Unit 1: Warning! Watch Out for Pitfalls

December 4       

Numbers 1:1–8:26      

Numbers 6:1-15

Stay True to Your Commitments

December 11                                                       setting

Numbers 9:1–10:10                                  context

          Numbers 9:1-11a,15-19                    lesson

Stay on Track with God's GPS


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While we look at the five Books of Moses (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy) as five separate books (Pentateuch), it is essentially one piece of writing. Genesis gives the beginnings: creation, man, sin, salvation, covenant, and Abraham’s family. Exodus sees Abraham’s family become the nation of Israel as they travel from Egypt to Mt. Sinai.

Numbers finds them here at Mt. Sinai. They have already experienced the “golden calf” incidents—where Moses made “God with them” crucial to their travel—and they are now preparing for that journey. In preparation for their travel to Kadesh-Barnea, they must include spiritual and ceremonial cleansing so that God will travel in their midst. Numbers 1-10 record these preparations and those instructions from God that accompany their work.

After a formulaic record of a tribe by tribe military census and instructions for the responsibilities of uncounted Levities, the LORD instructed Israel on the arrangement of the tribes as they camp around the Tabernacle so that every Israelite is defined by his service to the LORD. Then, the LORD sets specific details for the Levites by clan as well as the purification laws for the community. So the reader is given specific qualifications and duties for office holders in the service of the LORD. However, even though office holding is not for every Israelite, dedicated service is. Thus, in chapter six, the Nazarite Vow instructions provide for any Israelite to dedicate himself to God in a more specific way than his general responsibilities already provide.


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Book One:
The End of the First Generation
in the Wilderness (1:1–25:18)

I.     Faithfulness of Israel at Sinai (1:1–10:10)

1.     Sinai Cycle A:
Census and Consecration of the Tribes of Israel (1:1–6:27)

(1)   Historical Setting: Prologue (1:1)

(2)  Military Conscription of the Twelve Tribes of Israel (1:2–46)

(3)  Holy Arrangement of the Israelite Camps (2:1–34)

(4)  Responsibilities and Census of the Levite Clans (3:1–4:49)

(5)  Purification Laws for the Faithful Community (5:1–31)

(6)  The Sacred Nazirite Vow (6:1–21)

(7)  The Priestly Blessing (6:22–27)

2.    Sinai Cycle B:
Tabernacle and Celebration (7:1–10:10)

(1)   Offerings of the Leaders of the Israelite Tribes (7:1–89)

(2)  Menorah Lamp Arrangement (8:1–4)

(3)  Installation of the Levites (8:5–26)

(4)  The Second Passover: With New Delineations (9:1–14)

(5)  Pattern of the Journey: The Lord and the Cloud (9:15–23)

(6)  The Silver Trumpets (10:1–10)

[Full Outline]


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Last Consecration before Departure, Numbers 9:1-5

The apex of spiritual and ceremonial cleansing before Israel can leave Mt. Sinai with God in their midst comes at God’s command to commemorate the Passover. On the first month and the fourteenth day, Israel consecrated itself just as it had the night of that final and dreadful tenth plague in Egypt by remembering God’s deliverance from slavery at the meal of the paschal lamb.

Certainly, this yearly taking of that paschal lamb forecasts the Paschal Lamb, Jesus Christ our Lord. He is the Lamb that takes away the sin of the world. He is our Passover. (Is this not a fitting memory at Christmas time?) Just as the Passover must be presented at its appointed time, so will the Lamb of God.

God commanded that they observe all His instruction concerning this feast. Wondrously, Israel did “everything as the LORD had commanded Moses. (HCSB)” However, God’s instruction created a dilemma. Everyone must participate or be excluded from Israel. Unclean people were excluded from participation. Which command takes precedence?

What about the Unclean? Numbers 9:6-11a

Some men came to Moses. They were unclean because of a human corpse. Should they take part in the Passover worship (violating God’s instructions) or set themselves aside (excluding them from Israel)? Moses takes their dilemma to the LORD.

