IThe Book of Numbers (Bamidbar)

[ * HOME * ] [ * UP! * ]

36 chapters: additional laws, rules and regulations, and the story of the emerging people on the long tumultuous road from slavery to national independence. From the land of oppression to the land of promise.

  • Numbers 1: census

    On the second year of the voyage of the Israel from Egypt back to Israel, God orders a census. Moses and Aarom comply and count men, fighters, 20 years of age and up: 603,550 in total.

  • Numbers 2: census (2)

    34 verses. The various tribes of Israel are reporting their numbers to Moses.

  • Numbers 3: organizing the Levies

    51 verses. God orders the tribe of Levy to be special servants to the high priests. God also claims the first born all around, since they have all been passed over in Egypt when God claimed the first born of the Egyptians. The chapter is specific to name, tribal sections. Two of the four sons of Aharon have steered to foreign teaching, and were punished by death, leaving the two remaining children to carry on: Elazar and Itamar.

  • Numbers 4: Service instructions for the Kehat family and the Gershon family

    49 verses: detailed instructions for religious services assigned to two respectful families: the family of Kehat and the family of Gershon. Curiously the listed are men between the ages of 30 and 50, a limit that is mentioned time and again.

  • Numbers 5: Resolving a suspicion for a wife's infidelity

    31 verses. God orders Moses to device a test for a couple where the husband suspects his wife's infidelity, but he does not have a solid proof. An elaborate procedure is exercised by the high priest, including letting the wife drink some special water. If her stomach bloats, and her thigh collapses, then it is a sign that the woman had sexual intercourse with another man, and she becomes a curse in the community. If these symptons do not occur, the wife is considered clean. Sounds so out of character with the familiar God's commands.

  • Numbers (Bamidbar) Chap 6: procedure for self imposed restrictive behavior to emphasize a prayer

    27 verses detailing how to behave "monk like" in showing God a willing to sacrifice and suffer to show earnstness in beseeching God a certain prayer. The procedure includes refrain from any drink of alcohol, or grapes of any kind, avoiding any razor and hair cutting, and keeping off any dead person. It also prescribes a detailed strange procedure where the high priest performs some specific rituals with the restricted person. The chapter ends with five beautiful show verses: God talked to Moshe to speak to Aharon and his children to bless the people of Israel: God will bless you and safeguard you. God will show His Face to you with light, and will forgive you. God will lift His Face up to you, and will provide you with peace. And they will put my name, God, on the people of Israel, and I shall bless them.

  • Bamidbar (Numbers) Chap 7: Israel brings Gift to the Tent of God

    89 verses (unusually long chapter): Moshe has concluded erecting the Tent of God, and in coming all the tribes of Israel bringing their gifts and presents. The book identifies the chosen representatives and exactly what they have brought to the tent.

  • Bamidbar (Numbers) Chap 8: Designating the Levis for holy service

    26 verses. God instructs Moses how to wash, bleach and clean the Levis -- his tribe, to ready them for service in the Tent of Times (Ohel Moed). God "owns" the Levis the word says, having exchanged them for the 'first born' of Israel, owned by God since relieving them from being taken out in Egypt when the Egyptians first born were killed. The Levis are then regarded more pure than others. Their work service, curiously, begins at the age of 25, with retirement marked at 50. An interesting point: for their life expectancy, 50 is probably older than our 65 retirement today.

  • Bamidbar (Numbers) Chap 9: The Passover Commandment, Travel Guidance

    23 verses: two stories. The stern commandment to celebrate passover -- negligence and or avoidance is punishable and condemnable. A heavy cloud laid on the Temple Tent to indicate rest, and stay in place time; when the cloud lifted, Israel moved on.

  • Bamidbar (Numbers) Chap 10: marching orders, voyage protocol

    36 verses. Moses sets up the routine for the long voyage to the promised land: he specifies who moves first, and who moves next. He sets up trumpets with codes calls. His gentile relative, a Jetro family, wishes to return to his own homeland rather than join Israel in their journey.

  • Bamidbar (Numbers) Chap 11: Israel bitching, Moshe is fed up, God supplies and punishes.

