Numbers (p134-139)

The section devoted to the book of Numbers is small, comprising a mere five pages. Having preached through much of the book at one point, I felt it lacked some depth, and was surprised that the clear parallel structure in the wilderness travelogue to the book of Exodus was not mentioned. There were a couple great insights however.

The beginning of each [of the two] section[s] is signaled by the census reports in chapter 1 and 26. If the two census lists are the key to its structure, the Greek title for the book, Numbers (arithmoi) is appropriate. One generation ends in failure and death (chs. 1-25), and a second generation replaces it whose fate is not yet determined (chs. 26-36). The Hebrew title of the book, bemidbar (“in the wilderness”), based on its opening words (1:1), serves to foreground the years of wilderness testing occupying the central section of the book (chs. 11-21). (p134-135)

The nation sets out in battle array, with teh ark going before them. Whenever the ark sets out, Moses would say, “Aries, O LORD, and let your enemies be scattered, and let those who hate you flee before you” (10:35). What is demonstrated, however, is that the real danger to Israel is the wayward behavior of Israel herself. (p137)

The book of Numbers forges a connection between the instructions given at Sinai and the promised land, in which that way of life must be put into practice. indeed, Numbers is pivotal in the arrangement of the Pentatech, for in it Israel moves from Sinai (the locatoin at the start of the book) to the border of hte land (the location at the end). It does physically what the next book, Deuteronomy, does by means of the homilectical exhortation, as Moses in his sermons applies the instructions first given at Sinai to their future situation in the land. (p138)


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