Book of Numbers
The Book of Numbers is the fourth book of the Hebrew Bible, the fourth of five books of the Jewish Torah. The book has a long and complex history, but its final form is due to a Priestly redaction of a Yahwistic source made some time in the early Persian period; the name of the book comes from the two censuses taken of the Israelites. Numbers begins at Mount Sinai, where the Israelites have received their laws and covenant from God and God has taken up residence among them in the sanctuary; the task before them is to take possession of the Promised Land. The people are counted and preparations are made for resuming their march; the Israelites begin the journey, but they "murmur" at the hardships along the way, about the authority of Moses and Aaron. For these acts, God destroys 15,000 of them through various means, they send spies into the land. Upon hearing the spies' fearful report concerning the conditions in Canaan, the Israelites refuse to take possession of it. God condemns them to death in the wilderness until a new generation can grow up and carry out the task.
The book ends with the new generation of Israelites in the Plain of Moab ready for the crossing of the Jordan River. Numbers is the culmination of the story of Israel's exodus from oppression in Egypt and their journey to take possession of the land God promised their fathers; as such it draws to a conclusion the themes introduced in Genesis and played out in Exodus and Leviticus: God has promised the Israelites that they shall become a great nation, that they will have a special relationship with Yahweh their god, that they shall take possession of the land of Canaan. Numbers demonstrates the importance of holiness and trust: despite God's presence and his priests, Israel lacks faith and the possession of the land is left to a new generation. Most commentators divide Numbers into three sections based on locale, linked by two travel sections. God orders Moses, in the wilderness of Sinai, to number those able to bear arms—of all the men "from twenty years old and upward," and to appoint princes over each tribe.
A total of 603,550 Israelites are found to be fit for military service. The tribe of Levi is exempted from military service and therefore not included in the census. Moses consecrates the Levites for the service of the Tabernacle in the place of the first-born sons, who hitherto had performed that service; the Levites are divided into three families, the Gershonites, the Kohathites, the Merarites, each under a chief. The Kohathites were headed by Eleazar, son of Aaron, while the Gershonites and Merarites were headed by Aaron's other son, Ithamar. Preparations are made for resuming the march to the Promised Land. Various ordinances and laws are decreed; the Israelites set out from Sinai. The people are punished by fire. Miriam and Aaron insult Moses at Hazeroth. Twelve spies are come back to report to Moses. Joshua and Caleb, two of the spies, report that the land is abundant and is "flowing with milk and honey", but the other spies say that it is inhabited by giants, the Israelites refuse to enter the land.
Yahweh decrees that the Israelites will be punished for their loss of faith by having to wander in the wilderness for 40 years. Moses is ordered by God to make plates to cover the altar; the children of Israel murmur against Moses and Aaron on account of the destruction of Korah's men and are stricken with the plague, with 14,700 perishing. Aaron and his family are declared by God to be responsible for any iniquity committed in connection with the sanctuary; the Levites are again appointed to help in the keeping of the Tabernacle. The Levites are ordered to surrender to the priests a part of the tithes taken to them. Miriam dies at Kadesh Barnea and the Israelites set out for Moab, on Canaan's eastern border; the Israelites blame Moses for the lack of water. