only through Moses. (10:11-12:16)

B. The climax of Israel’s rebelliousness occurs as the sons of Israel defiantly refuse to obey Yahweh’s command to enter and take possession of the Land of Promise, and incurs the wrath of God which denies the Exodus generation any part in the promised inheritance and condemns them to wandering in the wilderness for 40 years until they all die. (13:1-14:45)

1. The reconnaissance of the spies confirms that the land of Canaan is a land flowing with milk and honey, yet because of fear that its inhabitants are too mighty, ten of them return a bad report recommending that Israel not try to take the land. (13:1-33)

2. Israel’s unbelief and rebelliousness reaches a climax as the people of the Exodus generation choose to believe the bad report of the spies instead of heeding the exhortation of Caleb and Joshua to trust in Yahweh for victory, and manifests itself in defiant disobedience to Yahweh as they refuse to enter the land, a defiance that incurs the wrath of God which condemns them to having no part in the promised inheritance and to a life of wandering in the wilderness for 40 years until they all die. (14:1-45)

C. Although the Exodus generation has been denied any part in the inheritance of the Land of Promise, assurance is given, through Yahweh’s instructions concerning laws that are to be kept when Israel enters the land Yahweh is giving them, that a new generation will be receive the promised inheritance. (15:1-41)

D. Israel’s rebelliousness continues to manifest itself during the years of wandering in the wilderness, as Korah leads a group to rebel against the exclusive leadership of Moses and the Aaronic priesthood, but Yahweh vindicates His appointed leaders by putting down the rebellion through Moses and validating the priority of the Aaronic priesthood. (16:1-19:22)

1. Rebellion against the exclusive leadership of Moses and the Aaronic priesthood is instigated by Korah, a Levite, but Yahweh vindicates His leaders by miraculously destroying Korah and all who joined with him, yet the people murmur against Moses and Aaron, blaming them for their death, an act which causes Yahweh to respond with a severe plague that is halted by Moses and Aaron as they make intercession for the people and atonement for their sin. 16:1-50)

Vindication of the Aaronic priesthood is made as Aaron’s divine calling is validated through the miraculous budding of his staff, and the priority of his priesthood over the Levites is affirmed through their differing responsibilities and remuneration privileges established by Yahweh. (17:1-18:32)

3. The priority of the Aaronic priesthood is affirmed as it alone is given the responsibility to perform the rite of the red heifer sacrifice (19:1-22)

E. Israel’s rebelliousness continues while en route from Kadesh to the Plains of Moab as even Moses and Aaron rebel against Yahweh by striking the rock instead of speaking to it for its emission of water, and as even the new generation complains over the lack of food and water, causing Yahweh to discipline them with fiery serpents, yet in spite of this Yahweh blesses them with victory over those opposing their way to the Land of Promise. (20:1-21:35)

F. Israel’s covenant-relationship, though put to the test through forty years of rebellion, is nevertheless assured as Balak’s failure to turn Yahweh against His people demonstrates His faithfulness to His word of election and promise to Abraham, yet Israel continues to turn against Him as the new generation rebels by worshiping Baal of Peor, the god of Moab. (22:1-25:18)

1. Balak’s failure to have Balaam curse Israel demonstrates Yahweh’s faithfulness to His word of election and promise to Abraham, thus assuring Israel of their covenant-relationship. (22:1-24:25)

a. The summoning of Balaam by Balak, the king of Moab, to curse Israel, though against the will of God, is, nevertheless, permitted so that Yahweh may demonstrate His faithfulness to Israel by blessing them through the mouth of Balaam instead of cursing them. (22:1-41)

b. Though he seeks to curse Israel on behalf of Balak, Balaam can only issue forth with blessing as Yahweh, in faithfulness to His word of election and promise to Abraham, causes blessing to flow from his mouth. (23:1-24:25)

2. Balaam’s failure to turn Yahweh against Israel leads him to turn Israel against Yahweh as the new generation rebels by falling prey to the seductions of Moabite women who lead them to fornicate themselves physically with Moabite women and spiritually with Baal of Peor, but the zeal of Phinehas, the son of Aaron, rises up in righteous indignation for Yahweh and executes judgment on a defiant Israelite thereby making atonement for the sons of Israel and halting the plague Yahweh had brought on His people. (25:1-9)

The continuance of Israel’s covenant-relationship is assured as Yahweh promises a perpetual covenant of priesthood with Phinehas and his descendants (25:10-13)

In the aftermath of the rebellion Israel is charged with the task of striking down Moab (25:14-18)

III. The renewal of Israel’s walk in covenant-relationship comes about as Moses organizes and instructs the new generation in preparation to enter and take possession of the Land of Promise. (26:1-36:13)

A. The organization of the new generation involves preparing a new army by first taking a census of all men able to go to war, giving instructions for dividing up the land among the tribes, and by commissioning Joshua as Yahweh’s chosen leader to succeed Moses who is not permitted to enter the Land of Promise. (26:1-27:23)

B. The renewal of the regulations of sacrifices to be offered at the appointed times and festivals, and of the regulations of personal vows reminds the new generation of the covenant commitments that Israel is responsible to keep. (28:1-30:16)

C. Israel’s entrance into the inheritance promised to Abraham begins as the sons of Israel are victorious over the Midianites and divide up all the land taken east of Jordan between the two tribes of Reuben and Gad, and the half-tribe of Manasseh. (31:1-32:42)

D. The final word of instruction to the new generation first reviews Israel’s long journey from Egypt to the Land of Promise, then lays before the people Yahweh’s command to drive out the inhabitants of Canaan and destroy all their instruments of idolatry and Yahweh’s strong warning of the consequences for not doing this, and then gives guide lines for dividing up the land, whose boundaries are clearly delineated, and the designation of special cities for the Levites and for refuge. (33:1-36:13)

Related Topics: Introductions, Arguments, Outlines