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The Book
Book
of Numbers (from Greek Ἀριθμοί, Arithmoi; Hebrew: בְּמִדְבַּר‬, Bəmiḏbar, "In the desert [of]") is the fourth book of the Hebrew Bible, and the fourth of five books of the Jewish Torah.[1] The book has a long and complex history, but its final form is probably due to a Priestly redaction (i.e., editing) of a Yahwistic source made some time in the early Persian period (5th century BCE).[2] The name of the book comes from the two censuses taken of the Israelites. Numbers begins at Mount Sinai, where the Israelites
Israelites
have received their laws and covenant from God and God has taken up residence among them in the sanctuary.[3] The task before them is to take possession of the Promised Land. The people are counted and preparations are made for resuming their march. The Israelites
Israelites
begin the journey, but they "murmur" at the hardships along the way, and about the authority of Moses
Moses
and Aaron. For these acts, God destroys approximately 15,000 of them through various means. They arrive at the borders of Canaan
Canaan
and send spies into the land. Upon hearing the spies' fearful report concerning the conditions in Canaan, the Israelites
Israelites
refuse to take possession of it. God condemns them to death in the wilderness until a new generation can grow up and carry out the task. The book ends with the new generation of Israelites
Israelites
in the Plain of Moab ready for the crossing of the Jordan River.[4] Numbers is the culmination of the story of Israel's exodus from oppression in Egypt and their journey to take possession of the land God promised their fathers. As such it draws to a conclusion the themes introduced in Genesis and played out in Exodus and Leviticus: God has promised the Israelites
Israelites
that they shall become a great (i.e. numerous) nation, that they will have a special relationship with Yahweh
Yahweh
their god, and that they shall take possession of the land of Canaan. Numbers also demonstrates the importance of holiness, faithfulness and trust: despite God's presence and his priests, Israel lacks faith and the possession of the land is left to a new generation.[2]

Contents

1 Structure 2 Summary 3 Composition 4 Themes 5 Weekly Torah
Torah
portions 6 See also 7 References

7.1 Citations 7.2 Bibliography

8 Further reading 9 External links

9.1 Translations

Structure[edit] Most commentators divide Numbers into three sections based on locale (Mount Sinai, Kadesh-Barnea
Kadesh-Barnea
and the plains of Moab), linked by two travel sections;[5] an alternative is to see it as structured around the two generations of those condemned to die in the wilderness and the new generation who will enter Canaan, making a theological distinction between the disobedience of the first generation and the obedience of the second.[6] Summary[edit]

