Numbers are easier to understand when you see them in tables.

Adventures with Moses in the Wilderness

Almost Ready to Leave

Numbers 25:1-18, Debauchery and Plague
Numbers 26:1-65, Another Census
Numbers 27:1-11, Inheritance of Daughters
Numbers 27:12-23, Joshua is appointed to succeed Moses.

More Adventures with Moses in the Wilderness

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View from the Summit of Sinai. See below for provenance.
Numbers 25:1-18, Debauchery and Plague (12/21/11)

One of the Frequently Asked Questions about the Bible is this:† Why did God order the Israelites to kill all the inhabitants of Canaan when they entered the Promised Land?† Thatís a good question.† We know that Godís nature is love and that Godís will is that all his children be redeemed.† Killing everybody in Canaan (which never happened, by the way) doesnít seem to be consistent with either Godís nature or Godís will.

A big part of the answer is given in vss. 1-3.† The Canaanite religions were by and large fertility cults, and male and female cult prostitution and child sacrifice were integral to their worship practices.† The Israelites probably could have intermingled with the Canaanites without participating in these cult practices, but weíll never know for sure.† What we do know for sure is that they participated in the worship of foreign gods just about every time they were exposed to them.†

Remember that the Israelites did not believe that there was only one God, and they often didnít confine their worship to one God.† The monotheistic vision of God was in its infancy, and a very fragile child it was, too.† God had to take an extremely hard line with the Canaanites and with Israelites who worshipped Canaanite gods in order to protect his plan for the ultimate salvation of humanity.

Numbers 26:1-65, Another Census (12/22/11)

Another census that you donít have to read, for two reasons.† Reason one is that Iíve given you a table.† If you really like reading the census, read the whole table.† (Genealogical alert! If you want to know all the names, read the whole passage in your Bible.) Otherwise, skip down to the total to see that there were 601,730 able-bodied Israelite men age 20 and over, not counting the Levites.†

Reason two is that the real point of this passage is at the very end, vss. 64-65.† Remember that 40 years ago Moses sent 12 spies into Canaan, and when they returned, 10 of the spies said oh woe is us, weíre all gonna die!† And then all the people said, oh woe is us, weíre all gonna die!† But Caleb and Joshua said, donít be ridiculous, weíre not gonna die, because God promised to take us to Canaan and give it to us.† But the people repeated several times that they were all going to die.† Finally God said, fine, go for it!† If thatís what you want, die!† God didnít do anything to make them die and in fact continued to take very good care of them, but they lost their chance to go with God into Canaan.

So the point of the current census is this:† every man jack of the whiners who had no confidence in God is dead Ė of that whole generation, only Caleb and Joshua still survive (plus Moses, but he will also die before they get to the Promised Land).† Now the children of Israel are ready to enter the Promised Land.

Verse Tribe Number
5-7 Reuben, the first son of Israel 43,730
12-14 Simeon 22,200
15-18 Gad 40,500
19-22 Judah 76,500
23-25 Issachar 64,300
26-27 Zebulun 60,500
28-32, 34 Joseph:† Manasseh 52,700
35-37 Joseph:† Ephraim 32,500
38-41 Benjamin 45,600
42-43 Dan 64,400
44-46 Asher 53,400
48-50 Naphtali 45,400
51Total Children of Israel 601,730
Levites 23,000 males one month old and over
64-65† But among all these was not one of those numbered by Moses and Aaron the priest when the children of Israel were numbered in the waste land of Sinai.† For the Lord had said of them, Death will certainly overtake them in the waste land. And of them all, only Caleb, the son of Jephunneh, and Joshua, the son of Nun, were still living.

Numbers 27:1-11, Inheritance of Daughters (12/23/11)

When my unmarried aunt died, her property was sold to pay for the expenses of the last few months of her life; my cousins and I did not expect to get anything, and we didnít.† Nevertheless, the court had to know who all of her heirs were.† Because her siblings had predeceased her, her nieces and nephews were her heirs; since a few of her nieces and nephews had also died, some great-nieces and -nephews were her heirs as well.† The orderly transfer of property after a death is a fundamental legal concern in every jurisdiction that Iíve ever heard of.†

The transfer of property was also a concern for the children of Israel Ė even before they got the property Ė and rules were laid down in Numbers and Deuteronomy for how to do it.† If a man had sons, the property was divided among them, share and share alike, except that the eldest son got a double share.† Daughters inherited in the absence of sons.† Notice that this was not a situation that Moses had considered, so he had to go to God and find out.† God took the opportunity to describe the laws of inheritance completely.† An addition to the rules, that women who inherit must marry within their own tribe, was made in Numbers 36, but weíll talk more about that later.

Numbers 27:12-23, Joshua is appointed to succeed Moses. (12/26/11)

It was a memorable day for Moses and the children of Israel.† You recall that Moses and Aaron disobeyed God in some way at Meribah (exactly how eludes scholars) and was told that he, along with his entire generation bar two men, would die before reaching the promised land.† Moses, ever mindful of his peopleís welfare, asks God for a replacement.† God selects Joshua, and everyone attends Joshuaís service of ordination.† Most denominations still follow the same basic pattern today:† laying on of hands and giving of orders.

More Adventures with Moses in the Wilderness
Census and Organization
The Order of March
Failure to Enter Canaan
Laws and Consequences
Complaints in the Desert
Balaam and Barak
Almost Ready to Leave
Scheduled Sacrifices
Getting Close to Canaan
Home at Last!

Copyright 2011, 2012 by Regina L. Hunter. All rights reserved.

The illustration showing the view from the summit of Mt. Sinai is from the Thomas family Bible, now in a private collection of a family member.

Opinions expressed on this page are solely those of the author, Regina Hunter, and may or may not be shared by the sponsors or the Bible-study participants.  Thanks to the Holy Spirit for any useful ideas presented here, and thanks to all the readers for their support and enthusiasm.  All errors are, of course, the sole responsibility of the author.

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