Towards the Promised Land

1. It spans a forty-year period but the coverage is uneven.
Numbers 1-10 records events that fall within a two-month period;
Numbers 11-24 focuses on selected experiences scattered throughout the next forty years; they highlight the failure of the people to trust and obey God.
Numbers 25-36 concentrates on developments that take place in the fortieth year

2. The first and third section begin with census of all the men who are twenty years old or older (Num 1:1-54; 26:1-65).
The account of the second census mentions that of all those included in the first census, only Caleb and Joshua remain alive (Num 26:64-65).

In the chapters 11-25 many Israelites died;
But, in the chapters 26-36 no death in mentioned; In a battle with the Midianites, no Israelite soldier was killed (Num 31:49).

3. The final section is framed by two episodes that focus on problems concerning the inheritance of land by the daughters of Zelophehad (Num 27:1-11; 36:1-12).

Preparation for the journey

Number 1-10 describes how the Israelites prepare to leave Sinai, to occupy the land of Canaan - (but the material is not in strict chronological order).
1. They are to be ready for war against the inhabitants of Canaan - so the reason for the census (Num 1:3; 45).
The Levites are excluded from the census due to their special association with the tabernacle - they cannot be involved in killing.
2. In order to succeed in war, those living in the camp must be pure.
Anyone unclean (skin disease, bodily discharge, or contact with the dead) must be sent outside the camp (Num 5:1-4).
The wrong has to be restitute (Num 5:5-10);
The sin of adultery tested (Num 5:11-31).
Nothing is to be allowed to defile the camp.
3. The layout of the camp (Num 2:1-34).
The tribes are position around the tabernacle - north, south, east - the most privileged? - and west.
The order of the tribes for the journey is also indicated.
The tabernacle and the Levites are specially emphasised (Num 2:17).
4. Other details
The duties of the levites regarding caring for and transporting the tabernacle and its furnishings (Num 4:5, 10, 12,15,19,24-25,27,31,32, 49).
They get six carts and twelve oxen for that purpose (Num 7:3).
But, the holiest items of the tabernacle are to be carried on human shoulders (Num 7:9).
Two silver trumpets are to be made for gathering people and setting out the camp (Num 10:2, 5-6).
5. God leads them on their journey through the cloud (Num 9:15-23)

The role of the Levites - set apart

1. They are excluded from the census because they are not for fighting but for transporting the tabernacle (Num 1:47-53; 2:33);
2. They are presented to Aaron as special assistants (Num 3:6-9);
3. They levites are connected with the firstborn of Israel who were spared in Egypt (Num 3:11-51; Ex 13:1-16).
4. Three main branches of Levites are assigned to different work within the tabernacle (Num 4:1-49).
5. They cannot touch, however, the holy items - their holy statues is lower than the priests.
6. They are not given any special region in Canaan. They are given 48 towns with its pastureland distributed throughout the twelve tribal regions.
Six of those towns become cities of refuge (Num 35:6).

Further Preparations to enter Canaan

(Num 26:1-36:13)
1. It begins with the census again (Num 26:2; 1:3).
See Num 13:1-14:45 - the rebellion and its consequence (Num 14:30).
Even Moses is not allowed to enter the promised land (Num 20:9-13; 27:13-14).
Thus, it is the second generation of Israelites that shall enter Canaan.
2. Two accounts regarding the daughters of Zelopehad (Num 27:1-11; 36:1-12).
The topic is about inheritance. First, the women are promised to have a property (Num 27:7) but they are required to marry within their own tribe.
3. Num 32 - the request of the tribes of Reuben and Gad to settle on the east of the Jordan.
They can do it but after promising that they will help the others to conquer Canaan.
Num 32:39 - half of the tribe of Manasseh is also allowed to stay on the east of the Jordan.
4. Numbers 34
First, it delineates the boundaries of the land to be possessed by the Israelites.
Then, there is the list of the leaders appointed from each tribe to assist Eleazar the priest and Joshua in assigning the land between the nine and a half tribes (Num 34:17).
Num 35:34 - The Israelites must not defile the land because the Lord will be dwelling in their midst.

New Testament Connections

See next topic on Murmurings.
But, one thing - although the Israelites do not possess the land yet, they are already assigning it among themselves.
They believe God’s promise that it was given to them.