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#Numbers

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Numbers
Numeri (Vulgate) and Arithmoi (LXX).
במדבר
Much better title.
The area between Egypt and Canaan, “Between liberation and landedness” (Fretheim: 2001). “They are learning to walk upright as they go from being slaves to free.”
(Fretheim: 1996).
Picking up one year after the exodus. Fits tightly in the order of the Torah, without a beginning and without an end. Because of Exodus – Deuteronomy narrative.
What are people’s views of Numbers?
(Random collection of J/E and mostly P materials?)
B.A. Levine: 1976 –
“The least coherent of all the Torah books.”
B.A. Levine
R.C. Dentan: 1962 –
“Since the book has no real unity and was not composed in accordance with any logical, predetermined plan, whatever outline may be imposed on it will have to be recognized as largely subjective and arbitrary.”
R.C. Dentan
Yet,
Origen – The most neglected book in the neglected Old Testament. (Olson p. 1) “When the Gospels or the Apostle or the Psalms are read, another person joyfully receives them, gladly embraces them… But if the book of Numbers is read to him, and especially those passages we have now in hand, he will judge that there is nothing helpful, nothing as a remedy for his weakness or a benefit for the salvation of his soul. He will constantly spit them out as heavy and burdensome food.”
Origen
Authorship:
Accepted as Mosaic (including N.T. / Jesus). – Except Num. 12:3 Numbers 12:3 Now the man Moses was very meek, more than all people who were on the face of the earth.[1]
For those holding to the Documentary Hypothesis – J/E & P.

Theme:

(Holiness) “In spite of its diversity of subject matter and complex literary development the book of Numbers maintains a unified sacerdotal interpretation of God’s will for his people which is set forth in a sharp contrast between the holy and the profane.”
B. Childs
Being set apart. Military. Priestly duties. Holiness in the camp.
(Worship) “It is generally known that the book contains important materials for the worship patterns of Israel.”
R. Allen
Calendar and Offerings and Centrality of the Tabernacle. Observing the Passover.
(Covenant) – Presence of God. Land (=Covenant=Relationship) hence the 40 year delay. Descendants (going from 70 to 603,550 men.

Issues:

“Once a reader braves these murky waters, he or she will discover that there are four major problems to face in the Book of Numbers: (1) its seeming lack of coherence as a book, (2) the dizzying variety of the contents, (3) the problematic large numbers of the tribes of Israel, and (4) the fascinating but confusing story of Balaam (Num 22–24). These factors combine to arrest even the interest of the most pious readers.”[2]

Issue #1 – The Junk drawer of the Torah

J/E & P??
·Basic Structure 1 (Each begins with a census of peoples and then Levites)
Structure One
1:1 – 25:18
26:1 – 36:13
· Basic Structure 2 - Alternates between Law Codes and Travelogue
Structure Two
Law Giving – Numbers 1:1 - :10:10 (preparations for departure from Sinai)
Travel Narrative – Numbers 10:11 – 12:16 (Departure from Sinai and Arrival at Kadesh – 20 days)
Law Giving – Numbers 13:1 – 19:22
Travel Narrative – Numbers 20:1 – 22:1 (Journey from Kadesh to Moab – 38 years)
Law Giving Numbers 22:2 – 26:13 (Six months)
Ring Structure
Mary Douglas In the Wilderness: The Doctrine of Defilement in the Book of Numbers (JSOTSup 158; Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1993), 118.
Destroys the idea that it was all just a random hodgepodge.

Issue #2 – Genres Galore

The book contains numerous lists of names and numbers, involved genealogies, dramatic historical narratives, arcane rites of purification and ritual sacrifice, lists of sites visited in the wanderings of Israel, lovely poetry, the quintessential blessing of the Lord on his people, impassioned personal encounters, rather dull and prosaic documents on priestly duties, engaging flashes of personality conflicts, stories of intrigue and betrayal, accounts of robust heroism and daring faith, tedious descriptions of detail in ritual, some hymn fragments, quotations from other ancient books, exultant praises to God, and—most surprisingly—exalted poetic prophecies providing a blessing of Israel from a pagan mantic prophet who has fallen under the “spell” of the God of Israel.[3]
Requires the reader to be able to quickly switch interpretive lenses as you read through the book.
Also, takes work to pay attention.
Of course, not all genres are easily applicable. Seek to understand author, audience, and occasion.

