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Home > The Old Testament > Numbers

Subpages: Chapters 1-10a  •  10b-25  •  26-36

                                                                 Next page: Chapters 1-10a

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This section should be very brief. Click the "edit" link to edit or add content to this section. →

Relationship to Old Testament. The relationship of Numbers to two even larger blocks of text is discussed at Organization and Overview of the Old Testament and Five Books of Moses.

Story. Numbers consists of three major parts, further subdivided into seven sections:

  • Chapters 1-10a: Generation 1 is prepared to enter Canaan. Numbers begins a month after the Tabernacle was erected at the end of Exodus, and about a year after leaving Egypt, while the Israelites are still camped at Mount Sinai. These chapters tell how Moses finishes preparing the generation that came up out of Egypt with him to enter and take possession of the promised land of Canaan.
  • Chapters 1-6: Censuses and Good Order. A military census is taken of the men of Israel who are of fighting age. A census is also taken of Levite men who are of appropriate age for religious service. Arrangements are specified for setting up camp in good order around the Tabernacle and for traveling in good order as a host.
  • Chapters 7-10a: Tribal offerings at the Tabernacle dedication and Passover. These chapters jump backward a month in time to recount the offerings given by each of each of the Twelve Tribes at the dedication of the Tabernacle at the end of Exodus and to observance of the first Passover in the wilderness during the same time period covered by Leviticus.
  • Chapters 10b-25: Generation 1 rebels and is barred from entering Canaan. As Israel travels in the wilderness, it repeatedly rebels against God.
  • Chapters 10b-15: Rebellions in Year 2. Israel breaks camp and moves out from Mount Sinai. The subsequent events related during Year 2 consist of a series of rebellions that culminate in Israel's refusal to enter Canaan. God thus decrees that everyone above the age of 20 in this rebellious Generation 1 (except for Joshua and Caleb) will die in the wilderness rather than enter Canaan.
  • Chapters 16-19: Wandering during Years 3-38. Very little is said about the next 38 years except that rebellions continue - as exemplified by Korah - and that God continues to stand by his prophet and provide Israel with instruction.
  • Chapters 20-25: Rebellions in Year 40. Israel's rebellions continue all the way into at least the middle of the 40th and last year of wandering. The last rebellion occurs at Baal-Peor in which Israel engages in idolatry and fornication with Midianites, and as a result 24,000 Israelites die of plague and others are executed. During this time the prophet Balaam also blesses Israel against its enemies.
  • Chapters 26-36: Generation 2 is prepared to enter Canaan. Once the last members of the rebellious Generation 1 have died in the wilderness, Moses prepares the obedient Generation 2 during the final months of Year 40 to finally enter the promised land of Canaan.
  • Chapters 26-30. A second military census is taken of the men of Israel who are of fighting age, which reveals that none of the rebellious Generation 1 is still alive (except for Joshua and Caleb). Joshua is appointed to succeed Moses and lead Israel into Canaan. A summary is provided of the daily, weekly, and monthly offerings and annual feasts that Israel is to observe.
  • Chapters 31-36. Israel approaches Canaan from the east, takes revenge upon Midian, and prior to reaching the Jordan River conquers land that is located east of Canaan. The tribes of Reuben, Gad, and Manasseh request that they be appointed inheritances in this newly conquered land rather than in Canaan. The request is granted on condition that these tribes assist the rest of Israel to conquer Canaan. Cities of refuge are also appointed in this land east of Canaan.

Message. Themes, symbols, and doctrinal points emphasized in Numbers include:

Historical setting[edit]

This section should be brief and explain facts about the historical setting that will help a reader to understand the book. Click the "edit" link to edit or add content to this section. →

Most of the book of Exodus occurs in Year 1, the year that Israel came up out of Egypt (likely 1446 BC).[1] Leviticus then takes place during the first month of Year 2.

Numbers 1-14 is also set during Year 2. During the first two months of Year 2, Israel provides offerings at the dedication of the Tabernacle, observes the first Passover in the wilderness, and is organized to camp and travel in good order. But the journey is marked by repeated rebellions, and God decrees that this Generation 1 of Israelites will wander in the desert for 40 years.

Numbers 15-19 takes place at indeterminate times over the next 40 years as Israel wanders in the wilderness.

