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Overview of the Book of Numbers in the Bible

Updated on December 10, 2019
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Rev. Margaret Minnicks is an ordained Bible teacher. She writes many articles that are Bible lessons.

Numbers is the fourth book in the Pentateuch that consists of Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. The Book of Numbers is about numbers, and many of them are included in the 36 chapters.

There are two major censuses. One is at the beginning of the book, and the other one is at the end of the book.

Two different censuses are in the Book of Numbers.

Number Counted for Military Service

The first census was to find out the number of men who were fit for military service. The census included those who were twenty years old and older and who were strong enough to bear arms.

After the census was conducted, it was determined that 603,550 men were fit for military service.

Tribe of Levi

The Levitical priests were not included in the census because they are exempted from military service. Their duties were to take care of the Tabernacle and perform other priestly activities.

Moses consecrated the Levites so they could carry out their priestly duties. The tribe of Levi included Aaron and his sons.

Complaints Along the Way

Some of the people constantly complained and murmured about Moses and God. This displeased God. Then He ordered Moses to choose seventy elders to help him manage the people as they traveled in the wilderness.

Even Moses' own siblings, Miriam and Aaron, complained against their brother. Miriam was punished with leprosy for what she had said. She was put out of the camp for seven days. Aaron was not punished because he was a priest. While Miriam was outside the camp, the group stayed in one place because they could not leave her behind.

Twelve Spies

Before the nation of Israel entered the promised land they wanted to know what it was like. Therefore, twelve spies went out to look over Canaan. However, only Joshua and Caleb reported that the land was fertile and abundant. They described it as a land flowing with milk and honey. To this day, people still use that expression to describe Canaan.

The other ten spies reported that the land was full of giants. Because the Israelites refused to enter the land God had given them, He let them wander in the desert for 40 years.

Land Allotted

The twelve tribes requested an allotment of the promised land. Their request was granted. The land was divided, and each tribe received a portion along with boundaries.

Zelophehad from the tribe of Manasseh had no sons. His five daughters received his portion of the land.

End of the Book of Numbers

Before the book of Numbers ends, Moses again conducts a new census. It was different from the previous one at the beginning of the book. Instead of the original census of 603,550 males from twenty years and upward, the new census included 601,730 males.

At the end of the book, Moses appoints Joshua to lead the people into the promised land because He was kept from going in because of his disobedience.


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