Priest, Levite, and furnishings of the Tabernacle

God orders Moses, in the wilderness of Sinai, to number those able to bear arms—of all the men "from twenty years old and upward," and to appoint princes over each tribe. A total of 603,550 Israelites
Israelites
are found to be fit for military service. The tribe of Levi is exempted from military service and therefore not included in the census. Moses consecrates the Levites for the service of the Tabernacle
Tabernacle
in the place of the first-born sons, who hitherto had performed that service. The Levites are divided into three families, the Gershonites, the Kohathites, and the Merarites, each under a chief. The Kohathites were headed by Eleazar, son of Aaron, while the Gershonites and Merarites were headed by Aaron's other son, Ithamar. Preparations are then made for resuming the march to the Promised Land. Various ordinances and laws are decreed. The Israelites
Israelites
set out from Sinai. The people murmur against God and are punished by fire; Moses
Moses
complains of their stubbornness and is ordered to choose seventy elders to assist him in the government of the people. Miriam
Miriam
and Aaron
Aaron
insult Moses
Moses
at Hazeroth, which angers God; Miriam
Miriam
is punished with leprosy and is shut out of camp for seven days, at the end of which the Israelites
Israelites
proceed to the desert of Paran on the border of Canaan. Twelve spies are sent out into Canaan and come back to report to Moses. Joshua
Joshua
and Caleb, two of the spies, report that the land is abundant and is "flowing with milk and honey", but the other spies say that it is inhabited by giants, and the Israelites
Israelites
refuse to enter the land. Yahweh
Yahweh
decrees that the Israelites
Israelites
will be punished for their loss of faith by having to wander in the wilderness for 40 years. Moses
Moses
is ordered by God to make plates to cover the altar. The children of Israel murmur against Moses
Moses
and Aaron
Aaron
on account of the destruction of Korah's men and are stricken with the plague, with 14,700 perishing. Aaron
Aaron
and his family are declared by God to be responsible for any iniquity committed in connection with the sanctuary. The Levites are again appointed to help in the keeping of the Tabernacle. The Levites are ordered to surrender to the priests a part of the tithes taken to them. Miriam
Miriam
dies at Kadesh Barnea and the Israelites
Israelites
set out for Moab, on Canaan's eastern border. The Israelites
Israelites
blame Moses
Moses
for the lack of water. Moses
Moses
is ordered by God to speak to a rock but initially disobeys, and is punished by the announcement that he shall not enter Canaan. The king of Edom refuses permission to pass through his land and they go around it. Aaron
Aaron
dies on Mount Hor. The Israelites
Israelites
are bitten by Fiery flying serpents for speaking against God and Moses. A brazen serpent is made to ward off these serpents. The Israelites
Israelites
arrive on the plains of Moab. A new census gives the total number of males from twenty years and upward as 601,730, and the number of the Levites from the age of one month and upward as 23,000. The land shall be divided by lot. The daughters of Zelophehad, their father having no sons, are to share in the allotment. Moses
Moses
is ordered to appoint Joshua
Joshua
as his successor. Prescriptions for the observance of the feasts and the offerings for different occasions are enumerated. Moses
Moses
orders the Israelites
Israelites
to massacre the people of Midian. The Reubenites and the Gadites request Moses
Moses
to assign them the land east of the Jordan. Moses
Moses
grants their request after they promise to help in the conquest of the land west of the Jordan. The land east of the Jordan is divided among the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and the half-tribe of Manasseh. Moses
Moses
recalls the stations at which the Israelites
Israelites
halted during their forty years' wanderings and instructs the Israelites
Israelites
to exterminate the Canaanites and destroy their idols. The boundaries of the land are spelled out; the land is to be divided under the supervision of Eleazar, Joshua, and twelve princes, one of each tribe. Composition[edit]

Balaam
Balaam
and the Angel (illustration from the 1493 Nuremberg Chronicle)

The majority of modern biblical scholars believe that the Torah
Torah
(the books of Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy) reached its present form in the post-Exilic period (i.e., after c.520 BCE), based on pre-existing written and oral traditions and "contemporary geographical and demographic details but even more importantly from contemporary political realities".[7][8] The five books are often described as being drawn from four "sources" - schools of writers rather than individuals - the Yahwist and the Elohist (frequently treated as a single source), the Priestly source and the Deuteronomist.[9] There is ongoing dispute over the origins of the non-Priestly source(s), but it is generally agreed that the Priestly source is post-exilic.[10]

Genesis is made up of Priestly and non-Priestly material.[10] Exodus is an anthology drawn from nearly all periods of Israel's history.[11] Leviticus
Leviticus
is entirely Priestly and dates from the exilic/post-exilic period.[12] Numbers is a Priestly redaction (i.e., editing) of a non-Priestly original.[2] Deuteronomy, now the last book of the Torah, began as the set of religious laws (these make up the bulk of the book), was extended in the early part of the 6th century BCE to serve as the introduction to the Deuteronomistic history (the books from Joshua
Joshua
to Kings), and later still was detached from that history, extended and edited again, and attached to the Torah.[13]

Themes[edit]

A Plague Inflicted on Israel While Eating the Quail (illustration from the 1728 Figures de la Bible)