Numbers 20-36 takes place in Year 40, the final year of wandering. Israel continues to rebel into Year 40 until the last of the rebellious Generation 1 has died off. Moses then prepares the obedient Generation 2 during the second half of Year 40 to finally enter the land of Canaan.

Deuteronomy will then take place during the last two months of Year 40, and the conquest of Canaan as related in Joshua will begin in the first month of Year 41 (likely 1406 BC).[2]

Because the events of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy are so closely related, that shared historical setting is addressed in more detail in a single combined discussion at Five Books of Moses. A broader treatment of the history of ancient Israel covering the entire Old Testament is found at Historical Overview of the Old Testament.


This section is for detailed discussion such as the meaning of a symbol, how a doctrinal point is developed throughout a passage, or insights that can be further developed in the future. Contributions may range from polished paragraphs down to a single bullet point. The focus, however, should always be on understanding the scriptural text consistent with LDS doctrine. Click the "edit" link to edit or add content to this section. →

Outline and page map[edit]

This section contains an outline for the entire book. Items in blue or purple text indicate hyperlinked pages that address specific portions of the book. Click the "edit" link to edit or add content to this section. →

I. Final preparations of 1st generation at Sinai (1-10a)

  • First cycle (1-6)
  • First military census (1)
  • Instructions for census of men aged 20+ for war (1:1-19)
  • Census count by tribe (1:20-43)
  • Summary (1:44-46)
  • Levites not counted in military census (1:47-54)
  • Order of the host in camp (2)
  • Camp arranged by families (2:1-2)
  • East: Judah, Issachar, Zebulun (2:3-9)
  • South: Reuben, Simeon, Gad (2:10-16)
  • Center: Levi (2:17)
  • West: Ephraim, Manasseh, Benjamin (2:18-24)
  • North: Dan, Asher, Naphtali (2:25-31)
  • Summary (2:32-34)
  • First Levite census and arrangements in camp (3)
  • Sons of Aaron (3:1-4)
  • Aaron the priest has charge of the Levites (3:5-10)
  • Levites belong to the Lord in place of all firstborn (3:11-13)
  • Census of Levites (3:14-39)
  • Instructions for Census (3:14-20)
  • West: Gershon (3:21-26)
  • South: Kohath (3:27-31)
  • Eleazar son of Aaron Has oversight of the sanctuary (3:32)
  • North: Merari (3:33-37)
  • East: Moses and Priests of Aaron (3:38)
  • Summary (3:39)
  • Census and redemption of Israel’s firstborn (3:40-51)
  • Second Levite census and arrangements when traveling (4)
  • Instructions for census and responsibilities when moving the Tabernacle (4:1-33)
  • Aaron to cover the vessels, and Kohath to bear the vessels (4:1-20)
  • Gershon to bear the hangings (4:21-28)
  • Merari to Bear the Supports (4:29-33)
  • Levite census for religious service (4:34-39)
  • Kohath (4:34-37)
  • Gershon (4:38-41)
  • Merari (4:42-45)
  • Summary (4:46-49)
  • Laws (5)
  • Unclean and defiled to be put out of the camp (5:1-4)
  • Trespass restitution (5:5-10)
  • Jealousy offering (5:11-31)
  • Nazarite vow (6)
  • Conditions of the Nazarite vow (6:1-12)
  • Offerings upon fulfillment of the Nazarite vow (6:13-21)
  • Priestly blessing upon Israel (6:22-27)

  • Second Cycle (7-10a)
  • Dedicatory offerings by tribes (7)
  • Oxen and wagons to bear the supports and hangings of the Tabernacle (7:1-9)
  • Twelve daily offerings from each tribe (7:10-83)
  • Summary of the twelve daily offerings (7:84-89)
  • Arrangement of the menorah lamps (8a) (8:1-4)
  • Installation of the Levites (8b)
  • Levites to be purified (8:5-15)
  • Levites belong to the Lord as an atonement for Israel (8:16-19)
  • Levites are purified (8:20-22)
  • Levites to serve during ages 25-50 (8:23-26)
  • Second Passover (9a)
  • Second Passover to be observed (9:1-5)
  • Who Can Keep the Passover (9:6-14)
  • Journey pattern (9b) (9:15-23)
  • Two silver trumpets (10a) (10:1-10)

