Numbers

After the year at Mt. Sinai, the Israelites set out for the all time famous Promised Land. Their journey however is not an easy one and they begin to suffer greatly. They give complaints, but they do not seek God for help. They fail to trust God with their future, and in doing so, he punishes them to the desert until their generation dies. The First Count (1:1-54) – After the laws are given during the year at Mt. Sinai, God instructs Moses to head for the Promised Land. Since they will go to a land already occupied, God tells Moses to count the people and find out how many men he has (for when they fight). Out of the 12 families from the sons of Jacob, there were 603,550 men (ages 20 and up). Travel by Ark (10:11-36) – A pillar of cloud representing God's presence begins to move. The people break camp and follow. The preiests carry the ark of the covenant, the chest containing the Ten Commandments. As the ark sets out annually, followed by the crowd of people, Moses says a short prayer: “Our Lord, defeat your enemies and make them run!” - when the people travel by night, the cloud changes into fire. No more Manna! (11:4-32) – manna: food that is similar to whitish seeds that tastes like something backed with sweet olive oil”. The Israelites survived by eating this everyday, but would get tired of eating the same thing. They complained that: “In Egypt we could eat all the fish we wanted, and there were cucumbers, melons, onions, and garlic. But we're starving out here, and the only food we have is this manna.” God sent them quail from the coast. The birds are three feet high for miles in each direction so they provide more food. Scouting Reports (13:1-14:44) – The Israelites camp on the southern part of Canaan. Moses sends one man from each of the twelve family tribes to look over the land. Moses wanted to find out if the soil would be good, if the trees were okay and if the walls were fortified. They return 40 days later. Joshua and Caleb encourage use of the land by bringing grapes, pomegranates, and figs. The other 10 scouts disagree because they can't grow anything and the people are like giants. The Israelites agree with the 10 people and refuse to go. Because they didn't listen to Joshua and Caleb, God condemns them to wander in the desert for 40 years.

Between a Rock and a Hard Place (20:1-13) – The Israelites go south to Kadesh, an Oasis where they spent most of the 40 years. The water dries up, and the people get angry. They regret leaving Egypt (even with the bricks). Moses and Aaron ask God for help. “Moses, you and Aaron call the people together and command that rock to give you water”, God says. Snakes! (21:4-9) – Edom (which is now Western Jordan) won't allow the people to pass through. If they had, the Israelites would have had a shortcut to the Jordan River from passing through Canaan. So they go south into the desert to go around Edom. The people complain and moan again and they criticize God for “causing” them to suffer. God bring poisonous snakes into the camp and they kill lots of people. Tey realize their mistake, say sorry and ask for forgiveness. God tells Moses to put up a pole with a bronze snake at the top. Anyone who gets biten and looks at the pole won't die. Later on, Jesus compares this event to his crucifixion, which gives eternal salvation (John 3:1415). The Talking Donkey (22:1-24:25) – They go north and approach the eastern border of the Promise Land. First they have to go through Moab (modern day Dead Sea part of Jordan). The king of Moab became cautious about the thought of foreigners going through his country. He hired Balaam (who was a known prophet) to put a hex on Israel. Balaam brings the donkey and begins his mission. On his way, an unusual event occurs. His donkey sees an angel with a sword, so he sits down and doesn't go any further. Balaam beats his donkey and God gives the donkey the ability to speak. He asks Balaam what he did to deserve such a beating. Right then, Balaam too can see the angel. The Angel allows Balaam to go to Moab on the condition that he speak the word of God only. Instead of cursing the people, Balaam instead blesses them and curses their enemies. He then predicts: “someday, a king of Israel will appear like a star. He will wipe out you Moabites and destroy the tribes who live in the desert.” King David would end up doing this in around 1000 BC (2 Samuel 8:2, 11-14). A New Leader (27:12-23) – God tells Moses to make Joshua his successor before he dies. Moses brings Joshua to an assembly and he puts his hands on him and appoints him as Israel's leader. Though Moses can't enter the Promised Land, God lets him see the land. Moses climbs a mountain to the East of the Jordan River. Across the river was a land that was “flowing with milk and honey”. Moses then dies on the mountain (Deuteronomy 34:5-6).