III. THE WILDERNESS YEARS (15:1-22:1)
During the period of wandering following Israel's failure to take the Promised Land, Jehovah
instructs the nation concerning the laws which they were to keep not only in the years in the
wilderness, but also when they would enter Canaan. These included instructions concerning
the various offerings (15:1-29), the charges to the Levites (18:1-32), and the making of the
water of purification and its use in purification (19:1-22).
MURMURING AND REBELLION
Israel did not learn her lesson in failing to enter into the Promised Land because of unbelief.
Her people continued to murmur against Moses and rebel against God.
Immediately following the statement of what was to happen to the soul which "hath despised
the word of the LORD, and hath broken his commandment" (15:30,31), a man who is found
gathering sticks on the Sabbath is stoned for his rebellion (15:32-36). It is then that the
Israelites are commanded to place "a ribband of blue" upon the fringes of their garments to
remind them of the commands of God (15:37-41).
Korah, Dathan, and Abiram murmured against Moses and Aaron, saying: "Ye take too much
upon you ... wherefore then left ye yourselves above the congregation of the LORD" (16:3)? The
rebellion was not against Moses and Aaron, however, but against the order of the LORD
(16:4-11). Therefore, a miraculous punishment in the ground opening up and swallowing
Korah proved the error of the rebellion (16:12-40).
This did not end the complaints of the people, but actually occasioned even more complaints
(16:4). This caused a plague to come upon the people which killed 14,700 which was stayed
by Aaron offering incense (16:44-50).
In order to finally show the selection of Aaron as God's high priest, the staff of the rulers of the
tribes of Israel were planted in the ground (17:1-5). Of all the rods of the tribes of Israel, "the
rod of Aaron for the house of Levi was budded, and brought forth buds, and bloomed
blossoms, and yielded almonds" (17:8). Thus was established the right of he Levitical
At Meribah, the people complained again about the lack of provisions in having no water
(20:2-5). Moses and Aaron are commanded to speak to the rock and water would come forth
(20:7-9). However, Moses and Aaron did not sanctify Jehovah in the eyes of the people, hitting
the rock and saying: "hear now, ye rebels: must we fetch you water out of this rock" (20:9-12)?
Therefore, although water came forth, Moses and Aaron would not lead Israel into the
Promised Land (20:12-13).
Again, as Israel went around Edom, "the people spake against God, and against Moses:
complaining they had been brought into the wilderness to die of hunger and thirst" (21:4-5).
Fiery serpents were sent among the people which killed them (21:6). Upon the repentance of
the people, God instructed Moses to erect a brass serpent which, when the people looked
upon, would heal them (21:7-9).
DEATHS OF MIRIAM AND AARON
While they traveled in the wilderness, most of the people died. Moses' sister, Miriam died
(20:1), as did his brother Aaron (20:29). Aaron died at Mt. Hor. Here, God instructed Moses to
strip him of his priestly garments and give them to Aaron's son, Eleazar (20:22-29).
During the years of wandering in the wilderness, Israel had some brief encounters with other
people. Edom refused to give Israel permission to travel through her land (20:14-21). Israel
found and defeated King Arad the Canaanite (21:1-3), Sihon king of the Amorites (21:21-32),
and Og the king of Bashan (21:33-35).
IV. READY TO ENTER THE PROMISED LAND (22:2-36:13)
"And the children of Israel set forward, and pitched in the plains of Moab on this side Jordan by
ENCOUNTERS WITH OTHER PEOPLE
The most memorable encounter with other people Israel had when they were ready to enter
the Promised Land was with Balak the son of Zippor (22:22-24:25). Balak attempted to entice
the prophet Balaam to curse Israel (22:7-14). Balaam, incorrectly, went witht he Moabites after
he saw the amount of reward which would be his (22:15-21; see also 2 Peter 2:15,16; Jude
11). Balaam's donkey miraculously spoke to him showing him his error (22:22-35). Thus,
rather than cursing Israel, Balaam blessed them (22:36-24:25). However, from the New
Testament (Revelation 2:14; also Numbers 31:16) we learn that Balaam "taught Balac to cast
a strumblingblock before the children of Israel, to eat things offered unto idols and to commit
fornication" (25:1-18). Thus, when the nation of Midian is destroyed, Balaam is slain (31:1-12).