The LORD provides for their problem and another—those away on a journey. They celebrate Passover a month later. This provides time for the unclean to be cleansed and those traveling to return. God even allows them to include the foreigner in their assembly.

“They are to eat the animal with unleavened bread and bitter herbs;
12 they may not leave any of it until morning or break any of its bones. They must observe the Passover according to all its statutes.” Numbers 9:11b-12 (HCSB)

Column of Cloud, Numbers 9:15-19

Just as the Father orchestrates these events by His revealed instructions to Moses, and the Son’s sacrifice providing redemption is prefigured in the Passover lamb, so we see the directing presence of the Holy Spirit in the comings and goings of the cloud.

The Cloud inhabits the tabernacle by day and appears like fire at night. God dwells among them. When the column of cloud/pillar of fire moves, Israel follows. When it stops, they stop and remain until it moves again. Every member is defined by where and when he dwells or travels in relation to God’s visible Director.

23 They camped at the LORD's command, and they set out at the LORD's command. They carried out the LORD's requirement according to His command. Num 9:23 (HCSB)


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Outline of Numbers 1

Book One:
The End of the First Generation
in the Wilderness (1:1–25:18)

I.     Faithfulness of Israel at Sinai (1:1–10:10)

1.     Sinai Cycle A:
Census and Consecration of the Tribes of Israel (1:1–6:27)

(1)   Historical Setting: Prologue (1:1)

(2)  Military Conscription of the Twelve Tribes of Israel (1:2–46)

Census Instructions (1:2–4)

Census Assistants Enlisted (1:5–16)

Census Directed by Moses (1:17–19)

Census Results by Tribal Households (1:20–43)

Census Summary and Total (1:44–46)

Responsibilities of Uncounted Levites (1:47–53)

Census Conclusion: Faithful Obedience (1:54)

(3)  Holy Arrangement of the Israelite Camps (2:1–34)

Introduction (2:1–2)

East Side, South Side West Side, North Side Encampments (2:3–31)

Conclusion: Faithful Obedience (2:32–34)

(4)  Responsibilities and Census of the Levite Clans (3:1–4:49)

Introduction: Genealogy of Aaron and Moses (3:1–4)

Levite Consecration to Service (3:5–10)

Levite Replacement of the Firstborn (3:11–13)

Genealogical Delineation of Levite Clans (3:14–20)

Census and Responsibilities of the Levite Clans (3:21–39)

Dedication of the Levites in Firstborn Redemption (3:40–51)

Further Responsibilities and Census of Levites for Service (4:1–49)

Kohathite Service Detailed (4:1–20)

Gershonite Service Detailed (4:21–28)

Merarite Service Detailed (4:29–33)

Summary Census of Levites (4:34–49)

(5)  Purification Laws for the Faithful Community (5:1–31)

Cultic Isolation of Various Disease Carriers (5:1–4)

Restitution for Wrongs Done (5:5–10)

The Case of a Suspected Adulterous Wife (5:11–31)

(6)  The Sacred Nazirite Vow (6:1–21)

Introduction (6:1–2)

Prohibitions (6:3–8)

Purification from Corpse Defilement (6:9–12)

Completion Rituals of the Nazirite Vow (6:13–20)

Summary (6:21)

(7)  The Priestly Blessing (6:22–27)

2.    Sinai Cycle B:
Tabernacle and Celebration (7:1–10:10)

(1)   Offerings of the Leaders of the Israelite Tribes (7:1–89)

Historical Setting and Introduction (7:1–11)

Tribal Gifts Delineated (7:12–83)

Summary of Offerings Presented (7:84–88)

Yahweh Speaks with Moses in the Tabernacle (7:89)

(2)  Menorah Lamp Arrangement (8:1–4)

(3)  Installation of the Levites (8:5–26)

