ImmerseBeginnings NLT - Flipbook - Page 213
IMMERSED IN NUMBERS
T H E F O U R T H B O O K I N B E G I N N I N G S —Numbers—marks
dvance in Israel’s story. The book begins with the Exodus generation
(the people God freed from slavery in Egypt) but ends with the Conquest generation (the people God will lead into the Promised Land).
The Exodus generation isn’t allowed to enter the land because of their
lack of faith in God’s power and their disobedience to his directions.
This is one of many examples of Israel’s disloyalty to their covenant with
God. Numbers helps us understand that Israel suffered from the same
flaw as all of humanity—rebellion and disobedience. If God is going to
use Israel to bless all peoples, then he is also going to have to overcome
this flaw within his own people.
The literary structure of Numbers alternates back and forth between
story and law, showing how these two elements of Israel’s history are
intertwined. Much of the nation’s law is given “on the way” because this
is a people with a destiny. The law and story sections in Numbers have
distinct characteristics, but their interrelated nature shows how God’s
presence and word are living among his people.
Law sections begin with the Lord speaking to Moses, Aaron, or both.
The laws given are typically to be kept in the future (“When you finally
settle in the land I am giving you”). The account gives no description of
how anyone obeyed or disobeyed the laws. No places and no people
besides Moses and Aaron are named in these sections. They typically
end with a standard phrase, such as “This is a permanent law for the
people” or “I am the Lord your God.”
Story sections are situated in place and time, and they name all who
are involved (for example, “In the first month of the year, the whole
community of Israel arrived in the wilderness of Zin”). People respond
to the Lord either in obedience or disobedience and subsequently
receive the consequences. Stories often end by explaining how a place
was named (for example, “After that, the area was known as Taberah
[which means ‘the place of burning’], because fire from the Lord had
burned among them there”).
These different law and story sections in Numbers relate to one another in intricate ways. Each law section is tied to the preceding story