|Part of this wonderful typology is contained in Leviticus 23. In verse
16 the people are instructed to count fifty days after the seventh Sabbath and to present a new grain offering to the Lord. This offering was to be two loaves of bread baked with leaven as first fruits unto the Lord. If we look back earlier in the chapter to verses 9, 10, and 11, we see that the children of Israel were instructed to give a sheaf of first fruits of the harvest which would be made as instructed in verse 13 without leaven.
The first fruit was a type of the Lord Jesus Christ, so there was not
to be any leaven in the wave sheaf which symbolized Him. However,
the offering given fifty days after the wave sheaf is identified with the
day of Pentecost in the New Testament. The formation of the church
fifty days after the resurrection (Acts 2) was symbolized in the wave
sheaf which contained leaven. There is no evil in Christ, our resurrected Lord, but there are imperfections in the church, and there are imperfections in the believers. The two loaves are symbolic of the Gentiles and the Jews as explained in Ephesians 2:llff.
God’s Alternatives Chapter 26 contains what I call the “if-but” principle. As presented here, this “if-but” principle sets the stage for all of the activity from this point on. The manner in which God treats the Israelites at any given time is determined by Leviticus 26. The punishment and chastening which the Israelites received is predicated on the “if-but” principle laid down here. We should look at this chapter on a verse by verse basis.
Beginning in verse 3:
“If ye walk in my statutes, and keep my commandments. . . . Then
I will give you rain in due season, and the land shall yield her
increase, . . . your threshing shall reach into the vintage, and the
vintage shall reach unto the sowing time: and ye shall eat your
bread to the full, and dwell in your land safety.”
Verse 7: “Ye shall chase your enemies, and they shall fall before you by the
sword. And five of you shall chase an hundred, and an hundred of you shall put ten thousand to flight.”
Verse 12: “And I will walk among you, and will be your God, and ye shall be my people.”
God gave tremendous promises to the inhabitants of the land
down through verse 13. Then we pick up the “but” section.
Verse 14: But if you will not hearken unto me, and will not do all these
commandments; And if ye shall despise my statutes, or if your soul abhor my
judgments, so that ye will not do all my commandments,”
Verse 16: “I also will do this unto you; I will even appoint over you terror,
Verse 17: “I will set my face against you, and ye shall be slain before your
Verse 19: “I will break the pride of your power.”
Verse 20: “Your strength shall be spent in vain: for your land shall not yield
her increase, neither shall the trees of the land yield their fruits.”
Verse 22: “I will also send wild beasts among you.”
Verse 24: “Then will I also walk contrary unto you, and will punish you.”
Verse 25: “And I will being a sword upon you.”
Verse 28: “Then I will walk contrary unto you also in fury; and I, even
I, will chastise you seven times for your sins.”
And now, looking forward prophetically, to the time when they would
be sealed up in their cities because of the siege laid to the city by an
enemy, verse 29 says: “And ye shall eat the flesh of your sons, and the
flesh of your daughters shall ye eat.”
Verse 32: “And I will bring the land into desolation: and your enemies
which dwell therein shall be astonished at it.”
Verse 33: “And I will scatter you among the heathen.”
Verse 34: “Then shall the land enjoy her Sabbaths.”
Not only does chapter 26 contain the “if-but” principle, it is also
prophetic because it details the activity which will take place from the
latter part of the fifteenth century B.C. down until the early part of the
sixth century B.C. during the invasion of the Babylonians.
The principles of chapter 26 will apply for the next eight hundred
years. As the children of Israel fail to obey God, He brought all of these calamities upon them. Enemies invade; famine ravaged the land; drought caused the crops to shrivel; invading enemies and occupying forces surrounded their cities and forced the inhabitants within the cities into cannibalism.
IX THE WILDERNESS JOURNEY
NUMBERS The book of Numbers is divided into three parts. Part One goes from 1:1 to 10: 10 and describes the preparations for the march from Sinai. Part Two begins in 10:11 and continues through 21:10. This division covers the history of the wanderings. Part Three, 21:11 through chapter 36, recounts the activities that take place east of the Jordan River before the Israelites enter Canaan.