Ritual Cleansing (8:5–7)

Presentation of Levites with Sacrifices (8:8–11)

Offering of Sacrifices (8:12–14)

Levite Substitutionary Role (8:15–19)

Summary of the Levite Dedication (8:20–22)

Postlude: The Levite Retirement (8:23–26)

(4)  The Second Passover: With New Delineations (9:1–14)

(5)  Pattern of the Journey: The Lord and the Cloud (9:15–23)

(6)  The Silver Trumpets (10:1–10)

Gathering and Disembarking the Camps (10:1–7)

Rallying for Battle and Rejoicing in Festival Offerings (10:8–10)

II.   The Rebellious Generation in the Wilderness (10:11–25:18)

1.     Rebellion Cycle A:
From Sinai to Zin—Decline and Fall of the First Generation (10:11–15:41)

(1)   Historical Reference: From Mount Sinai to the Paran Desert (10:11–13)

(2)  The Departure from Sinai (10:14–36)

The Israelite Tribes Depart in Orderly Array (10:14–28)

Hobab: Departure or Guidance in the Wilderness? (10:29–32)

First Stage of the Journey (10:33–36)

(3)  First Rebellion: General Murmuring (11:1–3)

(4)  Second Rebellion: Complaint about Food (11:4–35)

The Rabble’s Complaint (11:4–6)

Yahweh’s Provision of Manna (11:7–9)

Moses’ Complaint about the People (11:10–15)

Yahweh Responds: Assemble Seventy Elders (11:16–17)

Preparation for Provision of Meat: Purification and Confession (11:18–20)

Moses Expresses Disbelief to Yahweh (11:21–22)

Yahweh Responds to Moses’ Disbelief (11:23)

Preparation for Blessing: Elders Assembled (11:24)

Yahweh Sends Spirit upon the Seventy Elders (11:25–27)

Moses Responds to Joshua’s Complaint (11:28–30)

Yahweh’s Fresh Provision of Meat (11:31–32)

Plague upon the People: With Meat in their Mouths (11:33–34)

Second Stage of the Journey: Kibroth Hattaavah to Hazeroth (11:35)

(5)  Third Rebellion: Challenge to Moses’ Authority (12:1–16)

Miriam and Aaron’s Challenge of Moses (12:1–3)

God Speaks to Moses, Aaron, and Miriam (12:4–8)

The Judgment against Miriam (12:9–13)

God’s Reply to Moses, Miriam, and Aaron (12:14–15)

Third Stage of the Journey (12:16)

(6)  Fourth Rebellion: Rejection of the Promised Land (13:1–14:45)

Instructions from Yahweh to Explore the Promised Land (13:1–3)

Tribal Scouts Enlisted (13:4–16)

Moses Instructs the Tribal Scouts (13:17–20)

Scouts Explore the Land (13:21–25)

Report of the Scouts (13:26–33)

Congregational Response to the Report (14:1–4)

Leadership Response to the People (14:5–10)

God Intervenes: Glory of Lord Appears (14:10b–12)

Moses Intercedes with Yahweh for the People (14:13–19)

Yahweh Responds to Moses’ Prayer (14:20–23)

Caleb My Servant Will Live (14:24–25)

Yahweh Speech: The Unfaithful Community Will Die in the Wilderness (14:26–35)

Judgment against the Leaders: The Ten versus Joshua and Caleb (14:36–38)

Conclusion: Moses Reports Judgment—Israel Mourns (14:39–45)

(7)  Offerings from the Land of Promise: Covenant Hope (15:1–41)

Offerings from the Land (15:1–16)

Offerings of the Firstfruits (15:17–21)

Offerings for Inadvertent versus Intentional Sins (15:22–36)

Covenant Epilogue: Garment Tassels and Growing Faith (15:37–41)