    35 verses. First a story about Israel complaining, God enraged, setting fire which burns the perpetrators presumably, and Israel names the place "burning" and moves on. And they whined and grumbled again -- idolizing their slavery status in Egypt when the were fed, good food, and meat. Here in the desert they have only mana to eat, although they became quite creative in shaping the mana to all sorts of dishes. Moshe was up to his ears and then he grouched to God: why is it my responsibility, I have not given birth to this people, why is it my burden to satisfy them? Where will I take all that meat they are asking for? This burden is too much, kill me, if you will. God then directed Moses to gather 70 old wise man into which God will pass some of the inspiration which buoyed Moses, and they will be 'small prophets' helpful still. Two of the 70, Eldad and Meidad are mentioned for a quirk on their part. Then God instructed Moses to gather the people and promise then a month long supply of the good meat and other good food they were bitching about. It scared Moses, not knowing how to fulfill this promise, but God arranged for low flying wild turkeys to come from the sea; which the people find no difficulty in hunting them down in oversize reams. And the good meat was still between their teeth, the anger of God came down and severely hit Israel. A village of tombs was erected for the hit ones, which was called The Graves of Gluttony.

    Appears very strict in punishment over a quite understandable human reaction.

  • Bamidbar 12: Revealing divine dialogue, small mutiny of Moshe's siblings

    15 verses. Myriam is unhappy about Moshe's black wife. It reads as if this is another wife, not Zipora. She gets Aron on her side and they both approach Moses. They begin by laying a surprise premise: it's not only Moshe who is anointed by God -- they too have divine privileges, so their opinion should count. Moshe is described as the most humble person to walk the earth, and he may be accommodating his siblings' premise. It's God reaction which is strong: God in a sudden move summoned the three siblings to the Tent of Sacred Note. God came down in a cloud and asked Aron and Myriam to come out. God clarified that he may come in a dream to Aron and Myriam, as well as to others, but Moshe is different: God talks with him face to face. Moshe earned the total trust of God, and hence his siblings should acknowledge their brother's higher station. The cloud lifts, and Myriam is found afflicted with severe leprosy (possibly for being the initiator of the complaint). Aron pleads with his brother who approaches God with the shortest prayer in the Torah: El-Na-Refa-Na-La (Please God, heal her). God agrees and prescribes an easier punishment: Myriam is to be staying outside the perimeters of the camp of Israel for seven days.

  • Bamidbar (Numbers) Chap 13: Scouting the Promised Land

    33 Verses. Crossing the Sinai desert and camping on the borders of the Holy Land God instructs Moshe to select scouts (one per tribe) to sneak stealthily to the Promised Land, and report their finding. The scouts explore and return saying: the land is fruitful, and fertile, but its inhabitants are gigantic and strong. Only one scout: Kaleb the son of Yefune begs to differ saying: Yes, we can - we shall conquer it!

  • Bamidbar (Numbers) Chap 14: Israel in mutiny, Moses Pleads, punishment reduced, still stern.

    44 verses. Hearing what 10 out of the 12 scouters reported, the people get scared, and anguished. The locals are reportedly very strong, and will decimate Israel trying to inherit the land. The entire long trip from Egypt seems a bad move, and the people try to find a leader to return them to Egypt. Moses and Aron try to stop them, the two brave scouts Yehoshua and Kaleb try to reclaim the faith of the people, and they are almost stoned. God is reported as angry at the people who ignore a long string of divine miracles, and abandon faith, eager to return to slavey in Egypt. So angry, in fact, that he tells Moses that he, God, intends to annihilate Israel, and replace them, the descendants of Abraham with a new people to be descended from Moses. Moses resists the huge honor, and runs, an almost ordinary bargain, debate, and argument with God until God agrees with him, and replaces the annihilation with a punishment to stay for decades long in the desert until the generation of former slaves dies off, and the new generation will inherit the land. Later Israel is relaxed from the mutiny and they are ready to fight an approaching enemy. Moses warns that God is not with them, they ignore the warning and lose miserably.

  • Bamidbar (Numbers) Chap 15: Profound Moral Commands levied on Israel

    41 Verses. God hands down to Moses key instructions: the critical one seems to be the idea of forgiving a mistake, because humans err. The second is to have a unified law for Israel and all who live with Israel -- the foreigners, no discrimination. God also instructs to be honoredto with sacrifice and rituals to be strictly followed. And when a man is found to have labored on the Shabbat, God orders his execution! (fear striking!)

