The book of Leviticus as well as the book of Numbers follow immediately after the book of Exodus.
The book of Numbers begins with the words “And the Lord spake unto Moses in the wilderness of Sinaï, in the tabernacle of the congregation, on the first day of the second month, in the second year after they were come out of the land of Egypt.” (Compare Exodus 40:17)
The Lord Jesus includes the book of Numbers in His words when explaining to His disciples all that was written concerning Himself (“in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms.” Luke 24:44).
In Numbers the history of Israel during the 40 years of wandering in the wilderness from Egypt to Canaan is described. It is a sad history of continual failure. The long period of 40 years was the punishment of God for the disobedience of His people and it was not according to His counsel.
The wandering in the wilderness is depicted in the New Testament as to take warning from for the Christians (1 Corinthians 10:1-22; Hebrews 3; Hebrews 4). The wilderness is a picture of earthly circumstances wherein faith is tested.
Very little is mentioned about the nearly 40 years of wandering in the wilderness. In chapter 10:11 the camp sets forward for the first time on the twentieth day of the second month in the second year of the exodus out of Egypt. In chapter 20:1 we read already of the fortieth year (compare Aaron’s death in chap. 20:28 with 33:38).
Different grave sins of individuals or of the people of Israel as a company are mentioned:
- Murmuring of the people (chap. 11:1-2)
- Murmuring of the mixed multitude because of the manna (chap. 11:4-9)
- Miriam and Aaron’s speaking against Moses (chap. 12:1-16)
- The ten spies bring an evil report of the land of Canaan (chaps. 13:31-14:10).
- Rising up of Korah against Moses (chap. 16)
- Murmuring of the people at Meribah (chap. 20)
- The fiery serpent (chap. 21)
- Committing fornication with the daughters of Moab (chap. 25)
The Levites and their service play an important role in this book. This ought to show us that the Christian also is responsible to reveal the testimony of Christ, his Lord, in the world.
The book of Numbers finds its parallels in the New Testament in the Epistles to the Corinthians which describe the order and the conduct of the assembly of God.