Unfortunately, Israel did not obey the full command of Moses in destroying the Midianites
(31:1-4). They failed to kill the women (31:9-20).
The children of Israel were commanded to destroy the inhabitants of Canaan when they came
into the Promised Land (33:50-54). But, if they would not destroy the Canaanites, the
Canaanites would plague them and what was to happen to the Canaanites would happen to
THE SECOND CENSIS (26:1-65)
While Israel was at Shittim, Jehovah instructed Moses and Eleazar: "Take the sum of all the
congregation of the children of Israel, from twenty years old and upward, throughout their
fathers' house, all that are able to go to war in Israel" (26:2). This second census revealed:
76,500 in the tribe of Judah; 64,300 in the tribe of Issachar; 60,500 in the tribe of Zebulun;
43,730 in the tribe of Reuben; 22,200 in the tribe of Simeon; 40,500 in the tribe of Gad; 32,500
in the tribe of Ephraim; 52,700 in the tribe of Mannasseh; 45,600 in the tribe of Benjamin;
64,400 in the tribe of Dan; 53,500 in the tribe of Asher; and, 45,400 in the tribe of Naphtali; for a
total of 601,730 men of war after the years of wandering in the wilderness. The number of
Gershonites, Kohathites and Merarites of the tribe of Levi was 23,000.
VARIOUS LAWS AND COMMANDS
As Israel prepares to enter the Promised Land, final preparations are made in the
establishment of hte laws and commandments they will have to abide by once they enter the
Of special interest before entering the Promised Land are the laws of inheritance and the
division of the land. The laws of inheritance fo the daughters of a man without sons
establishes the inheritance of his family (27:1-11). The inheritance of daughters needed
protection (36:1-4). Reuben and Gad are given their inheritance, that is their land, on the east
side of the Jordan River on the condition they help their brethren to conquer the land of Canaan
(32:1-42). The borders of the land of promise, and the manner in which it will be divided is
given (34:1-29). The Levites, although not given any land, are appointed forty-eight cities
(35:1-5). Six of these cities would be cities of refuge for themanslayer (35:6-15). The difference
between a murderer and a manslayer who could take refuge is plainly spelled out (35:16-34).
In addition tot he division of the land and its inheritance, various laws and commands were
given to prepare Israel for her entrance into Canaan. The various offerings which were to be
offered at all times (28:1-8), on the Sabbath (28:9-10); at the new moon (28:11-15); at the
Passover (28:16-25); in the day of first fruites (28:26-31); on the Feat of the Trumpets (29:1-6);
on the day of afflicting their souls (29:7-11); and during the Feast of the Tabernacles
(29:12-40). The laws respecting the giving and keeping of vows are recorded (30:1-2) for the
maiden (30:3-5), for the wife (30:6-8), and for the widow or divorcee (30:9-16). The daughters of
Israel are commanded to marry in their own tribe (36:5-12).
JOSHUA TO SUCCEED MOSES (27:12-23)
Since Moses had sinned at Meribah and was denied entrance to the Promised Land, it was
necessary to select one to take Moses' place before they entered the land of Canaan. Thus,
Joshua is placed before eleazar and before the congregation as Moses' successor (27:18-23).
REVIEW OF THE JOURNEY (33:1-49).
The journey of the nation of Israel from Egypt to the brink of entering the Promised Land is
recorded in tory-two trips, rehearsing all of their stops along the way.
"These are the commandments and the judgments, which the LORD commanded by the hand
of Moses unto the children of Israel in the plains of Moab by Jordan near Jericho" (36:13).