Book of Numbers

The Book of Numbers (from Greek Ἀριθμοί, Arithmoi, literally "numbers"; Biblical Hebrew: בְּמִדְבַּר, Bəmiḏbar, literally "In the desert [of]") is the fourth book of the Hebrew Bible and the fourth of five books of the Jewish Torah. The book has a long and complex history; its final form is possibly due to a Priestly redaction (i.e., editing) of a Yahwistic source made sometime in the early Persian period (5th century BC). The name of the book comes from the two censuses taken of the Israelites. Numbers is one of the better-preserved books of the Pentateuch. Fragments of the Ketef Hinnom scrolls containing verses from Numbers have been dated as far back as the late seventh or early sixth century BC. These verses are the earliest known artifacts to be found in the Hebrew Bible text.Numbers begins at Mount Sinai, where the Israelites have received their laws and covenant from God and God has taken up residence among them in the sanctuary. The task before them is to take possession of the Promised Land. The people are counted and preparations are made for resuming their march. The Israelites begin the journey, but they "grumble" at the hardships along the way and about the authority of Moses and Aaron. They arrive at the borders of Canaan and send twelve spies into the land. Upon hearing the spies' fearful report concerning the conditions in Canaan, the Israelites refuse to take possession of it. God condemns them to death in the wilderness until a new generation can grow up and carry out the task. Furthermore, there were some who rebelled against Moses and for these acts, God destroyed approximately 15,000 of them through various means. The book ends with the new generation of Israelites in the "plains of Moab" ready for the crossing of the Jordan River.Numbers is the culmination of the story of Israel's exodus from oppression in Egypt and their journey to take possession of the land God promised their fathers. As such it draws to a conclusion the themes introduced in Genesis and played out in Exodus and Leviticus: God has promised the Israelites that they shall become a great (i.e. numerous) nation, that they will have a special relationship with Yahweh their god, and that they shall take possession of the land of Canaan. Numbers also demonstrates the importance of holiness, faithfulness, and trust: despite God's presence and his priests, Israel lacks in faith and the possession of the land is left to a new generation.

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