Composition of the Book of Numbers


Approximate date: 1440-1400 B.C.E. (Right); 1300-1200 B.C.E. (conservative-moderate); 500s B.C.E. (Left)

Time period: Israel in the wilderness

Author: Moses exclusively (Right); Moses, Joshua, and later editors (conservative-moderate); compiled traditions and mythologies (Left)

Location of author: wilderness journey after the Exodus (Right, conservative-moderate); Babylon and/or Land of Israel (Left)

Target audience and their location: people of Israel wandering in the desert (Right, conservative-moderate); Jewish exiles returning from Babylon (Left)

Theological Summary: The Hebrew title for the fourth book of the Torah is Bamidbar, meaning either “in the wilderness” or “in the desert” (1:1). Another Jewish designation in antiquity derived from 1:1 was V’ydaber or “and He spoke,” known to early Church figures such as Jerome and Epiphanaus. Other titles included omesh happikkudim or “the ‘fifth’ of the census,” indicating that this text composed one-fifth of the Torah. The Septuagint translation applied the Greek name Arithmoi to the text, derived from “according to the number of their names” (1:26, LXE). “This Greek name reflects an earlier Hebrew name for the book, well-attested in classical rabbinic sources, from a period when books of the Torah were named thematically rather than after one of their initial words” (Jewish Study Bible), and was followed as Numeri in the Latin Vulgate. Many evangelical Christians have suggested that Bamidbar is a better title—effectively making the English title Wilderness or Desert—as it avoids the controversy of the debates surrounding Biblical numbering and instead focuses on the events that took place.

The Book of Numbers may be easily divided into three broad sections: (1) Israel at Sinai, preparing to depart for the Promised Land (1:1-10:10); (2) Israel at Kadesh, delayed because of its rebellion (13:1-20:13); (3) Israel at the plains of Moab, anticipating conquest of the Promised Land (22:2-32:42). Numbers probably covers the broadest scope of the Torah (excluding Genesis), as it completes the 38-year journey of the Israelites wandering in the wilderness.

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reproduced from A Survey of the Tanach for the Practical Messianic

One of the major reasons that today’s Messianic movement has grown in the past decade is a significant interest by Believers in the Torah and the Tanach. In too many cases, the Tanach Scriptures were not probed in that great a detail in a Jewish Believer’s traditional Synagogue upbringing—and perhaps more serious, a non-Jewish Believer’s Christian experience often witnessed the Old Testament taking a back seat to the New Testament in the Church. With many of the ethical and moral controversies the greater Judeo-Christian religious community is experiencing in our age, a need for God’s people to return to a foundational grounding in the Tanach Scriptures is absolutely imperative. The Old Testament cannot simply be disregarded any more.

Many have stayed away from consulting the Tanach not because of a lack of interest, but because few want to have to deal with the controversies it addresses. Unlike the Apostolic Scriptures, constrained to the First Century C.E., the period of the Tanach stretches back all the way to the beginning of the universe itself. Questions like: Who was the Pharaoh of the Exodus? Did God actually condone the genocide of the Canaanites? and Am I the only one who thinks the Prophets are mentally disturbed? are debates that many people do not want to enter into. Even more significant is the effect of critical scholarship which has attempted to divide the Torah into non-Mosaic sources, question the inspiration and historical reliability of the text, and even regard much of the Tanach as Ancient Israel’s mythology. For a Messianic movement that claims to place a high value on the Tanach, it is time that we join in to these conversations.

A Survey of the Tanach for the Practical Messianic takes you through the Old Testament from a distinct Messianic point of view. It presents a theologically conservative perspective of the books of the Tanach, but one that does not avoid some of the controversies that have existed in Biblical scholarship for over one hundred and fifty years. The student, in company with his or her study Bible, is asked to read through each text of the Tanach, jotting down characters, place names, key ideas, and reflective questions. Each book of the Old Testament is then summarized for its compositional data and asks you questions to get a good Messianic feel for the text. This workbook can be used for both personal and group study, and will be a valuable aid for any Messianic Believer wanting to study the whole Bible on a consistent basis.

290 pages