Genesis Through Joshua- Numbers: Constitution and Failure of the First Generation Army

The book of Numbers was written for the 2nd generation to help them to re-commit themselves to taking the land of conquest.

1-10 The constituting of the 1st generation army
10-25 The failures of the 1st generation when marching towards the land
26-36 The constitution of the 2nd generation army

We are going to look at chapters 1-25 in this lecture.

The Constitution of the Army 1:1-10:10
Israel at Sinai is constituted into an army
The army is then counted and arranged in a theocentric process
The tabernacle personal and services
A description is given of God’s presence with Israel.

i) Literary Structure
1-2 The counting and arrangement of the army
3-9 The centrality of the tabernacle
9:15-10 The presence and future of the tabernacle

ii) The counting and arrangement of the army
The 1st generation census in chapter 1 parallels with the 2nd generation census in chapter 26.
The censuses were designed to give a picture of the army that was formed for the conquest.

iii) The total number of fighting men
In Numbers 1:46 we are given a total number of fighting men over the age of 20. The number recorded is 603,550.
People then estimate that the population of Israel was 2 million. This is a large amount. How do we interpret it?
a) take the number at face value
b) we have a textual problem
c) the word thousand could mean family divisions
d) the word thousand could mean chiefs
e) Moses could be using obvious exaggeration

iv) The arrangement of the tribes
The camps of Israel were positioned around the tabernacle like a wheel with the spokes pointing inwards. This represents the nature of Israel’s army- they were to be God-centred.

v) The Tabernacle for the 1st and 2nd generations
Chapters 3-10 give the Levitical orders for worship are established
Chapter 9 gives instruction for the celebration of the Passover
9:15-23 A blessing is given in response to the appropriate activity.
God gave the blessing for obedience. This model gave the 2nd generation motivation for following the obedient path as the 1st generation did.

vi) The Original Meaning of chapters 1-10
The 2nd generation must imitate the order of the 1st generation to have God’s presence with them in battle.

The failures of the 1st generation when marching towards the land (10:11-25)
The first generation moves towards the land of Moab.

i) Literary Structure
10 The march begins
10-12 The army’s sin whilst travelling
13-20 The wandering
21-25 The later travels

Looking at Numbers 10:14-28 we see that the arrangements of the camps have changed. This is because Israel has turned into a marching army. At the head of the tribes was the ark of God (see 10:35-36). This war was a supernatural war. The presence of God was travelling before Israel.

ii) Rebellion and Protections
Chapters 13-14 show the heart of the rebellion.
One representative from every tribe goes out to spy on Canaan. Joshua and Caleb give a positive report. The rest of the spies refuse to go out of fear.
14:2 = All of the Israelites grumbled. They want to choose a leader and go back to Israel. The Lord wants to destroy the disobedient Israelites. Moses intervenes for the Israelites (14:13). God forgives them (14:20). God decides that He will preserve Joshua and Caleb but let the nation continue wandering. God

iii) God’s protection against Balaam
23-24 Balaam is asked to put a curse on Israel. God intervenes via a talking donkey. Balaam understands that he is not to curse Israel but bless her.

The first generation army rebelled even when being blessed by God.

The Message of chapters 10-25

The second generation are to be grateful for the grace given to the people and understand the warnings.

The Application of chapters 10-25
Christ is the head of the spiritual army that is the church. The constitution of the first army spoke to the 2nd generation and it speaks to us. We must learn about the failures of the first generation to avoid them and know how to be blessed in our travels through the world.


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