The Book of Numbers was called that by the Septuagint (Greek translation of the OT) because of the two censuses (chs. 1, 26) in the book.   The Hebrew name is more appropriate - "in the Wilderness".   It is also known as the "Book of Wanderings".

It traces the time starting from the beginning of the second year out of Egypt, all the way to just before the entry into the promised land, some 38 years later.

The two censuses were in fact "framing" the entire period when the Israelites were wandering in the wilderness. The first census (ch. 1:1) was taken in the Desert of Sinai in the second month of the second year after the Israelites left Egypt; and the second census was taken on the plains of Moab by the Jordan across from Jericho (ch. 26:63). Not one of those counted in the second census (with the exception of Joshua and Caleb) were among those counted in the first census. This was due to the people's rebellion and the Lord swore that those numbered in the first census would never enter the promised land but die in the desert (ch. 14:29-31). Even the high priest had changed. Previously it was Aaron, now it was Eleazar.

The Book of Numbers tells of the trials, and passing of one entire generation that had rebelled against the Lord, and the rise of the next. More importantly, it tells of how God dealt with His people, consolidating and preparing them to be a nation. It might be generalised that while Exodus deals with the "Encounter with God", and Leviticus the "Worship of God", Numbers can be alluded to "Nationhood with God". This can be seen in the passages on the Israelites' camp arrangement, marching order, and battles.

Who wrote the Book of Numbers?

It is generally acknowledged that Moses was the author of the Book of Numbers, with perhaps some assistance from scribes, and Joshua, who most probably was the person who finished the Book of Deuteronomy (Deut. ch. 34). We do know, for certainty, that it is the the Word of God, for no prophecy of Scripture comes about by the prophet's own interpretation (2 Pet. 1:20). Therefore, the Book of Numbers, together with the other four books of the Pentateuch, should not be dismissed as mere history, which some modern day Christians are apt to do, but to be taken in its entirety as part of God's revealed Word.


  • Numbers Chapters 1-10

  • Numbers Chapters 11-19

  • Numbers Chapters 20-25

  • Numbers Chapters 26-36

  • Summary

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    © Nicholas Tay 1996, 1998