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Numbers 10 to 12 in the Bible

Updated on February 16, 2011

Reading Through The Bible: Numbers 10-12

So many times, we like to think of the ancient Israelites like we think of characters in a play. In the Bible book of Numbers, the Israelites wander in the desert, they complain, God sends some more plagues, etc. Do we really try to think about what it would have been like to actually be an Israelite in ancient Israel? When I try to put myself in their shoes, I get a lot more out of the book.

We live in some "interesting" times, as the old Chinese curse would say. The economy is falling apart, and times are rough. We could learn a little something about how to live in rough times from the ancient Israelites. I hope that you find these articles useful.

I have been reading through the Bible, and I've noticed some interesting things occurring in Numbers 10-12, and I'd like to share them with you.

Photo by phunphoto.

When the cloud says "Jump!" Israel says "how high"?

Numbers 10

In Numbers 10, the Israelites had escaped from Egypt, and were out in the desert. They hadn't reached the promised land yet, but they hadn't spied out the land and told God they were too afraid of going into the promised land yet. They were wandering around in the desert, following a cloud.

A lot of us have problems being told what to do. Imagine what it must have like to have been an ancient Israelite. They were born into slavery. Moses rescues them, and that must have made them excited, but then they were stuck out in the middle of the desert. They had to follow this cloud around all the time. They didn't know what they were going to do the next day. They woke up every day with uncertainty about what the day was going to bring. Was this the day that the cloud was going to move? Were they going to stay put? They didn't know whether they were going to stay two years, or even two days, in one location.

I like some sort of stability in my life. I like to wake up and have some idea of what the day would bring. The Israelites had none of that. They couldn't run off and do their own thing either. To leave the camp would have meant leaving God's protection, and would have led to certain death out in the harsh desert.

A Christian's life is a lot like that. God sometimes asks us to do things that we might not like to do. Sometimes God's will leads to an uncertain period of time in our lives. Sometimes God asks us to leave our comfort zone. While not following God's will doesn't usually lead to certain death like it would have in ancient Israel, it could take us away from God's protection.

We live in an uncertain world with an uncertain economy. We don't know what the next market report will bring us, or what the next spending package might do. We have to keep on following God no matter what the circumstance, just like the ancient Israelites.

Photo by weirdvis.

Hobab of Midian Makes a Choice

Numbers 10:29

In Numbers 10:29, we see a lesser known passage about Hobab, the son of Mose's father-in-law. Hobab was hanging out in the Israelite camp, but he decided to go back to his homeland of Midian, rather than staying with God's people.

During Moses's day, at least some of the Midianites must have worshipped the true God. Moses's father-in-law worshipped God, and was a priest. Like the Jews, the Midianites were ancestors of Abraham, and probably had the knowledge of God passed down through the generations.

However, the Midianites didn't always continue to follow God. When we get to the time of the judges, the Midianites start raiding the land of Israel. By leaving God's chosen people and returning to his home country of Midian, Hobab was setting the wrong example for his descendents, many of them who probably became the enemies of God. Many Midianites worshipped Baal and Asherah.

It makes me wonder, what sort of example we leave for our kids? Are we following God? Do we choose to spend our time going to church and developing friendships with Christians? Do we stay out of church? Our children will probably follow in our footsteps. While we may be saved, if we choose to leave God's people, like Hobab did, we might tell our kids that it's okay to do our own thing and not follow God. Like Hobab's decendents likely did, they may choose not to follow the Lord, and may not find salvation through Jesus as a result.

Photo by xymonau of sxc.hu.

Complaining About Not Having Enough

Numbers 11

In Numbers 11, the Israelites are getting tired of eating manna, and start complaining. They fondly reminisce about the vegetables and foods that they were able to eat while they were slaves in Egypt. They want more, and beg Moses for meat.

We shouldn't be so quick to judge the Israelites, because most of us are the same way. Most of us want bigger cars, nicer clothes, and to eat at nice restaurants. When things don't go exactly the way that we'd like, we often complain. Many of us, dissatisfied with what we have, turned to credit cards in order to pay for things that we couldn't afford now. What God had provided wasn't enough.

God sent a plague on the ancient Israelites who complained and wanted more. The Lord sent an abundant supply of quail to satisfy the dissatisfied Israelites, and those that succumbed to the temptation ended up dying. The normal amount of manna they ate in a day amounted to one omer (Exodus 16:16), but the person that gathered the least amount of quail gathered ten omers (a 10 day supply!). The Israelites weren't willing to wait until they got to the promised land before they got the meat they desired, they wanted it NOW. Many ended up paying with their lives.

In America, many of us are facing a plague, called debt. What God had given us wasn't enough. We weren't willing to wait until we could save up to buy that new TV or pay for vacation, we wanted it NOW. Like the ancient Israelites, many of us got what we desired, but almost as soon as we obtain our coveted possession, the credit card debt comes to haunt us, much like the quail flesh became poisonous in the teeth of the Israelites. The mounting debt that our country has racked up has left us in a precarious position today.

Another lesson that we can learn from these Israelites is that God provides. He provided the Israelites with food every day. While he doesn't always provide us with what we want, when we want it, provision always comes. He might leave us thirsty and hungry for a while, but our needs will come.