  • Bamidbar (numbers) Chap 16: Brutally Suppressed Rebellion of Distinguished Levies.

    35 Verses. A distinguished Levy, Korach organized a leadership challenge to Moshe: claiming he led the people from a "land of milk and honey" to death in the desert, reneged on his promise for a "land of milk and honey" ahead (alluding to the majority of scouts sent by Moshe). Moshe gets really angry, sees the rebels as ungrateful, and God agrees, unleashing a spectacular punishment: the earth opens up and swallows the rebels.

  • Bamidbar (Numbers) Chap 17: Hard Hand Suppression of the Residual Rebellion

    28 verses. The spectacular punishment of the Korach people has not quelled the rebellion spirit in the ranks. The Holy Tent was surrounded with complainers accusing Moshe and Aron of 'killing the people'. Gold instantly protected the Tent with a hovering cloud, and by igniting a killer plague flaring among the gathering crowds. Moses instructed the priests to emerge from the Tent with a smoke bearing pan effecting cure, and arresting the plague which claimed the lives of 14,700 people. God then instructed Moshe to ask every tribe head to come over with a branch. The next day only the Levy branch showed budding life -- serving as a divine sign that Levy is the choice tribe to serve God. Moses hoped to calm the rebellion with this show of divine say, but the people were restive: what is going on, they asked, everyone who comes close to the Tent of God ends up dead. Have you finished your killing spree??!!

  • Bamidbar (Numbers) Chap 18: Rituals for Aron, the priests and the Levies

    32 verses of ritualistic details. The Levies will have no land to call their own, they will collect 10% of the harvest of their brothers, and dedicate 10% from it as a ritual sacrifice.

  • Bamidbar (Numbers) Chap 19: personal contamination and personal purity rules

    22 verses. Rules for recognizing contamination and purity on a personal level, and rules for purification. Generally: burning contaminated clothes and other items, washing contaminated clothes, isolation, and time passed. A symbolic ritual with a red cow to be sacrificed and burnt. Anyone touching a corpse is impure, anyone entering a tent where a corpse lays is impure. Violating the purity laws exacts a disbanding from the community punishment.

  • Bamidbar (Numbers) Chap 20: water from the rock, by-passing Edom, Aron passes on

    29 verses. Once more Israel falls into a bitchy mood, resenting the long desert journey, yearning for the good time in Egypt... Now they are short of water for themselves and their herds. Moses and Aron once more come to God for answers. God instructs them to gather the people, talk to a designated rock and God will then provide plenty of water spewing from the rock. So they did, but inexplicably Moshe hit the rock, rather than simply talk to it. God did nevertheless produce plenty of water from the hit rock, but was rather angry at Moshe and Aron, for not following directions. The water were called 'water of contention'. Soon after Aaron was condemned to death as punishment for the rock affair. It happened in a ceremony before the people. Aron and his son Elazar marched to the top of the mountain: the fanciful clothes of the top priest were exchanged between father and son. Aron never went down from the mountain, and the people mourned for him for 30 days. Earlier Moshe came to the boundary of Edom country, and he asked the king to allow him passage though his territory, committing to restrict himself to the highway, and to pay for any water or such, his people will need while passing. Edom refused and put up his army, Moshe backed off and circumvented Edom.

  • Bamidbar (Numbers) Chap 21: Wars, victories, another 'bitching' and its severe punishment

    35 verses. Israel coming close to the promised land, encountering local states, which resist Israel's coming. Israel prevails in the ensuing wars. The first is Kenani the king of Arad. Israel prays to God who delivers Kenani to them in a military victory. Later on the people erupt in another litany of complaints, and God punishes his people by releasing poisonous snakes, killing lots' of people. The complainers realize what is happening, plead through Moshe, and God instructs Moshe to build a snake figurine, and every Israeli hit by a snake, once staring at the figurine, is healed. Then apparently was another victory where well of water were secured for Israel, and poets poetized for this comfort. Then Israel asked Sichon the king of the Emory the right to pass through his land, taking nothing, violating nothing. Sichon did not yield and mobilized. Israel defeated the Emories and inherited their land, with some bordering others. This alerted Ogg the King of the Bashan who mobilized too. Israel was a bit scared, but God assured them of victory, which indeed happened, with total destruction for Ogg's military and land.

