The Blessing of Numbers

November 12, 2015

Don’t you feel bad for the book of Numbers?

Seriously, the fourth book of the Bible gets no respect. I think the primary reason the book gets ignored is its name. Who wants to read about Numbers? Perhaps there are a few, the type of people who enjoy reading books by Stephen Hawking (i.e., my family), but other than that, most people avoid numbers and Numbers.

The Blessing of Numbers

However, I’m teaching the book of Numbers right now, and I’ve been blessed as I gain a greater appreciation for this much ignored text.

Curiously, the title for the book of Numbers in the Hebrew Bible is bemidbar, or in English, “In the wilderness” which actually is a better title for the book, since the entire book is set in the wilderness. Yes, there is a census of the nation of Israel at the beginning of the book and at the end (Num. 1, 26), but most of the book is not about numbers. There are poetic sections, and legal sections, but the book is dominated by narrative sections (set in the wilderness). Many important stories, the ones where you ask, “Now where is that?” are located in the middle of Numbers.

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