Numbers is the fourth book of the Bible as well as in the books of Moses, and the number 4 is the number of the earth. On the fourth day the material things were created. There are four earthly kingdoms mentioned in Daniel.
This is also the “wilderness” book. The wilderness is a picture of earthly circumstances wherein faith is tested. 1 Cor 10:1-22; Hebrews 3-3. The book describes the wilderness journey of the children of Israel, with vital lessons for us to learn from in relation to our ‘spiritual wilderness journey’.
The bronze serpent in Chapter 21 is a very important event in the wilderness – see John 3:14-15.
Numbers parallels with 1&2 Corinthians which describe the order and conduct of the Church of God (representing all who have accepted the Lord Jesus Christ as their Saviour), just as this book describes the order and conduct of the children of Israel with their responsibilities. The Levites and their service play an important role in this book.
We see something peculiar in the books of Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy.
We can say that Leviticus is the priests’ handbook.
We can say that Numbers is the Levites’ handbook.
We can say that Deuteronomy is the people’s handbook.
The book of Numbers can be divided into the following sections:
- Chapters 1-10 Sinai – instructions on the service and consecration of the Levites and the Nazarite.
- Chapters 11-20 the 38 years wandering in the wilderness – they had already been in the wilderness for about two years since they crossed the Red Sea.
- Chapters 21-32 the sojourning on the river Jordan.
- Chapters 33-36 instructions are in connection with the wandering in the wilderness.
Some features in Numbers:
- Chapter 6 the law of the Nazarite. The word comes from a root meaning separation.
- Chapter 11 murmuring of the people.
- Chapter 13:31-14:10 ten spies came back with an evil report on Canaan, the heart of the children melted, they murmured again, and as a result, they will wander in the wilderness for forty years.
- Chapter 16 the rebellion of Korah – compare with Jude 11.
- Chapter 17 Aaron’s rod budding, blossoming and bringing almonds confirms him as high priest. Compare Hebrews 7. Picture of Christ cut off from the land and in His resurrection brought forth fruits which declare His priesthood is of God and forever. Moses’ rod was a rod of power and authority. Aaron’s budding rod pictures grace. See Heb 9:4 the rod and manna are provisions of divine grace.
- Chapter 19 the water of cleansing – the red heifer. This is the compulsory sacrifice and is fitting that it should be included in this wilderness book. Water of cleaning: Eph 5:26; John 13 and John 15:3. Running water – Jn 7:38 (living water). Without blemish – 1 Pet 1:19. No yoke – Matt 11:28 c/p Jn 8:34. See also ch 19:3 c/p Heb 13:11-13. Cedar wood & hyssop: 1 Kin 4:33 the greatest thing in the garden to the smallest. Blood-shedding in Heb 9:22. Ashes – the memorial of the blood which was shed and the body burned – remembrance of Christ’s sufferings and death.
- Chapter 21 the bronze serpent after the children murmured again, this time against the Manna, that they loathed it. The Manna speaks of Christ, so God had to swiftly judge them. The Lord Jesus quoted the lifting up of the serpent to Nicodemus in John 3.
- Chapters 22-25 Balaam. See ch 24:17, and Jude 11. Peter also mentions Balaam in his writings and John also mentions Balaam in Revelation, as a symbolic picture of the decline of the history of the church.
Numbers 6 presents instructions about the law of the Nazarite. It shows the desire of full commitment to God amidst a people who had departed from Him. This is the idea of discipleship in our day today.
True separation to God in 3 ways:
- From all that comes from the vine. Wine speaks of earthly joy. See Judges 9:19.
- Hair to remain long. Sign of subjection to God – see Samson in Judges 16:11-20. The strength of the believer lies in his/her subjection to God.
- Dead body (v7-8) picture spiritually dead bodies – unbelievers.