  • Bamidbar (Numbers) Chgap 22: Wiseman Bilam and his Miracle-Vision She Donkey summoned to curse invading Israel.

    40 verses. The tribes along the Jordan river became aware of this invading nation -- the Israelis. They call upon a highly respected personality, Bilam to curse the invaders on their behalf. Bilam, gentile, is nonetheless, well connected to God, who tells him to reject the plea. He does, but Balak the king of the Moavites repeats his request and God allows Bilam to go but speak what God instructs him to speak. A curious episode happens on his way. An invisible angel blocks his way. Bilam she donkey has the power to see the angel, and dodges him to the consternation of her rider. Eventually she speaks in human tongue, and Bilam sees the angel chiding him for hitting his donkey, and instructs Bilam to continue and speak only what God instructs him to speak. Bilam comes to Balak the king of the Moavites, who leads him up to a high spot from where he sees the edge of the Israeli camp.

  • Bamidbar (Numbers) Chap 23: Bilam poet supreme, God faithful, so glorifies the people of Israel.

    40 verses. A most remarkable chapter: Bilam - a getile is described as a courageous faithful dressed with supreme divine inspiration to carve out stunning poetry in praise and haleluliah of Israel. Balak brings him to a spot from where the camp of invading Israel is seen, and asks for a curse. Bilam warns King Balak that he can only speak the words that God put in his mouth, not what Balak hires him to speak. Balak, desparate is agreeable. The Bilam sings supreme: preface: this is the speech of he who hears the words of God, of he who sees God's vision: how good are your tents and abode, Israel! More descriptions and saying the God who led Israel out of Egypt is mighty strong, destroys all His enemies. Turning to Israel: blessed are those who bless you, cursed are those who curse you. Describing Israel as a loner people, not considering much the whims of other people. Balak is incense and move Bilam to another spot, hoping for curse this time. Another blessing, and a third place, and a third blessing: glory to Israel, praise to God. Tremendous poetery.

    Verse 3: Bilam went "shefi" -- meaning 'shafoee' reasonable, balanced to get the best disposition to absorb Gods message.

  • Bamidbar (Numbers) Chap 24: Bilam erupts in a glorious blessing to Israel, dire prophecy to the nations on its way.

    25 verses. Bilam is commissioned one more time by Balak to curse Israel, but God puts glorious words in Bilam's mouth, with amazing poetry he describes Israel living so fine. He then goes on to foresee disaster and defeat to the nations on Israel's path to the holy land. Balak is furious, but let Bilam return to his abode unharmed.

  • Bamidbar (Numbers) Chap 25: disobedience and its harsh punishment -- Israel tempted into idols

    19 verses. Camping for a while before entering the promised land (in the area of "shitin") Israel was enticed by the local idol-worshippers (the Moavites) to join a sexual orgy of worshipping their "gods". God was angered, ordered a plague that cost the lives of 24,000 Israelites, and where the high priest, Pinchas, slaughtered a celebrating couple.

  • Bamidbar (Numbers) Chap 26: roll-call of the Israeli camp, parceling the promised land ahead of the move to occupy.

    65 verses. Listing the various tribes and the families within the tribes with nominal and numeric account. God instructs Moses to parcel out the promised land to the various tribes, to give more to the larger tribes, and less to the smaller tribes. The cohorts of Yehoushia Bin Nun, and Kaleb ben Yefunne have parished as decreed by God, only Yehoushia and Kaleb were left to go on.

  • Bamidbar (Numbers) Chap 27: Divine inheritance law, Yehoshua marked to replace Moshe

    23 verses. two stories. The first: the daughters of Tslofchad asked Moshe to grant them land among their uncles, who apparently inherited their father's land since their father had no sons. Moshe was baffled by the request and consulted God. The divine instructions were clear: if no sons, the daughter inherits, and if no daughters, then the brothers inherit, and absent them the brothers of the father get the inheritance, and the general rule is that the inheritance goes to the next in family connection. So inheritiance is a divine order, and inheritance-tax violates this order. It is not clear whether they regarded promised land in the Promised Land, or some land they were occupying while in tranit to the holy land. The Second story: God instructs Moshes to climb on the Mountain of the Passages, and overlook the promised land, into which he would not be going as punishment for hitting his stick on the rock rather than commanding the rock to split and spritz water. God further instructs Moshe to mark Yehoshua as his follower in leadership because Yehoshua is a man of spirit. So he does.