2.    Rebellion Cycle B: Korah and Company Challenge Moses (16:1–19:22)

(1)   Rebellion of Korah and the Reubenites (16:1–50)

Korah Instigates Rebellion versus Moses and Aaron (16:1–3)

Moses’ Initial Response: Yahweh Will Demonstrate (16:4–7)

Moses’ Confrontation with Rebellious Leaders (16:8–15)

Moses’ Further Instructions to Korah (16:16–19)

Yahweh’s Judgment and Moses’ Appeal (16:20–22)

Yahweh’s Response: Judgment Is Imminent (16:23–30)

Yahweh’s Judgment (16:31–35)

Yahweh’s Instruction to the Priests (16:36–40[Hb. 17:1–5])

People’s Response: Grumbling (16:41–43[Hb. 17:6–8])

Yahweh Dispenses Judgment (16:44–50[Hb. 17:9–15])

(2)  Aaron’s Budding of Staff: Primacy of the Aaronic Priesthood Reconfirmed (17:1–13 [Hb. 17:16–28])

Requirements: Instructions and Commands (17:1–5 [Hb. 17:16–20])

Ready Compliance of the People and Moses (17:6–7 [Hb. 17:21–22])

Results of the Test (17:8–9[Hb. 17:23–24])

Renewed Instructions (17:10–11[Hb. 17:25–26])

Rhetorical Response of the Israelites (17:12–13 [Hb. 17:27–28])

(3)  The Priests and the Levites: Additional Responsibilities and Provisions (18:1–23)

Priests and Levites as Guardians of the Sanctuary (18:1–7)

Provisions of Tribute for the Priests (18:8–19)

Provisions for the Levites (18:20–24)

Tithes and Offerings of the Levites (18:25–32)

(4)  Red Heifer Ashes and the Waters of Purification (19:1–22)

Introduction: Divine Instruction and First Statute (19:1–2a)

Preparation of the Ashes of the Red Heifer (19:2b–10)

General Rule for Applying Red Heifer Ashes (19:11–13)

Second Statute: Applying the Waters of Purification for Death Impurity (19:14–22)

3.    Rebellion Cycle C: From Zin to Moab: The Rebellion and Replacement of Moses (20:1–25:19)

(1)   From Kadesh of Zin to Mount Hor: The End of an Era (20:1–29)

Historical Setting: Kadesh of Zin and the Death of Miriam (20:1)

Moses’ Rebellion at Meribah- Kadesh (20:2–13)

Edom Denies Passage to the Israelites (20:14–21)

The Death and Burial of Aaron (20:22–29)

(2)  Victory over the Canaanites of Arad Hormah (21:1–3)

(3)  Rebellion and Judgment (21:4–9)

(4)  Journey through Moab (21:10–20)

(5)  Victory over the Amorites of Transjordan (21:21–35)

Victory over Sihon of Heshbon (21:21–31)

Victory over Og of Bashan (21:32–35)

(6)  The Book of Balaam (22:1–24:25)

Literary Analysis of Numbers 22–25

Introduction to the Balaam Oracles (22:1–24:25)

Geographical Setting: Arabah of Moab along the Jordan across from Jericho (22:1)

Cycle I: First Messengers Sent to Balaam (22:2–14)

Balak Sees—Moses Fears the Numerous Israelites (22:2–4)

First Messengers Sent (22:5a)

The Message: Curse the Mighty Israel (22:5b–6)

Elders of Moab and Elders of Midian Journey to Pethor to Meet Balaam (22:7)

Balaam’s Response (22:8)

God’s Encounter with Balaam (22:9–12)

Balaam’s Response of Refusal (22:13)

Messengers Return Home to Moab (22:14)

Cycle II: Second Set of Messengers Sent to Balaam (22:15–21)

Messengers Again Sent to Balaam (22:15–17)

Balaam’s Response to Balak’s New Messengers (22:18–19)

God’s Second Encounter with Balaam (22:20)

