We’ll be starting Numbers in a couple of days, so I thought I’d take a moment and write a little bit about what we can expect.

What’s in a name?

Genesis is all about the beginnings (genesis being Greek for “origin”) of the Hebrew people. Exodus was about leaving Egypt (exodos being Greek for “going out”). Leviticus was the book of Levite rules. So where does the name Numbers come from?

In a startling break with tradition, Numbers refers not to the theme of the book as a whole, but rather to the fact that the first chapter is essentially just a list of numbers – as Moses will be taking a census of the Hebrew people. The rest of the book be damned, apparently.

It’s interesting to note that the Hebrew name, Ba-Midbar (“in the wilderness”) is far more accurate. Unfortunately, it’s not nearly as catchy in English. I guess the PR department wins again.

A dissection of a book

According to my study Bible, the book of Numbers can be divided as follows:

  1. Preparation for departure from Sinai (1.1 – 10.10)
  2. The journey to Kadesh, from which point an abortive attack upon southern Canaan was made (10.11 – 21.13)
  3. The journey from Kadesh via Transjordan for the purpose of approaching Canaan from the east (21.14 – 36.13)

We’ll be spending the bulk of our “40 years in the desert” in this book.