We start the fourth book of the Pentateuch, also called the Books of Moses. This book is called Numbers in English, but in Hebrew it’s referred to as “into the desert” because the overall theme of the book is the Israelites leaving Sinai and journeying through the desert to the border of Canaan.
This book has lots of legal code in it, along with censuses and some travel sequences, but it also has some historical accounts like we read back in Exodus.
It begins with a census of the people, and this is where we get the common name for the whole book. The census counts all men aged 20 and up, and was basically a head count of their military strength. There’s over 600,000 men of fighting age among them, so probably over 2,000,000 total with women and children.
The tribes are all numbered in order, with the sons of Joseph each becoming their own tribe in the census as they were adopted by Jacob before he died, and the sons of Levi are not included because they are not part of the nation so to speak. They are set apart, consecrated for service, and they will not receive an allotment of land when it is parceled out, but they’ll be spread out among the nation and receive several cities of their own. So adding Manasseh and Ephraim brings the number of tribes up to 13, but removing Levi from the count brings it back to the original 12. Just like the number of apostles, and the foundation stones of the new Jerusalem as seen by John in his visions recorded in Revelation.
The 2nd chapter has the marching order and where they are to camp. The tribes are grouped in threes with a group to the north, south, east and west of the tabernacle. And at the center of the camp is the tabernacle, which is surrounded by the encampment of the tribe of Levi.
Placing the most important part of your camp at the center of your formation is both sound strategy and symbolic of how the things of God need to be central to the life of the people, both then and now.
The book of Job is unique in the Bible because it’s set completely outside the land of Israel and is not about any Israelite. It’s a morality tale that may be a parable-like allegory, or it may be about an real person named Job. Either way, the point of the story is to explain that sometime just people suffer in this life, and though we may not see or know the cause, we can rest assured that in the end we will be justified by God. Sometimes that’s in this life, sometimes good people suffer and die but are given their reward in the world to come.
Job is presented as a very successful and wealthy chieftain or patriarch of a large and prosperous family. His sons and daughters are mentioned, along with his flocks. Also mentioned in this prologue is that he regularly called his children together and offered sacrifices on their behalf as their priest. He offers these sacrifices incase his children have committed sins that he is unaware of. This shows how attuned he is to the problem of sin and it’s damage to relationship with God.
The next scene after being introduced to Job is something like a courtroom scene in heaven. Here the devil appears as an accuser or prosecutor, where he levels charges against Job. He accuses him of only being faithful to God because of his material prosperity, and that if he were to be stripped of all this then he would curse God.
The issue here is whether or not Job will still fear and love God if he is destitute and alone. The moral of the whole story being that a truly righteous man will love God regardless of what situation he finds himself in, because everything on this earth is temporary in the grand scheme of things.
Immediately servants begin to arrive with bad news, each worse than the previous one. In a single day he loses all his animals from either raiders or lightning storms, and worst of all, he loses all ten of his children in a structural collapse.
Job shaves his head and tears his robes, but he doesn’t blame God for all that has befallen him. He takes a very stoic approach to this situation and says something we should all remember when things go bad for us;