As we begin to consider the land of Canaan, we need to understand the importance of the Jordan River which divides the land from the northern portion by the southern portion at the Dead Sea. The territory east of the Jordan River is referred to as the Trans-Jordan, and the land west of the Jordan River is referred to as the Cis-Jordan.
The Tabernacle As two million people prepared to march from Sinai to Canaan, their periods of movement and rest were to be regulated by the command of God through the cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night. Led by God, they would enter and reclaim the land He had promised to Abraham and to his seed.
Throughout their journeying, they carried the completed tabernacle
which was the symbol of God’s presence among them. Its innermost
object, the Ark of the Covenant, represented the throne of God. He was Israel’s true king, making the nation a Theocracy. Israel was never to be a plutocracy, where the rich ruled, nor an autocracy governed by one human dictator, nor a democracy where the crowd ruled, but a Theocracy, governed only by God. He commanded Moses face to face and Moses carried out His commands. Later, after Moses died, Joshua was instructed to seek counsel of God through Eleazer the priest. God spoke through the ephod and the breastplate of righteousness, giving the priest the instructions which Joshua was to follow in the conquest of the land.
Preparations for Moving Numbers chapter 1 tells us that an additional month had gone by since the completion of the tabernacle, and that the people were getting ready to move on from Sinai. Prior to their departure, a census was taken of all the adult males (age twenty and over). These became known as the numbered men, and the numbering is listed in chapter one. It is important to notice that the tribe of Levi was not included in this numbering (vs. 47) and that they did not become part of the numbered men of war. A little later (chapter3), the Levites were appointed to their specific responsibilities. Eleazer, the son of Aaron, became high priest and chief over the tribe of Levi with full control over the activities of the sanctuary (3:32).
Moving the Ark Chapter 4 contains important instructions concerning the Ark of the Covenant. Since no one could look upon it and
live, except the High Priest just once a year, an intricate system was
devised for transporting it without its being observed by any human eye. The priests were instructed to put a covering of skins over it and to insert poles through the rings that had been constructed at its comers. If you look back to Exodus 25:14-15, you will notice that God gave instructions for putting the poles into the rings, they were never to be removed. They were designed to protrude from the skins. Therefore, to move it, would be a matter of collapsing the skins onto the Ark, lifting it by the poles, and bearing it along without it ever being seen. As our study progresses, we will see later that God’s very specific regulations for handling the Ark, the tabernacle, and its contents, were eventually disregarded. Even David, on one occasion, ignored these instructions and chose to move the Ark on a cart, resulting in death and tragedy.
It is amazing how often we see, in the Old Testament, God being very specific about a matter, yet as time passes, the people forget, abandon, or negate His precise regulations and substitute traditions and manmade rules.
More Complaints Against their food No sooner had the people begun to move toward the promised land than we read (chapter 11) that they began to complain once again. In verse 6, they complained that they had no more appetite because there was nothing to look at or eat except manna, the “angels’ food” that God had given to preserve them in the wilderness. At that time, they had no idea they were going to need it for forty years. They had been out of Egypt just a little over one year and were heading toward Canaan. But already they were tired of the manna, God’s divine provision. Moses, in distress and depression, (vs. 11), began complaining to God because he had to bear the heavy burden of shepherding such an ungrateful and recalcitrant people. “Kill me,” he prayed (vs. 15).
The Lord did ease his burden, but He also told the people that
since they wanted meat so badly, He would give it to them in such
abundance that it would come out of their nostrils. He sent them fresh
meat for a full month, but while they were still chewing on it (vs. 33) He judged them by sending a severe plague.
Against Moses The very next chapter describes how Miriam and Aaron joined with the people in complaining against the authority
of Moses. On that occasion, the Lord came down in a pillar of cloud and appeared at the doorway of the tabernacle. His words validated the fact that Moses was His chosen spokesman (vss. 6-8). He demonstrated His anger by covering Miriam with leprosy so that she had to be exiled outside the camp for seven days (vs. 14).
