Numbers

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Numbers gets its English name from a census of the people. Its Hebrew name means "in the wilderness". The little tribe of Jacob that went to Egypt became a nation in the order of a million people (see my calculations in Exodus.xlsx).

Commentary

3:27

Shekel: see Appendix 2 Money.

3:50

Shekel: see Appendix 2 Money.

6:1–21

Examples of Nazirites were Samuel (1 Samuel 1:11), Samson (Judges 13:4–5), and John the Baptist (Luke 1:15).

7:13

Shekel: see Appendix 2 Money.

7:19

Shekel: see Appendix 2 Money.

7:25

Shekel: see Appendix 2 Money.

7:31

Shekel: see Appendix 2 Money.

7:37

Shekel: see Appendix 2 Money.

7:43

Shekel: see Appendix 2 Money.

7:49

Shekel: see Appendix 2 Money.

7:5

Shekel: see Appendix 2 Money.

7:61

Shekel: see Appendix 2 Money.

7:67

Shekel: see Appendix 2 Money.

7:73

Shekel: see Appendix 2 Money.

7:79

Shekel: see Appendix 2 Money.

7:85

Shekel: see Appendix 2 Money.

9:15

Moses had learned that fire could signify the presence of God in the burning bush encounter (Exodus 3:1–6).

10:35

cf. Psalm 68.

11:14–17

cf. Luke 10:1–24.

11:24

cf. Exodus 24:11.

11:25

See Appendix 2 Prophecy

13:6f

Caleb: see Appendix 1.

13:30

Caleb: see Appendix 1.

14:6

Caleb: see Appendix 1.

14:30f

Caleb: see Appendix 1.

14:18

cf. Exodus 34:6–7, Psalm 86:15, Joel 2:12–13.

14:29

In 1 Corinthians 10:1–6 Paul argues that the Exodus should act as a warning to us to be careful to obtain the salvation that is within our grasp. See also 1 Corinthians 9:27 and Colossians 1:23 which confirm this teaching and 1 Corinthians 6:9f which explains why.

16:2

Magonet[1] claims that the Hebrew text does not contain the word "men" and the number 250 refers to the quantity of censers that the men had brought. However, verse 17 indicates that there were 250 men and 250 censers.

The uprising was about priestly power: the sons or Korah were Levites but had only a limited role as porters in the temple, and they were jealous of Moses. They wanted to handle the holy things as well as carry them. The following verses relate God's verdict.

16:12

Dathan and Abiram were the men fighting when Moses intervened in Exodus 2:13.[1]

16:32

One would expect to hear no more of these men, but somehow their posterity lived on, as shown by the ascriptions of Psalm 42f.

18:16

Shekel: see Appendix 2 Money.

19:6

Hyssop: See Appendix 2: Hyssop

19:18

Hyssop: See Appendix 2: Hyssop

20:1–13

Moses lacked the courage that would give God the glory due; instead of commanding the rock as instructed, he struck it as he had done in Exodus 17:6. Jesus praised the Centurion's faith (Matthew 8:5–13) and commanded Lazarus to come out (John 11:43).

Failure to give God the glory always invites punishment — see Achan's sin (Joshua 7) and Annanias and Sapphira (Acts 5). Also he had previously shown a tendency to use physical force unwisely (Exodus 2:12). Perhaps speaking to the rock was intended to indicated the power of God's word going forth (Ezekiel 37:4, Revelation 1:16), cf. the raising of Lazarus (John 11:43). God's promises are secure not because he promises to remember them, but rather because God's word is in itself powerful enough to achieve things.

21:7

The people were asking for the consequences of their sin to be taken away, on the basis of confession and perhaps repentance, but instead God made those consequences survivable (verse 9). When we pray about a problem, God may choose to equip us to live with it, rather than taking the problem away as we would prefer; cf. 1 Corinthians 10:12–13.

Unfortunately the Bronze Snake became an object of veneration and had to be destroyed in 2 Kings 18:4.

21:9

The significance of the bronze serpent is explained under John 3:14.

The serpent was the downfall of Adam and Eve (Genesis 3:1f); its poison was still a problem years later. Ritchie cites the Venerable Bede's comment that the Hebrews' grumbling was obstructing God's saving work, and Jerome's explanation that they were looking backward to Egypt rather than forward to the Promised Land. Ritchie goes on to say that we should not think of the serpents as a vindictive punishment but as a solution to a spiritual problem. The bronze serpent reminded them of their need and of God's mercy. "Not only had the Hebrews been enslaved in body in Egypt; the idolatry of Pharaoh's empire had gone deep into their souls. It took four decades of purgation in the desert for their hearts and minds to be renewed."[3]

The bronze serpent was destroyed in 2 Kings 18:4 because people started worshipping it instead of letting it point one's thought's to God's power to save.

20:12

It would be easy to read this verse as punishment, but did God show mercy when he told Moses that he would not lead the people into the promised land? It is unkind to press someone into a role for which they are not suited.

21:20

Pisgah means summit.

22

See Professor Walter Moberly's notes on this chapter.

22:5

Balaam is described in contemporary writing on plaster found in the Jordan Valley near the confluence with the River Jabbock as a prophet for other gods. This writing has been dated archeologically to 750 BCE.[2 p.46]

22:23

See comment on John 12:12–16.

22:41

High Places: see comment on Numbers 33:52.

23:9

Balaam's remark illustrates that God's people were seen as diferent from the other nations, which was a witness to God's presence with them. cf. 1 Samuel 8:5.

23:23

"What hath God wrought" was the first message sent by Samuel Morse in his new telegraphic code on 28th May 1844.

25:1

It is sad that after Balaam gave up trying to curse Israel for Balak, the Israelites brought a curse on themselves by sinning.

31:52

Shekel: see Appendix 2 Money.

33:52

Not only were the High Places associated with pagan cults, they also implied that God is more powerful on the hills, as shown by 1 Kings 20:28.

34:13

Half-tribe: see Appendix 2 "half-tribe".

References:

  1. Magonet, Rabbi Jonathan
  2. Davies, Graham Hosea Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press "Old Testament Guides" 1993, 1998 edition
  3. Ritchie, Angus writing in Church Times 9 March 2018 p.17 "Sunday's Readings"

© David Billin 2002–2019