Issue #3 – Stars in the Camp

603,550??
3.2 Million people? Extrapolated out. Women and children and tribe of Levi.
Especially when starting with just the 70.
Genesis 46:27 ESV
And the sons of Joseph, who were born to him in Egypt, were two. All the persons of the house of Jacob who came into Egypt were seventy.
1. Inflated (Pastorally speaking)
2. Bible Code: Gematriya
בְנֵי־יִשְׂרָאֵל (2+50+10+10+300+200+1+30 = 603)
כָּל-זָכָר לַכֹּ֖ל יֹצֵ֥א צָבָֽא (551 w/the one being Moses) “Every male, all eligible for military service”
כֹּ֖ל יֹצֵ֥א צָבָֽא (563 = 550 + Moses + 12 Elders) “Company by company”
3. Thousands or Clans? אֶ֖לֶף
HALOT (II) “Thousand”
(III) “Group of a thousand, military, part of a tribe; Clan”
“20 The people of Reuben, Israel’s firstborn, their generations, by their clans, by their fathers’ houses, according to the number of names, head by head, every male from twenty years old and upward, all who were able to go to war: 21 those listed of the tribe of Reuben were 46,500. “[5]
Numbers 1:20–21 ESV
The people of Reuben, Israel’s firstborn, their generations, by their clans, by their fathers’ houses, according to the number of names, head by head, every male from twenty years old and upward, all who were able to go to war: those listed of the tribe of Reuben were 46,500.
So…46 Tent groups or clans and 500 warriors.
Total of 598 tent groups and 5,500 warriors.
Or, since it is a military census – 598 platoons comprised of 5,500 warriors.
4. God is Faithful
Fulfillment of the covenant.
The sand of the seashore and the stars in the heavens.
It was a trajectory set forward from the beginning of Exodus. Pharaoh’s response to the fertility of the Israelites.
Exodus 12:37–38 ESV
And the people of Israel journeyed from Rameses to Succoth, about six hundred thousand men on foot, besides women and children. A mixed multitude also went up with them, and very much livestock, both flocks and herds.
Judges 20:2 ESV
And the chiefs of all the people, of all the tribes of Israel, presented themselves in the assembly of the people of God, 400,000 men on foot that drew the sword.
Balaam agrees!
Numbers 23:10 ESV
Who can count the dust of Jacob or number the fourth part of Israel? Let me die the death of the upright, and let my end be like his!”

Issue #4 – Bewildering Balaam’s

Numbers 22-24
Some view him as a true and faithful prophet of God. Others view him as an evil, greed-fueled false prophet. Considering a donkey is his foil, you can draw some conclusions as to how he was intended to be viewed in Scripture.
“The recovery of prophetic texts of Balaam in Aramaic from the sixth century at Deir ‘Allah in Jordan shows how very famous this man was in the ancient Near East, even centuries after his death.”[6]
These blessings serve as the heart of Numbers.
Numbers 24:17 ESV
I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not near: a star shall come out of Jacob, and a scepter shall rise out of Israel; it shall crush the forehead of Moab and break down all the sons of Sheth.
Numbers 24:17 I see him, but not now;
I behold him, but not near:
a star shall come out of Jacob,
and a scepter shall rise out of Israel;
it shall crush the forehead of Moab
and break down all the sons of Sheth. [7]
· But, this isn’t the end of Balaam’s story.
Numbers 31:8 ESV
They killed the kings of Midian with the rest of their slain, Evi, Rekem, Zur, Hur, and Reba, the five kings of Midian. And they also killed Balaam the son of Beor with the sword.
o Numbers 31:8 (ESV), “8They killed the kings of Midian with the rest of their slain, Evi, Rekem, Zur, Hur, and Reba, the five kings of Midian. And they also killed Balaam the son of Beor with the sword.”
2 Peter 2:15–16 ESV
Forsaking the right way, they have gone astray. They have followed the way of Balaam, the son of Beor, who loved gain from wrongdoing, but was rebuked for his own transgression; a speechless donkey spoke with human voice and restrained the prophet’s madness.
o 2 Peter 2:15–16 (ESV), “15Forsaking the right way, they have gone astray. They have followed the way of Balaam, the son of Beor, who loved gain from wrongdoing, 16 but was rebuked for his own transgression; a speechless donkey spoke with human voice and restrained the prophet’s madness.”
Revelation 2:14 ESV
But I have a few things against you: you have some there who hold the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, so that they might eat food sacrificed to idols and practice sexual immorality.
o Revelation 2:14 (ESV), “14But I have a few things against you: you have some there who hold the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, so that they might eat food sacrificed to idols and practice sexual immorality.” (see Numbers 31:16)
o The adultery and idolatry and intermarriage of chapter 25 is seen as being directly connected to Balaam.
One of the biggest contributions is in his fourth oracle:
Numbers 24:17 ESV
I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not near: a star shall come out of Jacob, and a scepter shall rise out of Israel; it shall crush the forehead of Moab and break down all the sons of Sheth.

Uses in the New Testament:

The Word dwelling (tabernacle) – John 1
The serpent Moses holds up – John 3
Balaam – Jude 11 & Revelation 2
Water and Manna and other grumblings – 1 Corinthians 10

Possible Paper Topics:

The Numbers in Numbers: An accurate count of the military force
Balaam: A Prophetic Foil for Moses

Value for the Church:

We are all in a wilderness! (Numbers 1:1)
It represents that time of struggle, heading towards “the land.” (Numbers 10:11-12)
The comfort of God’s presence and orienting our lives around Him. (Numbers 2)
Teaches us to persevere in the face of opposition. (Numbers 12 – Moses and Miriam and Aaron)
Stand up for the truth (Numbers 13) Caleb and Joshua
The right way to deal with obstinate people (Numbers 14:13-19) When the people rebel
God’s faithfulness when we are disobedient (Numbers 20:10-13) Moses strikes the rock in Zin
Truth from a liar (the Joel Osteen sermon Numbers 22-24)
God’s Pro-Feminism Agenda (Numbers 27:1-11) The daughters of Zelophehad
[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Nu 12:3.
[2] Ronald B. Allen, “Numbers,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein, vol. 2 (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1990), 658.
[3] Ronald B. Allen, “Numbers,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein, vol. 2 (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1990), 670.
[4] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Nu 23:10.
[5] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Nu 1:20–21.
[6] Ronald B. Allen, “Numbers,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein, vol. 2 (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1990), 677.
[7] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Nu 24:17.
[8] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Nu 24:17.
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