Crisis of Faith and Obedience By chapter 13, the children of Israel reached the borders of the land of Canaan. A map will show that they were camped in the southwest section, just south of the Mediterranean Sea and about to enter the Negev, or Southland. At that strategic location, God instructed them to send spies into the land to see that it really was as good as He had promised (vs. 19). They were also instructed to see how the people of the land lived, whether in the open, in tents, or in fortified cities.
The spies traveled throughout the land for forty days and discovered
that it was a land ‘flowing with milk and honey, “ just as God had
promised. They were able to cut such a large and heavy cluster of grapes vs. 23) that two men carried it on a pole between them.
The produce of the land was impressive, but so were the inhabitants.
When the twelve spies returned and gave their report to the congregation, they said (vss. 27-29), “It truly is a land of milk and honey, but it is inhabited by giants.” Ten of the spies declared that a successful invasion was impossible, the natives were too large and too strong, “and we were in our own sight as grasshoppers and so we were in their sight” (vs. 33). Only Joshua and Caleb insisted that by obeying the Lord they could take the land. But, lacking faith in God, the people listened to the ten spies with the negative report.
Mutiny Numbers 14:1 states, “All the congregation lifted up their voice,
and cried; and the people wept that night. “ They began to grumble again
against Moses and to wish that they had died back in Egypt. Then their complaints turned to mutiny. They determined to appoint another leader and return to Egypt (vs. 4). Joshua and Caleb tore their clothes (vs. 6) and tried desperately to stem the rebellion and convince the people that “If the Lord delight in us, then he will bring us into this land, and give it us” (vs. 8). For their faithfulness, they were on the verge of being stoned to death (vs. 10), when suddenly, in the midst of the turmoil and the crazed mob action, the glory of God appeared in the tabernacle. Imagine the scene! People running wild! Two stalwart leaders, Joshua and Caleb, about to be stoned! Then the sudden appearance of the glory of God! What a frightening time it must have been as the attention of the rioters was suddenly riveted to the blinding glory of God. God was ready to destroy them and begin a new nation with Moses, but Moses once again interceded for them, quoting the Lord’s own words, “as thou has spoken “ (vs. 17) and repeating back to Him the words He had proclaimed before Moses in the mount (vs. 18; cf. Exodus. 34:6-7).
Judgment Because of Moses’ intercession, God pardoned the people. Nevertheless, He said, because they have rebelled against
Him ten times, they will not see the promised land (vss. 22-23). In verse 29 He adds that the corpses of all their numbered men would fall in the wilderness. That terminology excluded the tribe of Levi since we read that they were not included among the numbered men. Those who were numbered, twenty years old and upward, who had grumbled against the Lord, would not see the land. Joshua and Caleb were also specifically excluded from the judgment. Finally, He promised, “Your little ones, which ye said should be a prey, them will I bring in ... But as for you, your carcasses, they shall fall in this wilderness “ (vss. 31-32).
We are considering 600,000 numbered men, and a period of over
thirty-eight years, which is 14,508 days in the wilderness. That would
average out to the death of forty-two or forty-three men a day, three to four men an hour. The next thirty-eight and a half years in the wilderness was filled with a constant funeral dirge. The cries of widows and orphaned children filled the air for all those years.
Self-will As for the ten spies who brought back the bad report, they died immediately. Theirs was an instant punishment (vs. 37). Then
the congregation began to mourn, saying “we have sinned. “ They determined then to go into the land and even though Moses forbade it as further transgression of God’s command, they went up recklessly, and the Amalekites and the Canaanites who lived in the hill country came down and defeated them.
Numbers 15:1 marks the beginning of the wilderness wanderings. The sinful, disobedient people who had grumbled against God and attempted to stone to death his chosen leaders, would never see the land they had expected to inherit when they left Egypt.
X PREPARATIONS FOR CANAAN
The book of Numbers quickly passed over the thirty-eight years
in which the children of Israel were condemned to wander in the wilderness because of their lack of faith. Chapter 15 sets down regulations for performing various sacrificial offerings “when ye be come into the land” (vs. 2). The remainder of the book is largely concerned with events that took place near the end of those years of wandering.
