The Meaning of The Book of Numbers in the Bible


The Book of Numbers in the bible is the fourth Book of the Law of Moses which is also called Torah or Pentateuch. The books of the Law comprises of the Books of Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy.

The Book of Numbers according to history was named after the first keyword Bemidbar in Hebrew Scripture, which means “in the desert,” the place where the Israelites spent over forty years. The book is called Numbers because of the two censuses were taken of the twelve tribes of Israel during their journey towards the Promised Land, following the Exodus from Egypt.

The first census brought about the Book and took place in the Sinai desert in the year following the Exodus; the second census was in Chapter 26 and occurred on the plains of Moab.


The Book of numbers has 3 (three) parts:

-The Israelites in the Sinai Desert (1:1-10:10);

-The Israelites in Kadesh (10:11-21:35)

-The Israelites in the Plains of Moab (22:1-36:13) near the Dead (Salt) Sea.

The most famous passage from the books of Numbers is the Priestly Blessing taken from the books of Numbers 6:24-26, which is found throughout the liturgies of Christianity and even Judaism

The Lord bless you and keep you!
 The Lord let his face shine upon you, and be gracious to you!
The Lord look upon you kindly and give you peace!

This Priestly Blessing as it is called also happened to be the earliest Biblical passage ever discovered by archeologists. Two silver amulets were uncovered in a burial chamber on the western slope of the Hinnom Valley in Jerusalem. These discoveries have been dated back to about 600 BC, and are considered Pre-exilic, as inscribed in Hebrew consonantal text.

In the book of Numbers 8:15-16, the Lord instructed Moses to purify the Levites, and then to commission them to “enter upon their service in the meeting-tent. You shall make them clean and offer them as an offering; because they, among the Israelites, my chosen people who are strictly dedicated to me; I have taken them for myself in place of every first-born that opens the womb of the Israelites.” Numbers 15:37-41 is the third part of the Shema prayer.

The purification rite of the ashes of the red heifer can be found in the book of Numbers Chapter 19. Moses and Aaron were not allowed to enter the Promised Land for disobediently striking the rock twice instead of speaking to it as the Lord instructed during the water famine, Read (20:11-12). Other occurrences like the oracles of Balaam (22:2-24:5); the idol worship of Baal at Peor, the punishment of the offenders by Phinehas, grandson of Aaron (25); and the appointment of Joshua Son of Nun as successor to Moses (27:12-23) are all stated accordingly for the reading pleasure of bible scholars.

A very important lesson to be drawn for all of us was, the Israelites wandered in the desert for 40 years because of their disobedience to the Lord. But God is faithful to his Covenant, and the themes of covenant, sin, punishment, and redemption persist throughout Numbers and the entire Old Testament.

Who authored the book of Numbers?

mosesAs it applies to the other books of the Pentateuch, universal Jewish and Christian tradition credited the authorship of the book of Numbers to Moses. Moses is the major figure in the book, and on two occasions, Numbers mentions him recording events by the Lord’s commands (Numbers 33:2; 36:13).

The name “Numbers” is a translation of Arithmoi, from the Septuagint, it was titled ‘Numbers’ because the book contains many statistics, population counts, tribal and priestly figures, and other numerical data. The Hebrew name originated from the first sentence of the book and it means “in the desert of ”; which is perhaps a more accurate description of the book’s content, which follows the Israelites through almost forty years of wandering in the desert.

Why is This Book so important?

The books of Numbers take the reader on a journey of excruciating desert detail. The book holds records of census results for all twelve tribes for two occasions; it accurately documents priestly instructions for handling the Ark of the Covenant and the tabernacle, and it even spells out the placement of various tribes when they camped. But through it all, God’s unfailing direction over the nation was unfailing.

Long before the Promised Land was inherited, this book highlighted and recorded significant events sometimes referenced later in Scripture. Joshua and Caleb alone among the twelve spies encouraged Israel to take possession of the land Read (Numbers 13–14; Joshua 14:7); Moses struck a rock and water spouted forth (Numbers 20:11; Psalm 106:32); Moses lifted up a bronze serpent on a pole so that believing Israelites might be healed of their snake bites (Numbers 21:6–9; John 3:14); and Balaam was rebuked by his donkey (Numbers 22:21–34; Revelation 2:14).

The idea behind The Book of Numbers?

Book_of_Numbers_meaningIn this book of Numbers, the people of Israel tested God’s patience, and He, in turn, put their endurance and faithfulness to a test. Though the people failed God numerous times, He showed His own faithfulness by constantly leading the way: through a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night as recorded in the bible.

The book of Numbers is beyond just a history lesson, the book reveals how God reminded the people of Israel that He does not tolerate rebellion, complaining and murmuring, disbelief without invoking consequences and punishments. He taught the Israelites how to walk with Him—not just with their feet through the wilderness but with their mouths in worship, hands in absolute service, and lives as witnesses of His great works to the surrounding nations. He was their God, they were His people, and He expected them to act in accordance.

How can you apply The book of numbers lessons?

You can take away from Numbers not only a  history of Israel’s early days but also a renewed sense of God’s delight in obedience. He is your God, too, and He wants you to live righteously, praying Him through your words and works.

Do you see any similarity between the complaints of rebellious Israelites and yourself? How will you avoid following their example?  Please leave your thoughts below.






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