II. Entry into Canaan denied to the rebellious (10b-25)

  • Rebellion in Year 2 (10b-15)
  • Departing Sinai (10b)
  • First move from Sinai to Paran (10:11-13)
  • Order of the host when traveling (10:14-36)
  • Invitation to Hobab to join host of Israel (10:29-32)
  • Three days travel from Sinai (10:33-36)
  • Rebellion at Taberah: murmuring and fire (11a) (11:1-3)
  • Rebellion at Kibroth-Hattaavah: quail (11b)
  • Israelites complain about lack of meat (11:4-9)
  • Moses complains to God about bearing the Israelites (11:10-15)
  • Promise that God will put his spirit upon 70 (11:16-17)
  • Promise of meat for a month (11:18-23)
  • Moses Reports God’s words to Israel (11:24-25)
  • Seventy prophesy (11:26-30)
  • Quail and plague (11:31-35)
  • Rebellion at Hazeroth: Miriam and Aaron challenge Moses's authority (12) (12:1-16)
  • Rebellion at Kardesh-Barnea: rejection of promised land and refusal of entry (13-14)
  • Instruction to spy out promised land (13:1-25)
  • Israel refuses to enter promised land (13:26-14:10a)
  • Moses intercedes with God to bear with Israel, God curses Generation 1 (14:10b-39)
  • God curses Generation 1 for 40 years (14:26-39)
  • Unauthorized Israelite invasion repulsed by Amalekites and Canaanites (14:40-45)
  • Covenant continues: religious instructions for Canaan (15)
  • Offerings in the promised land (15:1-16)
  • Heave offerings (15:17-21)
  • Sinning ignorantly or knowingly (15:22-31)
  • Man Stoned for collecting sticks on the sabbath (15:32-36)
  • Blue Fringes to remember God’s commandments (15:37-41)

  • Rebellion and wandering continue for 38 years (16-19)
  • Rebellion of Korah (16)
  • Korah and followers challenge authority of Moses and Aaron (16:1-15)
  • Moses Intercedes for the congregation (16:16-20)
  • Korah and followers swallowed up by the ground (16:21-35)
  • Repurposed censers from the slain of Korah and followers (16:36-40)
  • Plague upon those who complain about the deaths of Korah and followers (16:41-50)
  • Aaron's budding staff (17) (17:1-13)
  • Covenant continues: priests and Levites (18)
  • __ (18:1-7)
  • __ (18:8-19)
  • __ (18:20-24)
  • __ (18:25-32)
  • Covenant continues: water of separation (19)
  • __ (19:1-10)
  • __ (19:11-13)
  • __ (19:14-19)
  • __ (19:20-22)

  • Rebellion continues into Year 40 (20-25)
  • Rebellion at Meribah: water flows from the rock (20a)
  • Israelites murmur for lack of water (20:1-15)
  • Moses strikes the rock and water flows (20:6-11)
  • Moses barred from entering promised land (20:12-13)
  • Travels toward Canaan (20b-21a)
  • Edom refuses to let Israel pass through its borders (20:14-21)
  • Aaron dies and is succeeded by Eleazer (20:22-29)
  • Victory over Canaanites of Arad Hormah (21:1-3)
  • Rebellion at __: fiery serpents (21b) (21:4-9)
  • Travels toward Canaan (20b)
  • Journey through Moab (21:10-20)
  • Victory over Sihon (21:21-32)
  • Victory over Og (21:33-35)
  • Balaam blesses Israel (22-24)
  • Balak of Moab asks the prophet Balaam to curse Israel (22:1-14)
  • Balak asks Balaam a second time; Balaam may say only what God tells him (22:15-21)
  • Balaam’s donkey sees angel barring path, Balaam may say only what God tells him (22:22-35)
  • Balaam arrives but can say only what God tells him (22:36-40)
  • Balaam blesses Israel (22:41-23:13)
  • Balaam blesses Israel again (23:14-26)
  • Balaam blesses Israel a third time (23:27-24:14)
  • __ (24:15-24)
  • Last rebellion at Baal-Peor: idolatry and fornication (25)
  • Israel sins with Moabites, instruction to kill offenders (25:1-5)
  • Eleazar slays fornicator, covenant with Eleazar (25:6-13)
  • Instruction to vex Midian (25:14-18)

I'. Preparation of 2nd generation (26-36)

