are promised kingship and priesthood with him in the heavens. These older persons could not be only the apostles, who numbered just twelve. They may therefore represent the entire body of the “royal priesthood,” the 144,000 (as represented in the twenty-four priestly divisions serving at the temple) in their positions in the heavens, as crowned kings and priests.—1 Pet. 2:9; Rev. 7:4-8; 20:6.
Periods of judgment or punishment seem to be associated with the number forty, in a few instances. (Gen. 7:4; Ezek. 29:11, 12) Nineveh was given forty days to repent. (Jonah 3:4) Another use of the number forty points out a parallel in the life of Jesus Christ with that of Moses, who typified Christ. Both of these men experienced forty-day periods of fasting.—Ex. 24:18; 34:28; Deut. 9:9, 11; Matt. 4:1, 2.
NUMBERS, BOOK OF
The fourth book of the Pentateuch, which derives its English name from the two numberings of the sons of Israel mentioned therein. It relates events that took place in the region of Mount Sinai, in the wilderness during the course of Israel’s wandering, and on the plains of Moab. The narrative primarily covers a period of thirty-eight years and nine months, from 1512 to 1473 B.C.E. (Num. 1:1; Deut. 1:3, 4) Although occurring earlier, the happenings narrated at Numbers 7:1-88 and 9:1-15 provide background information that forms an essential part of the book.
The writership of the book of Numbers has from ancient times been attributed to Moses. Ample evidence in the book itself confirms this. There is no hint of any other life than that experienced by Israel in Egypt and then in the wilderness. In commenting about the time Hebron was built, the writer used the Egyptian city of Zoan as a reference point. (Num. 13:22) The age of Zoan would reasonably be common knowledge to a man like Moses, who “was instructed in all the wisdom of the Egyptians.”—Acts 7:22.
Certain commands recorded in the book of Numbers are unique to the circumstances of a nation on the move. These include the prescribed tribal encampments (Num. 1:52, 53), the order of march (Num. 2:9, 16, 17, 24, 31) and the trumpet signals for convening the assembly and for breaking camp. (Num. 10:2-6) Also, the law concerning quarantine is worded to fit camp life. (Num. 5:2-4) Various other commands are stated in such a way as to call for a future application when the Israelites would be residing in the Promised Land. Among these are: the use of trumpets for sounding war calls (Num. 10:9), the setting aside of forty-eight cities for the Levites (Num. 35:2-8), the action to be taken against idolatry and the inhabitants of Canaan (Num. 33:50-56), the selection of six cities of refuge, instructions for handling cases of persons claiming to be accidental manslayers (Num. 35:9-33), and laws involving inheritance and marriage of heiresses.—Num. 27:8-11; 36:5-9.
Additionally, the recording of the Israelite encampments is definitely ascribed to Moses (Num. 33:2) and the concluding words of the book of Numbers also point to him as the writer of the account.—Num 36:13.
The authenticity of the book is established beyond any doubt. Outstanding is its candor. Wrong conduct and defeat are not concealed. (Num. 11:1-5, 10, 32-35; 14:2, 11, 45) Even the transgressions of Moses himself, his brother Aaron, his sister Miriam and his nephews Nadab and Abihu are exposed. (Num. 3:3, 4; 12:1-15; 20:2-13) Repeatedly happenings recorded in the book are recounted in the Psalms (78:14-41; 95:7-11; 105:40, 41; 106:13-33; 135:10, 11; 136:16-20). By their allusions to major events and other details in Numbers, Joshua (4:12; 14:2), Jeremiah (2 Ki. 18:4), Nehemiah (9:19-22), David (Ps. 95:7-11), Isaiah (48:21), Ezekiel (20:13-24), Hosea (9:10), Amos (5:25), Micah (6:5), the Christian martyr Stephen (Acts 7:36), the apostles Paul (1 Cor. 10:1-11) and Peter (2 Pet. 2:15, 16), the disciple Jude (vs. 11) and the Son of God (John 3:14; Rev. 2:14) showed that they accepted this record as part of God’s inspired Word. There is also Balaam’s prophecy regarding the star that would step forth out of Jacob, which had its initial fulfillment when David became king and thereafter subdued the Moabites and Edomites.—Num. 24:15-19; 2 Sam. 8:2, 13, 14.
The book of Numbers forcefully illustrates the importance of obedience to Jehovah, respect for him and his servants, the need for faith and guarding against ungodly men (Num. 13:25–14:38; 22:7, 8, 22; 26:9, 10; Heb. 3:7–4:11; 2 Pet. 2:12-16; Jude 11; Rev. 2:14), not putting Jehovah to the test (Num. 21:5, 6; 1 Cor. 10:9), and refraining from murmuring (Num. 14:2, 36, 37; 16:1-3, 41; 17:5, 10; 1 Cor. 10:10, 11) and sexual immorality. (Num. 25:1-9; 31:16; 1 Cor. 10:6, 8) Jehovah’s dealings with Israel give evidence of his great power, mercy and loving-kindness and his being slow to anger, though not withholding punishment when deserving. (Num. 14:17-20) Further, the position and ministry of Moses (Num. 12:7; Heb. 3:2-6), the miraculous provision of water from the rock-mass (Num. 20:7-11; 1 Cor. 10:4), the lifting up of the copper serpent (Num. 21:8, 9; John 3:14, 15) and the water of cleansing (Num. 19:2-22; Heb. 9:13, 14) provided prophetic, pictures that were fulfilled in Christ Jesus.
The account provides background material that illuminates other scriptures. It shows on what basis Judean King Hezekiah was able to arrange the Passover on Ziv (Iyyar) 14, instead of Nisan (Abib) 14. (Num. 9:10, 11; 2 Chron. 30:15) The full discussion of Naziriteship (Num. 6:2-21) explains why Samson and Samuel were not to have their hair cut (Judg. 13:4, 5; 1 Sam. 1:11) and why John the Baptist was not to drink intoxicating beverages. (Luke 1:15) For additional examples, compare Numbers 2:18-23 and Psalm 80:2; Numbers 15:38 and Matthew 23:5; Numbers 17:8-10 and Hebrews 9:4; Numbers 18:26 and Hebrews 7:5-9; Numbers 18:31 and 1 Corinthians 9:13, 14; Numbers 28:9, 10 and Matthew 12:5.
OUTLINE OF CONTENTS
I. Events in the wilderness of Sinai (1:1–10:10)
A. With exception of Levites, Israelite males from twenty years old upward registered for army (1:1-54)
B. Tribes assigned places of encampment in relation to tabernacle (2:1-34)
C. Levites registered and assigned sacred duties (3:1–4:49)
1. Aaron and his sons Eleazar and Ithamar continue serving as priests; Levites designated to assist them and constituted Jehovah’s property in place of firstborn Israelites (3:1-13)
2. Registration of Levite males from month old upward (3:14-39)
3. Exchange of Levites for firstborn of other tribes (3:40-51)
4. Service assignments and registration of male Kohathites, Gershonites and Merarites from thirty up to fifty years of age (4:1-49)
D. Various divine commands (5:1–6:27)
1. Quarantining the sick (5:1-4)
2. Confession of sins and making restitution (5:5-8)
3. Contribution of holy things (5:9, 10)
4. Procedure for handling case of woman suspected by husband as guilty of secret adultery (5:11-31)
5. Vows of Naziriteship (6:1-21)
6. Priestly blessing (6:22-27)
E. Twelve Israelite chieftains make joint presentation of gifts after setting up of tabernacle;