  • Bamidbar (Numbers) Chap 28: Rituals of Sacrifice of lambs and bakery to honor God, and celebrate Passover

    25 verses. God instructs Israel to follow very detailed rituals for sacrifice. Instructions for the dates and rituals of Passover.

  • Bamidbar (Numbers) Chap 29: Rituals prescribed for Rosh-Hashana, Yom Kippur, and Succot

    38 verses, detailing with emphasis the herd sacrifice in all days of celebrations. The most sacred day in the Jewish calendar is mentioned with no outstanding distinction: a day of self torture, and sacred reading.

  • Bamidbar (Numbers) Chap 30: female swearing: commitment and forgiveness

    17 verses. A woman who commits herself with swearing may be forgiven if a related man (father or husband) releases her from her commitment on the same day when he hears about her swearing.

  • Bamidbar (Numbers) Chap 31: Israel's hits Midyan -- vengefully, brutally -- taking in the virgins.

    54 verses. God instructs Moshe to pick elite soldiers, 1000, from each tribe and vengefully attack Midyan. The plan is successful, Israel kills all males, and eventually all non-virgin females, which are taken in, along with the plunder and pillage within the cattle and the herds.

  • Bamidbar (Numbers) 32: Herd rich tribes negotiate a homestead east of the Jordan river.

    42 verses. As Israel occupied more and more land east of the Jordan river, the tribes of Reuben, Gadi, and half of Menashe coveted the Gilad part, suitable for grazing, attractive to these herd-rich tribes. They appealed to Moshe to allot that land to them despite its location off the "Promised Land". Moshe first rebuked them, suspecting they are fearful of the battles ahead based on the 10 spies that returned fearful, but then the tribes counter proposed to build safe cities for their women and children in the Gilad, while they head-front the Israeli armies as they take over the promised land. Moshe agreed.

  • Bamidbar (Numbers) 33: historical list of the long journey from Egypt to the Promised Land

    56 verses. Detailed mention of the various places along the journey from slavery to freedom. Ending with a reproach: clean out the culture of the people you inherit. If you allow them to linger, they would contaminate you, and you will be severely punished.

  • Bamidbar, (Numbers) 34: Occupation Instructions for the Promised Land

    28 verses. God delineates with operational specificity the boundaries of the promised land from Jordan river to the sea, plus the area to be inherited east of the river. The march on will be led by Elazar the Priest, and Yehoshua the son of Noon. Each tribe is assigned a leader. The division of the land between the tribes is not mentioned -- only the circumference.

  • Bamidbar (Numbers) 35: Remarkable Law for Murder, allocation of land for the Levies

    34 verses: the 11 tribes of Israel, should all allocate special living spaces for the Levies who are not granted a slice of the promised land. The Levies will be allowed 48 cities and the land around them. 6 of these cities will be "shelter cities" (3 east of the Jordan river, and 3 West of the river). A "shelter city" is an ingenious concept of justice: a protected ground for unintentional killers. Anyone killing another by accident, or unintentionally will be afforded the option to escape into a shelter city. The prevailing justice then was that upon a murder, someone from the family of the murdered pursues and kills the murder to establish justice. The family of a killed person is not likely to make the fine distinction between intentional and unintentional killing, so the shelter city affords a shelter to the killer. Alas, once in the shelter the killer comes to trial. If it is determined that the killing was a murder -- intentional, the murderer pays in kind. But otherwise, the killer may return to the shelter. Should the killer venture out, and be caught by a vengeance seeker, so be it -- no charge on the vengeful. Only when the high priest dies, the sheltered may allow to go back home.

  • Bamidbar (Numbers) 36: Land inheriting women must marry within their tribe.

    13 verses. The sealing chapter of the book discusses an administrative point: if a land owner in one tribe has only daughters and no sons, so the daughters inherit the land, then these daughters should marry within their tribe to prevent land swapping from tribe to tribe. And so in the particular mentioned case the daughters of Tslofchad (Machala, Tirsa, Hogla, milka and Noa) married their cousins.