  • First cycle (26-30)
  • Second military census (26)
  • Instructions for census of men aged 20+ for war (26:1-4)
  • Census count by tribe (26:5-50)
  • Summary (26:51)
  • Inheritances to be proportional to census and also by lot (26:52-56)
  • Levite census (26:57-62
  • Generation 1 Has All Died Except Joshua and Caleb (26:63-65)
  • Daughters of Zelophehad and female inheritance (27a) (27:1-11)
  • Joshua commissioned to succeed Moses (27b) (27:12-22)
  • Offerings and holy days summarized (28-29)
  • Periodic offerings (28:1-15)
  • Daily continual offering (28:1-8)
  • Weekly sabbath offering (28:9-10)
  • Monthly new moon offering (28:11-14)
  • Sin offering (28:15)
  • Annual spring feasts (28:16-31)
  • Passover, unleavened bread, and firstfruits (28:16-31)
  • Annual fall feasts (29:1-40)
  • feast of trumpets (29:1-6)
  • feast of atonement / Yom Kippur (29:7-11)
  • Feast of tabernacles (29:12-40)
  • Summary (29:39-40)
  • Women's vows (30) (30:1-16)

  • Second cycle (31-36)
  • Revenge on Midian (31)
  • Defeat of Midian (31:1-24)
  • Dividing the spoil (31:25-47)
  • Additional offering of spoil by warriors (31:48-54)
  • Reuben and Gad request Trans-Jordan inheritances (32)
  • Trans-Jordan inheritances granted if help conquer Canaan (32:1-33)
  • Trans-Jordan settlements (32:34-42)
  • Journey summary: list of all camp locations (33) (33:1-56)
  • Boundaries of promised land (34)
  • Borders of Cis-Jordan Israel (34:1-13)
  • Trans-Jordan tribes (34:14-15)
  • Persons to make division (34:16-29)
  • Levite cities and cities of refuge (35)
  • Cities for Levites (35:1-5)
  • Six cities of refuge (35:6-14)
  • Manslaughter distinguished from murder, penalties (35:15-34)
  • Daughters of Zelophehad, female inheritance clarified (36) (36:1-13)

Unanswered questions[edit]

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Prompts for life application[edit]

This section is for prompts that suggest ways in which a passage can influence a person's life. Prompts may be appropriate either for private self reflection or for a class discussion. Click the "edit" link to edit or add content to this section. →

Prompts for further study[edit]

This section is for prompts that invite us to think about a passage more deeply or in a new way. These are not necessarily questions that beg for answers, but rather prompts along the lines of "Have you ever thought about ..." Prompts are most helpful when they are developed individually, thoughtfully, and with enough background information to clearly indicate a particular direction for further study or thought. Click the "edit" link to edit or add content to this section. →


This section is for listing links and print resources, including those that are also cited elsewhere on this page. A short comment about the particular strengths of a resource can be helpful. Click the "edit" link to edit or add content to this section. →

Translations and Lexicons.

Related passages that interpret or shed light on Numbers

  • The Joseph Smith Translation made changes to the following verses in Numbers. This list is complete:[3]
  • Numbers 16:10
  • Numbers 22:20

References cited on this page.

  • Wayment, Thomas A., ed. The Complete Joseph Smith Translation of the Old Testament, p. 127. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 2009. (ISBN 1606411314) BX8630.A2 2009

Other resources.


Footnotes are not required but are encouraged for factual assertions that average readers cannot easily evaluate for themselves (such as the date of King Solomon’s death or the nuanced definition of a Greek word). In contrast, insights rarely benefit from footnoting, and the focus of this page should always remain on the scriptures themselves rather than what someone has said about them. Links are actively encouraged on all sections of this page, and links to authoritative sources (such as Strong's Bible Concordance or the Joseph Smith Papers) are preferable to footnotes.

  1. The statement of this date here is based upon the statement in the broader treatment of Israel's history at Historical Overview of the Old Testament (and discussed in the first several footnotes of that page).
  2. Again, the statement of this date here is based upon the statement in the broader treatment of Israel's history at Historical Overview of the Old Testament (and discussed in the first several footnotes of that page).
  3. Wayment, The Complete Joseph Smith Translation of the Old Testament, p. 127.

                                                                 Next page: Chapters 1-10a