Balaam Departs with Messengers (22:21)

Cycle III: God’s Messenger Sent to Balaam (22:22–38)

Introduction: God’s Anger with Balaam (22:22a)

The Angel of Yahweh Appears (22:22b)

The Donkey Responds (22:23)

The Angel of Yahweh Appears Again (22:24)

Donkey Responds Again (22:25)

The Angel of Yahweh Appears the Third Time (22:26)

Donkey Responds the Third Time (22:27)

God’s Third Encounter with Balaam (22:28–35)

Balak Goes out to Meet Balaam (22:36–38)

Preparation for the First Oracular Event (22:39–40)

Balaam’s First Oracle (22:41–23:10)

Balak Leads Balaam to Bamoth Baal (22:41)

Balaam Instructs Balak to Prepare Sacrifices (23:1)

Balak Obeys Balaam (23:2)

Balaam to Balak: Stand Beside Your Burnt Offering (23:3)

God Manifested Himself to Balaam (23:4–5)

Balaam Returns to Balak (23:6)

Balaam Obeys Yahweh: Speaks the First Oracle (23:7–10)

Balak’s Response to Balaam and the Rejoinder (23:11–12)

Balaam’s Second Oracle (23:13–26)

Balak Sacrifices Animals on Seven Altars (23:14b)

Balaam to Balak: Stand Beside Your Burnt Offering (23:15)

God Manifested Himself to Balaam (23:16)

Balaam Returns to Balak (23:17)

Balaam Obeys Yahweh: Speaks the Second Oracle (23:18–24)

Balak’s Second Response to Balaam and the Rejoinder (23:25–26)

Balaam’s Third Oracle (23:27–24:14)

Balak Leads Balaam to Bamoth Baal (23:27–28)

Balaam Instructs Balak to Prepare Sacrifices (23:29)

Balak Obeys Balaam (23:30)

God Manifested Himself to Balaam (24:1–2)

Balak’s Angry Response (24:10–11)

Balaam’s Retort (24:12–14)

Balaam’s Fourth Oracle (24:15–19)

Balaam’s Final Three Oracles (24:20–24)

Balaam’s Fifth Oracle: Against the Amalekites (24:20)

Balaam’s Sixth Oracle: Against the Kenites (24:21–22)

Balaam’s Seventh Oracle: Against Assyria (24:23–24)

Balaam Departs Homeward (24:25)

(7)  The Final Rebellion: Idolatry at Baal Peor (25:1–19)

Setting of Immorality (25:1–3)

Moses Receives Instruction from Yahweh (25:4)

Moses Instructs the Leaders of Israel (25:5)

Phinehas Follows Moses’ Instruction (25:6–8a)

Wrath of Yahweh Allayed (25:8b)

The Results of Israel’s Immorality (25:9)

Moses Receives Further Instruction from the Lord (25:10–18)

Conclusion: The End of the Former Generation and Setting for the New (25:19)

Book Two:
The New Generation
and the Prospects of
the Promised Land (26:1–36:13)

III.  Preparation of the New Generation of Israel (26:1–30:16)

1.     The Second Census in the Plains of Moab (26:1–65)

(1)   Census Instructions (26:1–4)

(2)  Reuben’s descendants (26:5–11)

(3)  Simeon’s Descendants (26:12–14)

(4)  Gad’s Descendants (26:15–18)

(5)  Judah’s Descendants (26:19–22)

(6)  Issachar’s Descendants (26:23–25)

(7)  Zebulun’s Descendants (26:26–27)

(8)  Sons of Joseph: Manasseh’s Descendants (26:28–34)

(9)  Sons of Joseph: Ephraim’s Descendants (26:35–37)

(10) Benjamin’s Descendants (26:38–41)

(11) Dan’s Descendants (26:42–43)

(12) Asher’s Descendants (26:44–47)

(13) Naphtali’s Descendants (26:48–50)