David A. Clines, in his influential The Themes of the Pentateuch (1978), identified the overarching theme of the five books as the partial fulfilment of a promise made by God to the patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac
Isaac
and Jacob. The promise has three elements: posterity (i.e., descendants – Abraham
Abraham
is told that his descendants will be as innumerable as the stars), divine-human relationship (Israel is to be God's chosen people), and land (the land of Canaan, cursed by Noah immediately after the Deluge).[14] The theme of the divine-human relationship is expressed, or managed, through a series of covenants (meaning treaties, legally binding agreements) stretching from Genesis to Deuteronomy
Deuteronomy
and beyond. The first is the covenant between God and Noah immediately after the Deluge in which God agrees never again to destroy the Earth with water. The next is between God and Abraham, and the third between God and all Israel at Mount Sinai. In this third covenant, unlike the first two, God hands down an elaborate set of laws (scattered through Exodus, Leviticus
Leviticus
and Numbers), which the Israelites
Israelites
are to observe; they are also to remain faithful to Yahweh, the god of Israel, meaning, among other things, that they must put their trust in his help.[15] The theme of descendants marks the first event in Numbers, the census of Israel's fighting men: the huge number which results (over 600,000) demonstrates the fulfillment of God's promise to Abraham
Abraham
of innumerable descendants, as well as serving as God's guarantee of victory in Canaan.[16] As chapters 1–10 progress, the theme of God's presence with Israel comes to the fore: these chapters describe how Israel is to be organised around the Sanctuary, God's dwelling-place in their midst, under the charge of the Levites and priests, in preparation for the conquest of the land.[17] The Israelites
Israelites
then set out to conquer the land, but almost immediately they refuse to enter it, and Yahweh
Yahweh
condemns the whole generation who left Egypt to die in the wilderness. The message is clear: failure was not due to any fault in the preparation, because Yahweh
Yahweh
had foreseen everything, but to Israel's sin of unfaithfulness. In the final section, the Israelites
Israelites
of the new generation follow Yahweh's instructions as given through Moses
Moses
and are successful in all they attempt.[17] The last five chapters are exclusively concerned with land: instructions for the extermination of the Canaanites, the demarcation of the boundaries of the land, how the land is to be divided, holy cities for the Levites and "cities of refuge", the problem of pollution of the land by blood, and regulations for inheritance when a male heir is lacking.[18] Weekly Torah
Torah
portions[edit] Main article: Weekly Torah
Torah
portion

Bemidbar, on Numbers 1–4: First census, priestly duties Naso, on Numbers 4–7: Priestly duties, the camp, unfaithfulness and the Nazirite, Tabernacle
Tabernacle
consecration Behaalotecha, on Numbers 8–12: Levites, journeying by cloud and fire, complaints, questioning of Moses Shlach, on Numbers 13–15: Mixed report of the scouts and Israel's response, libations, bread, idol worship, fringes Korach, on Numbers 16–18: Korah’s rebellion, plague, Aaron’s staff buds, duties of the Levites Chukat, on Numbers 19–21: Red heifer, water from a rock, Miriam’s and Aaron’s deaths, victories, serpents Balak, on Numbers 22–25: Balaam's donkey and blessing Pinechas, on Numbers 25–29: Phinehas, second census, inheritance, Moses' successor, offerings and holidays Matot, on Numbers 30–32: Vows, Midian, dividing booty, land for Reuben, Gad, and half of Manasseh Masei, on Numbers 33–36: Stations of the Israelites’ journeys, instructions for conquest, cities for Levites

See also[edit]

Balaam Book
Book
of the Wars of the Lord Inverted nun (only appears twice in the Book
Book
of Numbers and seven times in the Book
Book
of Psalms) Ketef Hinnom Priestly Blessing Torah What hath God wrought (other) Wilderness of Sin

References[edit] Citations[edit]

^ Ashley 1993, p. 1. ^ a b c McDermott 2002, p. 21. ^ Olson 1996, p. 9. ^ Stubbs 2009, p. 19–20. ^ Ashley 1993, p. 2-3. ^ Knierim 1995, p. 381. ^ Enns 2012, p. 5. ^ Finkelstein, I., Silberman, NA., The Bible
Bible
Unearthed: Archaeology's New Vision of Ancient Israel and the Origin of Its Sacred Texts, p.68-69 ^ Coogan, Brettler & Newsom 2007, p. 6. ^ a b Carr 2000, p. 492. ^ Dozeman 2000, p. 443. ^ Houston 2003, p. 102. ^ Van Seters 2004, p. 93. ^ Clines 1997, p. 29. ^ Bandstra 2004, p. 28-29. ^ Olson 1996, p. 14. ^ a b Ska 2006, p. 38. ^ Clines 1997, p. 62.

