The Book of Numbers continues the narrative of the Israelites: they once lived in Canaan, travelled to Egypt where they were enslaved, and now return to Canaan to take control of the land. They have received the Levitical laws so are prepared to be God's Chosen People. Upon arrival at Canaan, though, they are too afraid to go to war so the parents are condemned to die in the wilderness while the children are given a second chance.

While it is a fairly short distance from Egypt to Israel, it took the ancient Jews 40 years to get there. The book of Numbers tells why. The Israelites' disobedience and lack of faith caused God to make them wander in the desert until all the people of that generation had died--with a few important exceptions. The book draws its name from the census made of the people, a necessary step toward their organization and future government.

Numbers might be a bleak account of the Israelites' stubbornness, if it were not outweighed by God's faithfulness and protection. This is the fourth book in the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Bible. It's an historical account but also teaches important lessons about God fulfilling his promises.



Writer of the Book:



About 1500 B. C.

Key Thought:

Number of Chapters:

Key Verse:




These are the mansions of the children of Israel, who went out of Egypt by their troops under the conduct of Moses and Aaron,


Christ seen as:

Written To:

Star of Jacob  

Numbers was written to the people of Israel to document their journey to the Promised Land, but it also reminds all future readers of the Bible that God is with us as we journey toward heaven.

Landscape of the Book of Numbers

The story begins at Mount Sinai and includes Kadesh, Mount Hor, the plains of Moab, the Sinai desert, and concludes at the boundaries of Canaan.

Key Verses:

Numbers 14:21-23

21 As I live: and the whole earth shall be filled with the glory of the Lord.

22 But yet all the men that have seen my majesty, and the signs that I have done in Egypt, and in the wilderness, and have tempted me now ten times, and have not obeyed my voice,

23 Shall not see the land for which I aware to their fathers, neither shall any one of them that hath detracted me behold it.

Numbers 20:12

12 And the Lord said to Moses and Aaron: Because you have not believed me, to sanctify me before the children of Israel, you shall not bring these people into the land, which I will give them.

Numbers 27:18-20

18 And the Lord said to him: Take Josue the son of Nun, a man in whom is the Spirit, and put thy hand upon him.

19 And he shall stand before Eleazar the priest and all the multitude:

20 And thou shalt give him precepts in the sight of all, and part of thy glory, that all the congregation of the children of Israel may hear him.

Brief Overview of Numbers

• Israel prepares for the journey to the Promised Land - Numbers 1:1-10:10.

• The people complain, Miriam and Aaron oppose Moses, and the people refuse to enter Canaan because of the reports of the unfaithful spies - Numbers 10:11-14:45.

• For 40 years the people wander in the desert until the faithless generation is consumed - Numbers 15:1-21:35.

• As the people approach the Promised Land again, a king tries to hire Balaam, a local sorcerer and prophet, to put a curse on Israel. On the way, Balaam's donkey talks to him, saving him from death! An angel of the Lord tells Balaam to speak only what the Lord tells him. Balaam is able only to bless the Israelites, not curse them - Numbers 22:1-26:1.

• Moses takes another census of the people, to organize an army. Moses commissions Joshua to succeed him. God gives instructions on offerings and feasts - Numbers 26:1-30:16.

• The Israelites take vengeance on the Midianites, then camp on the plains of Moab - Numbers 31:1-36:13.


Outline of the Book of Numbers:

Chapter 1 - Moses commanded to take census.
 Chapter 2 - Order of the Camps
Chapter 3 - Order of the host; placing of the Levites
Chapter 4 - The service of the Kohathrites, Gershonites and Merarites.
Chapter 5 - Defilement of the camp
Chapter 6 - The Nazarite laws
Chapter 7 - The gifts of the princes.
Chapter 8 - Cleansing of the Levites for the ministry of the tabernacle
Chapter 9 - Law of the Passover; the guiding cloud.
Chapter 10 - The First March of the Camp
Chapter 11 - Complaints about the manna and the consequences.
Chapter 12 - Murmuring of Miriam and Aaron and the consequences.
Chapter 13 - Spies sent into Kadesh-barnea, and their report.
Chapter 14 - Murmuring over the spies’ reports and the consequences.
Chapter 15 - Burnt and free will offerings.
Chapter 16 - The gainsaying of Korah.
Chapter 17 - Aaron’s rod that budded.
Chapter 18 - Responsibility of Priests and Levites
Chapter 19 - Ceremony of the Red Heifer  
Chapter 20 - Water from the rock and Moses’ sin.

Chapter 21 - The Bronze Serpent

Chapter 22 - Balaam’s visit to Balak and the strange warning on the way.

Chapter 23 - Balaam blesses instead of curses Israel.


Chapter 24 - Balaam foretells prosperity for Israel.

Chapter 25 - Sin of Israel with daughters of Moab.
Chapter 26 - The new generation of Israel numbered.
Chapter 27 - The law of inheritance. Joshua appointed Moses’ successor.

Chapter 28 - The order of offerings.

Chapter 29 - Commands concerning the feast of Trumpets, Feast of Tabernacles, and Day of Atonement.
Chapter 30 - The laws of vows.
Chapter 31 - The judgment of Midian.
Chapter 32 - The choice of the world-borderers.
Chapter 33 - Summary of the journey from Egypt to Jordan.
Chapter 34 - Preparations to enter the land
Chapter 35 - The cities of refuge.
Chapter 36 - Regulations concerning inheritance.
Daily Meditation by(c) 2013 Don Schwager
Bible Story illustrations by 


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