(14) Total Population of the Second Generation (26:51)

(15) Instructions for Division of the Land (26:52–56)

(16) Levi’s Descendants (26:57–62)

(17) Conclusion of the Second Census (26:63–65)

2.    Land Inheritance Laws: The Case of Zelophehad’s Daughters (27:1–11)

(1)   The Case of Zelophehad’s Daughters (27:1–5)

(2)  Case Decision and Derived Principles (27:6–11)

3.    Joshua Heir to Moses (27:12–23)

(1)   Moses’ Sin Recapitulated (27:12–14)

(2)  Moses’ Entreaty for a New Leader (27:15–17)

(3)  Moses’ Instruction from the Lord (27:18–21)

(4)  Moses Commissions Joshua (27:22–23)

4.    The Appointed Times and Offerings (28:1–29:40)

(1)   Introduction (28:1–2)

(2)  Daily Offerings (28:3–8)

(3)  Weekly (Sabbath) Offerings (28:9–10)

(4)  Monthly (Rosh Chodesh) Offerings (28:11–15)

(5)  Passover (Pesach) and Unleavened Bread Offerings (28:16–25)

(6)  Feast of Weeks (Shavuoth / Pentecost) Offerings (28:26–31)

(7)  Feast of the Blowing Trumpets Offerings (29:1–6)

(8)  Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur) Offerings (29:7–11)

(9)  Feast of Booths (Sukkoth) Offerings (29:16–38)

(10) Summary (29:39–40)

5.    Women’s Vows (30:1–16)

(1)   Introduction: General Principle for Vows (30:1–2)

(2)  Vows of Unmarried Women (30:3–5)

(3)  Vows of Newly Married Women (30:6–8)

(4)  Vows of Widowed or Divorced Women (30:9)

(5)  Vows of Married Women (30:10–15)

(6)  Summary (30:16)

IV.  Advent Cycle B: Preparation for War and Entry into the Promised Land (31:1–36:13)

Introduction to the Second Advent Cycle

1.     The Midianite Campaign (31:1–54)

     Critical Issues in Numbers 31

(1)   Israelite Armies Battle the Midianites (31:1–12)

(2)  Preserving the Sanctity of the Camp (31:13–24)

(3)  Division of the War Booty among the Israelites (31:25–54)

2.    Settlement of the Transjordan Tribes (32:1–42)

(1)   Reubenite and Gadite Request (32:1–5)

(2)  Moses’ Response (32:6–15)

(3)  Promise of Support (32:16–19)

(4)  Moses’ Response to the Promise (32:20–24)

(5)  Gad and Reuben Ratify the Agreement (32:25–27)

(6)  Moses Informs Eleazar and Joshua of the Decision (32:28–30)

(7)  Gad and Reubenite Reiterate the Promise (32:31–32)

(8)  Moses Grants Transjordan Tribal Territory (32:33–42)

3.    The Israelite Victory March: From Ramses to the Plains of Moab (33:1–49)

4.    Instructions for the Conquest of the Land (33:50–56)

5.    Preparation for Allocation of the Promised Land (34:1–29)

(1)   Boundaries of the Promised Land Delineated (34:1–15)

(2)  Leaders Appointed to Divide the Promised Land (34:16–29)

6.    Levitical Cities and the Cities of Refuge (35:1–34)

(1)   The Levitical Cities (35:1–8)

(2)  Cities of Refuge (35:9–34)

7.    Inheritance Laws: Zelophehad Clarifications (Laws and Land) (36:1–12)

Legal Precedent: Historical Background of the Request by Zelophehad’s Daughters (36:1–2)

The Case Presented by the Gileadite Clans (36:3–4)

Moses Presents the Case Adjudication at Yahweh’s Command (36:5–12)

8.    Conclusion to the Case and the Book of Numbers (36:13)


1 R. Dennis Cole, Numbers, electronic ed., Logos Library System; The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2001).