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Numbers and Deuteronomy

Numbers and Deuteronomy
The Israelite spies returning from Canaan ... Numbers 13Moses wrote Numbers between 1440 and 1400 B.C. The book’s Hebrew name Bemidbar, means “in the wilderness.” Its English title comes from the Latin Numeri, for the two censuses taken of the Israelites.

Numbers covers the years between the second and fortieth years of the Israelites’ wandering, between their receipt of the law in Exodus and Leviticus and their entrance into the Promised Land in Deuteronomy and Joshua. The book offers more specific instructions about the new Jewish religion, specifically the feasts that were to be observed. Whereas Exodus recounts the early life of Moses and his divine calling as the leader of the Israelites, Numbers portrays him as an experienced leader who had grown to love his people so much he begged to be blotted out of existence if their sins could not be forgiven.

Moses and Deuteronomy

Aaron's rod that budded ... Numbers 17Today, Numbers reminds us that when we wander from God and reject His instruction, we will experience punishment through the natural consequences of our choices. For the Israelites, the consequence was a 40-year delay of the fulfillment of God’s promise. For us, it may be that we wander aimlessly and experience the loneliness and frustration of trying to fill our hearts and lives with meaning apart from God. But God is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow: the moment we repent God is ready to restore us to His favor!


No one other than Moses has been suggested as the author of Deuteronomy, though perhaps Joshua wrote the final chapter describing Moses’ death. Moses wrote the book around 1410 B.C.; the language and expressions as well as the historical facts it describes prove the book’s antiquity. In Hebrew the book is called Haddebharim, “These Words,” from the Hebrew manuscript’s first two words. Deuteronomy comes from the LXX, meaning “The Second Legislation”; Exodus is sometimes referred to as “The First Legislation.”

Moses and the Israelites

Deuteronomy opens as the Israelites are camped in the plains of Moab east of the Jordan, making the final preparations to enter Canaan. Moses was not to cross over into Canaan with the Israelites, so Moses spoke a series of farewells to the Israelites and recorded them in the book of Deuteronomy. Addressing the generation of Israelites who had not seen firsthand the signs and wonders God worked in Egypt or at the Red Sea, Moses recounts the nation’s history to remind them of God’s covenant with Abraham, His faithfulness in bringing them out of Egypt and His provision for their needs in the wilderness. He repeats the Ten Commandments and stresses the correlation between obedience and God’s blessing, disobedience and cursing. With time, the Hebrews viewed Deuteronomy as the foundation of their religion, and recited a chapter from the book daily in order to show their devotion.

Acutely aware that his time was running out, Moses attempted to summarize all that he’d taught the Israelites in the last 40 years. But by far his theme is the phrase he repeats ten times, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and mind.” It is this deep, unswerving love for God that will enable you to keep His commands, live long and receive the blessing God has in store for you.

Moses attempted to encourage the new generation; their experiences still encourage us today. Reflecting back on how God has led us, as well as our Christian fathers, in the past is a wonderful way to assuage any fears of the future.
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