Bibliography[edit]

Ashley, Timothy R (1993). The Book
Book
of Numbers. Eerdmans. ISBN 9780802825230.  Bandstra, Barry L (2004). Reading the Old Testament: an introduction to the Hebrew Bible. Wadsworth. ISBN 9780495391050.  Carr, David (2000). "Genesis, Book
Book
of". In Freedman, David Noel; Myers, Allen C. Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible. Eerdmans. ISBN 9789053565032.  Clines, David A (1997). The theme of the Pentateuch. Sheffield Academic Press. ISBN 9780567431967.  Coogan, Michael David; Brettler, Marc Zvi; Newsom, Carol Ann (2007). "Editors' Introduction". In Coogan, Michael David; Brettler, Marc Zvi; Newsom, Carol Ann. The New Oxford Annotated Bible
Bible
with the Apocryphal/Deuterocanonical Books. Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780195288803.  Dozeman, Thomas (2000). "Exodus, Book
Book
of". In Freedman, David Noel; Myers, Allen C. Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible. Eerdmans. ISBN 9789053565032.  Enns, Peter (2012). The Evolution of Adam. Baker Books. ISBN 9781587433153.  Houston, Walter J (2003). "Leviticus". In Dunn, James D. G.; Rogerson, John William. Eerdmans Bible
Bible
Commentary. Eerdmans. ISBN 9780802837110.  Knierim, Rolf P (1995). The task of Old Testament
Old Testament
theology: substance, method, and cases. Eerdmans. ISBN 9780802807151.  McDermott, John J (2002). Reading the Pentateuch: a historical introduction. Pauline Press. ISBN 9780809140824.  Olson, Dennis T (1996). Numbers. Westminster John Knox Press. ISBN 9780664237363.  Plaut, Gunther. The Torah: A Modern Commentary (1981), ISBN 0-8074-0055-6 Ska, Jean-Louis (2006). Introduction to reading the Pentateuch. Eisenbrauns. ISBN 9781575061221.  Stubbs, David L (2009). Numbers. Brazos Press. ISBN 9780664237363.  Van Seters, John (2004). The Pentateuch: a social-science commentary. Continuum International Publishing Group. ISBN 9780567080882. 

Further reading[edit]

Blenkinsopp, Joseph (2004). Treasures old and new: essays in the theology of the Pentateuch. Eerdmans. ISBN 9780802826794.  Brueggemann, Walter (2002). Reverberations of faith: a theological handbook of Old Testament
Old Testament
themes. Westminster John Knox. ISBN 9780664222314.  Campbell, Antony F; O'Brien, Mark A (1993). Sources of the Pentateuch: texts, introductions, annotations. Fortress Press. ISBN 9781451413670.  Carr, David M. (2016). "The Formation of the Hebrew Bible". In Niditch, Susan. The Wiley Blackwell Companion to Ancient Israel. John Wiley & Sons.  Dawes, Gregory W (2005). Introduction to the Bible. Liturgical Press. ISBN 9780814628355.  Fretheim, Terence E (1998). "Numbers". In John Barton. Oxford Bible Commentary. Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780198755005.  Gilbert, Christopher (2009). A Complete Introduction to the Bible. Paulist Press. ISBN 9780809145522.  Knierim, Rolf P; Coats, George W (2005). Numbers. Eerdmans. ISBN 9780802822314.  Kugler, Robert; Hartin, Patrick (2009). An Introduction to the Bible. Eerdmans. ISBN 9780802846365.  Van Seters, John (1998). "The Pentateuch". In Steven L. McKenzie, Matt Patrick Graham. The Hebrew Bible
Hebrew Bible
today: an introduction to critical issues. Westminster John Knox Press. ISBN 9780664256524. 

External links[edit]

Wikimedia Commons has media related to Book
Book
of Numbers.

Wikisource
Wikisource
has original text related to this article: Numbers (Bible)

Numbers - Mikraot Gedolot Haketer - online edition, Menachem Cohen, Bar Ilan University (Hebrew) במדבר Bamidbar – Numbers (Hebrew – English at Mechon-Mamre.org)

Translations[edit] Jewish translations:

Numbers at Mechon-Mamre (Jewish Publication Society translation) Numbers (The Living Torah) Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan's translation and commentary at Ort.org Bamidbar – Numbers (Judaica Press) translation [with Rashi's commentary] at Chabad.org

Christian
Christian
translations:

Numbers Online Bible
Bible
at GospelHall.org (King James Version) oremus Bible
Bible
Browser (New Revised Standard Version) oremus Bible
Bible
Browser (Anglicized New Revised Standard Version) Numbers at Wikisource
Wikisource
(Authorized King James Version) Numbers at drbo.org (Douay-Rheims Version) Bible: Numbers public domain audiobook at LibriVox
LibriVox
Various versions

Book
Book
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