Authorship and Audience

According to tradition (both Jewish and Christian), Moses wrote all of the books in the Pentateuch (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy). See the notes for Genesis for more details.

Date and Historical Context

Assuming Moses wrote the Pentateuch, it would have been written during Moses' lifetime. Refer to the notes for Genesis for a discussion of when this may have occurred.

Literary Context

The book of Numbers is important as it describes how Israel goes from Mount Sinai to the border of the promised land forty years later. The book of Numbers picks up from Exodus in that it starts off with a census showing how many people came out of Egypt. It also continues from Leviticus in that it shows that the people are not faithful to God or the laws He has prescribed. This continual unfaithfulness sets up for Deuteronomy where we see that Israel cannot be faithful because they have sinful hearts.


0. The First Generation [1 - 25]

A. Census and Camp Layout [1 - 2]

B. Priests and Levites [3 - 6]

C. Inauguration of Tabernacle [7 - 10:10]

D. Israel's Unfaithfulness and God's Faithfulness [10:11 - 25]

I. The Second Generation [26 - 36]

A. Census [26]

B. Faithfulness of the Daughters of Zelophehad [27:1-11]

C. Joshua Succeeds Moses [27:12-23]

D. Reiteration of Law [28 - 30]

E. Punishment on Midian [31]

F. Reuben and Gad in Gilead [32]

G. Recap of the Journey [33:1-49]

H. Instructions for Possessing and Partitioning the Promised Land [33:50 - 36]

Theological Theme

  • God's Faithfulness and Israel's Unfaithfulness. The book of Numbers is largely a contrast between faithfulness and unfaithfulness. For the most part, Israel is resolutely unfaithful to God, yet God remains unwaveringly faithful to His promises. This is evidenced by the stark contrast between Israel's failures in 10:11 through 21 as well as chapter 25 and God's covenant faithfulness expressed through Balaam in chapters 23-24.

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