Photo by woodsy of sxc.hu.

Bible and Moses Stuff I Like

These are some Christian items that I really like.

Moses, Servant of God

Numbers 12

Moses was often thought of as God's servant. While he wasn't perfect, he did get to talk to God, much like we would talk to a friend. He led the nation of Israel during trying times, and he is often thought of as someone that we should try to be more like.

One of the things that I noticed about Moses is that he often put others above himself. In Numbers 12, his siblings are complaining about how he married an Ethiopian woman. As a result, God decided to strike Miriam with leprosy. Instead of gloating and telling Miriam that she deserved it, Moses's first thought was to pray for her. God listened to Moses's prayer and healed her.

Moses put others above himself many other times. When the Israelites were going after other gods, and God planned to destroy them and make a great nation out of Moses's children, Moses's first reaction was to pray for them on their behalf.

If we want to be a servant of God like Moses, we need to put others above ourselves as well.

The Cast of Characters in Numbers 10-12

When you study your Bible, sometimes it helps to study the cast of characters in a particular passage, and see what they were up to. Numbers 10-12 features a large cast of characters, including the Lord, Moses, the children of Israel, Aaron, and Miriam.

By studying the people in the Bible, you learn more about what they were like. While I was working on this, I noticed the gluttony of the Israelites, in taking 10 days of quail all at once. I encourage you to go through the Bible and look these things up yourself, as it can really help you understand what the Bible is trying to say.

  • Spoke to Moses (10:1, 11:23)

  • Told Moses to make two silver trumpets (10:1)

  • Will remember the Israelites when they sound the alarm (10:9)

  • Is the God of the Israelites (10:10)

  • Commanded the Israelites to move (10:13)

  • Was displeased when the people complained (11:1)

  • Heard the Israelites complain (11:1)

  • Was angry when the Israelites complained (11:1)

  • Sent fire among the Israelites for complaining (11:1)

  • Quenched the fire when Moses prayed to him (11:2)

  • Was angry when the people wept over the lack of variety in their food (11:10)

  • Helped Moses find 70 helpers when Moses told him that his burden was too hard to bear (11:16-17)

  • Placed some of Moses' Spirit on the 70 elders (11:25)

  • Sent a wind that brought quail (11:31)

  • Was angry with the people and struck them with a plague (11:33)

  • Heard when Miriam and Aaron complained about Moses marrying an Ethiopian (12:2)

  • Was angry with Aaron and Miriam (12:9)

  • Healed Miriam of leprosy after Moses prayed (12:14)

  • The Lord spoke to him (10:1, 11:16, 23, 12:14)

  • God told him to make two silver trumpets (10:1)

  • Interpreted God's commands for the Israelites (10:13)

  • Invited his brother-in-law Hobab to come with the Israelites to the promised land (10:29, 31)

  • The people cried out to him instead of to the Lord (11:2)

  • When he prayed to the Lord, the Lord's fire was quenched (11:2)

  • Named the location of Teberah (11:3)

  • Heard the people weeping because they didn't like their food, and was displeased (11:10)

  • Cried to the Lord because he felt the burden of leading the Israelites was too great (11:11-15)

  • Thought the Lord's promise for meat was hard to believe (11:21-22)

  • Told the people the words of the Lord (11:24)

  • Gathered seventy elders together to share in the leadership burden (11:24)

  • Was assisted by Joshua the son of Nun (11:28)

  • Wished that all of the Lord's people were prophets and had the Spirit of the Lord (11:29)

  • Married an Ethiopian woman (12:1)

  • Was more humble than all the other men on the face of the earth (12:3)

  • Was faithful to God's House (12:7)

  • God spoke with him plainly, face to face, and saw the form of the Lord (12:8)

  • Aaron asked him to take away Miriam's leprosy (12:11)

  • Prayed to the Lord for Miriam's healing (12:13)

The Israelites

  • Were to gather at the tabernacle when the trumpet was blown (10:3)

  • Set out from the Wilderness of Sinai on the 20th day of the 2nd month (10:11-12)

  • Followed the direction of Moses, who interpreted the Lord's commands (10:13)

  • Marched according to their tribes when they began their journey (10:28)

  • Complained, and some of them were consumed by fire (11:1)

  • Cried out to Moses to get him to stop the fire (11:2)

  • Wept because they didn't have meat (11:4)

  • Remembered the variety of food they had in Egypt (11:5)

  • The burden of leading them was too much for Moses (11:14)

  • Stayed up all day, all night, and all the next day gathering quail (11:32)

  • The wrath of the Lord came up against them as they gathered quail, and they were struck with a plague (11:33)

  • Did not journey while Miriam was unclean from leprosy (12:15)

  • Moved from Hazeroth and camped in the Wilderness of Paran (12:16)

The Leaders of the Israelites

  • Were to gather when only one trumpet was blown (10:4)

  • God took 70 of them and had them share the burden of leadership with Moses (11:16,24-25)

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    • SusanDeppner profile image

      Susan Deppner 8 years ago from Arkansas USA

      "Funny" I should find this lens I'm reading through the Bible and I happen to be in Numbers right now. I appreciate your insights and lessons! I have gained renewed respect for Moses with my current reading.