The Rebellion of Korah In chapter 16, we learn about the complaints of Korah, a descendant of Levi and a member of the working priesthood with “menial” religious duties. His pride had gotten the best of him. Evidently, the share of duties about the tabernacle that had been designated for his family had come to seem too menial to him (cf. Num. 4:1-4,15). He became jealous of the position of superiority that Moses and Aaron had among the children of Israel and evidently he was able to persuade men from other tribes to share his resentment (16:1). As a result, God sent swift judgment and the earth swallowed them up.
It is interesting to realize that Korah must have had sons who
were not involved in the rebellion of their father for there are a number of Psalms ascribed to “The Sons of Korah.” All of these Psalms seem to have a common echo of praise for the enthroned king and a longing after the sanctuary. The family learned a sobering lesson from the solemn judgment on their ancestors.
Inheritances and Tithes As the years of wandering drew to a close, the tribes became aware that they would be inheriting land in Canaan. In Numbers 18:20, the Lord spoke to Aaron and let him know that he would not have such an inheritance. The inheritance of the tribe of Levi was to be the tithes paid by the other twelve tribes; that would be the remuneration for their service to the tabernacle. God did allocate designated cities throughout the land in which the Levites could dwell, but, they did not have a geographical territory to call their own as did the other tribes.
It is interesting to consider that when the tribe of Levi received
ten percent from each of the other tribes, each tribe would be left with
ninety percent of its income, while the income of the Levites would be
equivalent to 120 percent. Even when Levi tithed back ten percent, they would still net 108 percent in contrast to the ninety percent of the remaining tribes. By this unique situation, we can see that God intends that those He has chosen for His service, should not suffer lack because of their serving, but be able to live a quality of life-style suitable for the maintenance of family, home, good health, and in a respectable manner that will give glory to the cause of Christ and His gospel.
Route of Travel Numbers 20:1 begins the fortieth year in the wilderness. At that time Miriam died and was buried. Immediately after that, they journeyed to Mount Hor where Aaron died. Then they crossed the brook Zered. In recounting their history, Moses said (Deut. 2:14) that from Kadesh-bamea (from where the spies had been sent out) to Zered had been just thirty-eight years, and at that point all the numbered men of war who had come out of Egypt were dead. If you look at a map, you will see that Zered is between Edom and Moab.
Numbers 33 sums up the sequence of their travels. Verse 36 says “they removed from Eziongeber, and pitched in the wilderness of Zin, which is Kadesh. “ This reiterates Numbers 20:1. From Kadesh they moved to Mount Hor at the edge of the land of Edom. There Aaron died “In the fortieth year after the children of Israel were to come out of the land of Egypt. This summary ties in with the historical account back in Numbers 20:22-29.
Disobedience of Moses Chapter 20 also contains the account of how Moses incurred the Lord’s anger at the rock in Kadesh. The children of Israel were again grumbling because they were thirsty. Verse 5 says that they complained to Moses for bringing them out of Egypt to “this evil place.” This was the new generation those who came out of Egypt as children including those who had been born in the wilderness. The adult generation that had previously drunk water from a rock (Exod. 17:6) was dead. But like their elders, this new generation was equally quick to complain.
The Lord said to Moses (vs. 8), “Speak ye unto the rock before their
eyes; and it shall give forth his water.“ The rock, as we learned (I Cor. 10:4) was Christ, and He has already been struck one time to yield the water. He is not to be struck again but spoken to. Moses, in anger and frustration, abandoned momentarily his intercessory role, and began to chide the children of Israel. In his anger (vs 11) he struck the rock twice with his rod and the water gushed forth, but God said to him, Because ye believed me not, to sanctify me in the eyes of the children of Israel, therefore ye shall not bring this congregation into
the land which I have given them.
What a shock this must have been to Moses. To realize that because
of this sudden lapse of faith, because of a momentary sin of disbelief,
anger, and frustration, he would not get to see the promised land.
Certainly, this should teach us that no individual can sin with impunity, regardless of who he is or what his station in life. We cannot sin without chastisement and judgment, because God is holy and He will always be kept holy in the sight of His people.
In striking the rock twice, Moses ruined a beautiful Old Testament
type of Christ. The Lord Jesus having suffered once, did not suffer again. It is not necessary for Him to be crucified each time we need forgiveness of sins. He suffered once, and I John 1: 9 gives us the promise that “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. “ Hebrews 9:12 tells us very plainly that: Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us.
