The Old Testament | The Books of Moses


Things to know
Where does the book begin?

Numbers begins in the wilderness near the border of the land that God promised Abraham.

Where does the book end?

Numbers ends as the people were camped just across the river from the land that God promised them. They had just wandered about for 40 years.

People to know

The Spies

Places to go

Israel celebrated the Passover*.
Numbers 9

The spies went into Canaan.
Numbers 13

The people protested and Moses prayed.
Numbers 14

Water came from a rock.
Numbers 20

A bad prophet* lived and an animal talked.
Numbers 22

The Story of Numbers

The book of Numbers begins with a list of names. And it ends with a list. These two lists are the record of the times Moses counted the people. The first time he counted them to prepare for the trip into the Promised Land.[1] Forty years later, he numbered them again. That is how the book of Numbers got its name. Numbers tells about what happened in those forty years.

Moses put the people into groups of families. God had promised to go with them. God’s Tent would travel with them too. Everything was ready. God was going to lead them into the special land that he chose for them. This was a happy time for the people. If they obeyed God, the land would soon be theirs. But would the people continue to obey God?

At first, the people were happy to go to the special land that God had made for them. Moses told the people that they must continue to obey God. They must not be like the people who did not know God.[2] But the people began to complain. They said bad things about Moses and about God. They did not trust* God to help them. They were afraid. So the people did not obey God. They acted just like they had before.[3]

God was angry with the people. So God sent fire down on them from heaven*.[4] When Moses heard about the fire, he prayed. When Moses prayed, God took away the fire.

Soon, the people came to the boundary of the land that God promised them. Moses decided to send 12 men to go into the land and take a look. He told them to look about and report on what they saw. When the men came back, two of them gave a good report. They brought back good fruit to show the people. But 10 of the men gave a bad report. They said that the cities had high walls and they saw giants there. The people did not listen to the men with the good report. They listened to the men who were afraid and who did not trust* God. [5] They were so afraid, so they wanted to go back to Egypt.

When God saw the people would not obey him, he was angry with them. He told Moses that he was going to punish them. But Moses prayed to God and God forgave them. But God did decide that all of the people who turned against Moses would never go into the land. All of the adults would die in the desert country. They would never see the land that God promised to give Abraham. And that is what happened. The people walked in the desert for 40 years. All of the adults died. But God did not forget his promises to Abraham and Moses. God still took care of the people. They would not go to the special land, but their children would go. The children would have a new leader named Joshua. He was one of the men that gave a good report about the land. He would lead them into the special land. The other man that gave a good report was named Caleb. He got to go into the land too.

As they travelled in the desert country, God gave them more rules to follow.[6] God did many wonderful things to help them. God gave them food. God showed them the way so they did not get lost. But they complained again and again. Because they complained, Moses became angry with the people. Moses had obeyed and listened to God many times. But, this time, he did not do what God asked him to do. He did not listen carefully to God. So God did not let him go to the special land.[7]

There are many other stories in the book of Numbers. The people opposed Moses. Nations made war against them. God rescued them when some water made them sick. A bad prophet* met an angel*. An animal talked. A dead stick grew leaves. Water came from a rock.

But many of the stories are about the same thing. Again and again, the people did not keep their promises to God. They turned away from him. They did not listen to him. But God took care of them anyway. He always kept his promises to them. And, soon, they would enter the land that God had promised them.

  • [1] Numbers 1-10
  • [2] Numbers 5
  • [3] Exodus 32; Genesis 3
  • [4] Numbers 11:1b.
  • [5] Numbers 14:11-12
  • [6] Numbers 15-19
  • [7] Numbers 20:12

The Old Testament | The Books of Moses