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Numbers: The Boring and Exciting

Published March 7, 2017

Michael V Wilson
By Michael V. Wilson

Different books of the Bible have acquired different reputations over the years and centuries, some deserved, some not so much. Job and Ecclesiastes for instance are seen as the most depressing books in the Bible, good only for reading on rainy days or when you're down in the mouth. They're not, but they're often viewed in that manner regardless.

Another book with an undeserved reputation is the Book of Numbers.


Uh, not really, no.

Now admittedly it appears that way at first glance, but when you dig a little deeper you find some interesting truths in it. First of all, it's a legal document, a census taken for the purpose (God's purpose) of assigning an order of march and work to the children of Israel.

God only tells Moses to number the men in various ways for various purposes, but when we include estimates of the number of their wives and children, we arrive at about 4-6 million Hebrews wandering around in the desert at God's command. That's a fair sized city, even today. That many people wandering about willy nilly, all higgledy piggledy all over the place, will create a traffic jam of monumental proportions. And just like we have rules of the road today to avoid crashes and pile ups, so God created rules for their movements from one place to another.

numbers-encampedGod divided the twelve tribes into groups of three, assigning them to positions east, west, north, and south around the Tabernacle. Then He commanded Moses on what order they were to begin marching in, so they wouldn't run into each other and create that traffic jam when they were moving from one campsite to another. Out of the initial chaos of their exodus from Egypt He created harmony.

And, AND, He straightens out all those 4-6 million people in only two chapters in the book. Congress can't write the simplest law about dogs in that few words, let alone setting 4-6 million people in order, but God pulls it off with ease, and even makes it seem boring.

As Mister Spock of Star Trek would say, “Fascinating!”

Then God turns around and uses two chapters to settle the division of work among the Levites concerning the Tabernacle and all it's furnishings. When was the last time you heard of people, any people, dividing something that simply? How 'bout never?

People want to complicate things, but God wants to simplify them. Read the Book of Numbers with that in mind and you'll find it really is . . . fascinating.

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