God, in His righteousness, had to follow through with His judgment on
Moses, who died just before the people crossed the Jordan into the promised land. But isn’t it wonderful how God allowed Moses to see all the land from the mountain top in the Trans-Jordan area. Then we can read in Matthew 17:3 that Moses did enter the promised land when he stood on the Mount of Transfiguration with the Lord Jesus Christ.
The Fiery Serpents Numbers 21:4 tells that the people became impatient because of the journey. Even though this was a new generation, they were tiring of their life in the wilderness. They began to speak out against both God and Moses (vs. 5). So God sent fiery serpents among them whose poisonous bites took many lives. God provided just one way of salvation from the poisonous bites, that was for Moses to make a serpent of bronze and set it up on a standard. Verse 9 says, “It came to pass, that if a serpent had bitten any man, when he beheld the serpent of brass, he lived.” Once again God provided a type of Christ for we read in John 3:14-15: And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life.
The bronze serpent which was erected in about 1406 B.C. was
around for over seven hundred years. The people kept it and as time
went on, it became an integral part of their worship service. They began to treat the bronze serpent as an idol, and we read in II Kings 18:4, speaking of King Hazekiah and his reforms in Judah that:
He removed the high places, and brake the images, and cut down
the groves, and brake in pieces the brasen serpent that Moses had
made: for unto those days the children of Israel did burn incense to
it. And he called it Nehushtan.
Balaam Chapters 22 through 24 detail the concern which Balak the king of Moab had when he observed the millions of Israelites moving toward his land. Balak hired Balaam the prophet to proclaim a curse against the Israelites, but God intervened and Balaam was unable to curse the Lord’s people. He could only pronounce a blessing. Balak, of course, was infuriated.
Of special interest is the fact that part of the blessing which Balaam
prophesied upon the Israelites was a promise of the coming Messiah.
In 24:17, he said, “There shall come a Star out of Jacob, and a Sceptre
shall rise out of Israel.
This event provided one more evidence that God’s plan will not
be thwarted. He will speak even through an ungodly pagan prophet
because He is sovereign. He will bless whom He will bless and will
curse whom He will curse.
The machinations of Balaam and Balak culminated in the sin
of Baal-peor. This was a low point in the history of Israel because
it was in direct opposition to all that God had instructed in the
previous books of the Pentateuch. He had made it very clear that
the children of Israel were not to involve themselves with any
outside nations, nor were they to involve themselves in any illicit
manner with the women of those nations. Baal-peor, as recorded
in 25:1, was a fertility cult religious practice in which the children
of Israel involved themselves. As a result, God’s judgment fell
severely on them.
Since Balaam could not curse the Israelites, he evidently
dreamed up this enticement so that the men would involve themselves in an illicit way with the women of Moab and thus bring
God’s curse upon them. Numbers 31:16 records, after the death
of Balaam, “Behold, these caused the children of Israel, through the
counsel of Balaam, to commit trespass against the Lord in the matter of
Peor, and there was a plague among the congregation of the Lord.
The account of the sin begins in 25:1:
And Israel abode in Shittim, and the people began to commit whoredom
with the daughters of Moab. And they called the people unto
the sacrifices of their gods: and the people did cat, and bowed down
to their gods. And Israel joined himself unto Baal-peor, and
the anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel. And the Lord said
unto Moses, Take all the heads of the people, and hang them up
before the Lord against the sun, that the fierce anger of the Lord
may be turned away from Israel. And Moses said unto the judges
of Israel, Slay ye every one his men that were joined unto Baal-peor.
It seems, from a comparison of the census counts, that the Simeonites may have led in this licentious activity. Numbers 1:23 records, 59,300 numbered men in the tribe of Simeon; Numbers 26:14 records only 22,200 for Simeon. We know from Numbers 25:9, that 24,000 died in the matter of Baal-peor, so a large portion of the 24,000 may have belonged to the tribe of Simeon. The rest of the missing men in the comparative census must have been lost in some other plague or judgment or through natural causes of death and disease.