The Book of Numbers: In The Wilderness

We publish a weekly Worship Study Guide here so you, your family or your small group can press further into worship and refect on the message of Numbers. We hope you’ll join us!

The Old Testament Book of Numbers tells the story of Israel’s wanderings through the wilderness on the way to the promised land of Canaan. Numbers begins with Moses and Aaron taking a census of the whole nation, which is how the book gets its name in our English language Bible. It is the fourth section of the Pentateuch– the five books of Moses and the first five books of the Bible.

But in the Hebrew language Bible, Numbers is known as “In the Wilderness”—the first words of this account. The story begins at Mount Sinai, after God’s law is delivered to Moses, and follows the children of Israel through 40 years of wandering in the wilderness. They reach the promised land, but doubt God’s promises when they see the land’s mighty inhabitants. Because they do not believe God, He prevents them from entering the land. Numbers concludes with the Israelites on the Plains of Moab, just across the river from the promised land. This is where Moses gives his final commission to the people—which is recorded in the next book, Deuteronomy.

Numbers shows us how a holy God dwells with His people. Israel rebels against God, and even Moses disobeys Him, but God is faithful to keep His promises and brings this nation to the land. God keeps His Word: the promises He made to Abraham in Genesis along with His promises to bless and punish Israel.

Ultimately, we will see Jesus Christ through the book of Numbers. In the New Testament, the Apostle Paul explains this in I Corinthians 10:1-5—his summary of the purpose of the book of Numbers. It is Good News that Jesus will faithfully lead His Church safely through this wilderness into the inheritance God has promised His people.