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Ch 1 & 2 The encampments and numbering
Ch 3 The service of the tabernacle by the Levites
Ch 4 The continual service commencing age 30
Ch 5 The Law of Jealousy
Ch 6 The Nazarite Vow
Ch 7 The dedication of the Tabernacle
Ch 8 The Levites separated and cleansed for service
Ch 10 The setting forth of the 4 camps
Ch 14 Faithless generation condemned to die in the wilderness - except Caleb and Joshua
Ch 18 Levites, Tithes, and the service of the tabernacle
Ch 19 Ashes of the Red Heifer and the water of separation
Ch 22-24 Balaam the waster of the people
Ch 26 The land divided by lot among the tribes
The Hebrew title appears in the first verse: Bemidbar, "In the wilderness." The Septuagint uses the Greek "Arithmos," the Latin "Numera." The book is called in English "Numbers" from the two numberings: of those who came out of Egypt (ch. 1) and of those who entered the Land (ch. 26).
The theme of the book is "Behold the Goodness and Severity of God" (Rom. 11:22).
The book provides a warning against presumption (1 Cor. 10:1-12), as well as against unbelief and lack of faith (Heb. 3:19; 4:6). Such dangers are evident in the last days, and a salutary warning in the Book of Numbers is most appropriate. So the key thought is the need for discipline. The called are separated to service, and must discipline themselves to that end. It is necessary to implement faith in action. In the wilderness of probation (Rev. 17:3), the holy principles taught by sacrifice (Leviticus), are to be revealed in the activities of daily life (Numbers). The type must become the antitype; the principles must be fulfilled in actions. - GEM, Logos.
We never tire of the fresh air and the beautiful light, or grow weary of the blue sky or the face of nature. Wholesome food is always acceptable to a healthy palate. There is something in the adaptations of things that makes these things perennial in their power to satisfy. So it is with the things of the Spirit of God to the new man formed within us by the Truth. They are always fresh and sweet to the taste.
They are always beautiful and holy and strengthening. They never grow stale or pall upon the spirits. They are adapted to our highest desires. They alone can supply the demand of our ultimate aspirations. This is true of the mental relations of this mortal state. How much more must it be true of the Spirit state in which all earthly affinities will have been absorbed in the wonderful physical transmutation which changes this corruptible and mortal body into the incorruptible and immortal.
For this emancipation we are longing. For it we are preparing. We would not know how to prepare if the Spirit of God had not instructed us in the Word written under its inspiration. With this Word in our hands and hearts, we do know...
In Numbers, we have the organization of the camp of Israel in the wilderness. It might seem at first as if this had no interest or use for us-a thing of the past-an inherently transient thing, which having answered its purpose during Israel's passage from Egypt to the promised land, could be of no possible service to those who came after. This must be a wrong thought in view of the elaborate record it has received among those "whatsoever things" which have been "written for our learning."
That it is a wrong thought we discover when we apply our minds to the subject itself. The mere circumstance of a large travelling body of people being arranged by divine direction would impart to that arrangement a supreme interest - as a thing to study - a thing certain to be characterised by ingenuity and wisdom - a thing to be delighted in by those who admire the works of God, and take pleasure in seeking them out. But when, in addition to this, we find that a typical significance was stamped upon all these arrangements, in foreshadowing of God's ultimate will concerning man, it is manifest that a subject of great depth and richness is opened out to the mind in these Mosaic specifications.
On the first head, we may note the perfect symmetry and convenience of all the arrangements. There was a system observed throughout. The whole congregation was sub-divided into tribes, consisting of descendants respectively of the twelve sons of Jacob. These tribes were grouped in three's, so as to make four camps of three tribes each, each camp having its own standard, the lion, the man, the ox, and the eagle. The camps were named after the leading tribe in each camp-Judah, Reuben, Ephraim, and Dan.
The four camps were arranged in a square around the tabernacle in the centre-the camp of Judah forming the east side, the camp of Reuben the south, the camp of Ephraim the west, and the camp of Dan the north. Inside these four camps, lying between them and the tabernacle in the centre, were four minor camps, consisting of the tribe of Levi, separated and sanctified for the priestly service in four sections, according to the sons of Levi-Gershon, Kohath, and Merari-the family of Moses and Aaron forming the fourth.
The order of march was accommodated to these divisions. When the time arrived to strike their tents, Aaron's sons blew an alarm on silver trumpets (made for the purpose). At this signal, the camp on the east (consisting of the tribes of Judah, Issachar, and Zebulon) broke up and got on the march. At the same time, the Levites were getting the tabernacle down in the order of their service; and first went the Merarites with the sockets, pillars and boards, and then the Gershonites with the curtains, cords, and coverings.
When these had marched, another alarm on the trumpets summoned the south camp, the camp of Reuben, which marched, then marched the Kohathites, bearing the ark, the altars and holy vessels, for which, when the march ended, the Gershonites and Merarites had got the tabernacle erected in readiness. Next a blast of the trumpets brought forward the west and then the north camp, all halting in the same order at the end of their journey, and pitching in the original form of a square round the tabernacle.
No better arrangement could be imagined for the guidance of an immense body of people on the march. It bears the mark of divine wisdom on the face of it. But consider the spiritual significance which it yields. Here is a divine organization of human life in a national capacity; and what is its most conspicuous feature? The tabernacle of the divine presence in the midst-GOD IN THE CENTRE-the pivot upon which the whole system turns-the source of all direction and law. How great a contrast is this to human systems!
How complete the lesson that human life can never be and will never be what it ought to be until God's authority in visible administration is the heart and kernel of human society upon earth. It is nothing less than the Kingdom of God in miniature. Christ enthroned at Jerusalem, and ruling by the hands of his own immortal friends in all the earth, will soon establish the Father's name as the controlling power of human life-a fertilising and ennobling ideal that will generate joy and beauty everywhere. The antitypical tabernacle of God will thus be with men as the typical was with Israel; and they shall be His people, as Israel was; and, what Israel did not experience, God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes, and at last, there shall be no more death, neither sorrow nor crying.
We look at the perfect order extending to the smallest minutiae of the Mosaic encampment, and we may conclude with certainty that the same principle of fitness and method will be carried out in the arrangement of the heavenly encampment in the Age to come. The saints will be a multitude that no man can number, but everyone will have his place and his work. There will be no loose or unallotted parts in the system-no surplusage-no misfits-no waste power-no confusion. Everything will fit perfectly. We see the salient points of this exactness of order when we see the Holy Land, the Lord's portion (Zech. 2:10); Jerusalem the Lord's throne (Jer. 3:17); Jesus the occupant of the throne (Luke 1:32); the twelve apostles, heads of the twelve tribes under him (Mat. 19:28); and the saints exercising dominion according to "their works" (Rev. 2:26; 22:12; Luke 19:16-17).
These features stand out like the spires and towers of a city seen from a distance. We cannot make out the details, but we know when we behold a city from a distance that the details of streets and houses are there, and that when we get to the city, we shall find out these details down to the very persons and their affairs. So we know from these indications of the leading features of the Kingdom, considered in the light of the perfect organization of the details of the Mosaic camp, that when we get there, we shall find everything arranged in a perfect system of order and fitness.
Then as we look at the camp in the wilderness, we find it a prophecy. It tells us the connection in which the goodness of God is to be manifested on the earth. The divine encampment which we see is a camp composed of the twelve tribes of Israel. So it was under the Law, and so under the gospel when the Gentiles were invited to become Jews. So it was at the beginning, and so at the end when the names of the twelve tribes of Israel are inscribed on the gates of new Jerusalem (Rev. 21:12). So it has always been in the history of the earth; so it always will be. The work of God is inseparably associated with the race of Israel, "to whom pertaineth the adoption and the glory and the covenants, and the giving of the Law, and the service of God, and the promises"
(Rom. 9:4). In the past, the kingdom of Israel was the Kingdom of God (2 Chr. 13:8); and in the future, the Kingdom of God will be the kingdom of Israel (Acts 1:6; Micah 4:8; Isa. 60:14). First, the natural and then the spiritual, -this is the rule both of God's political work, and of His individual work. All are not Israel that are of Israel, still, there has always been throughout their generations, a remnant according to the election of grace, and these will in the end be all gathered in one glorious polity of righteousness, peace, strength, wealth, honour, life and joy everlasting-God in their midst forever, and the congregation wholly sacrificed to Him.
All this and much more is involved in the picture displayed to the mind's eye as we read the full particulars given us in Numbers of the organization of Israel under Moses as they came out of the wilderness.
Bro Roberts - THROUGH THE WINDOWS OF THE WORD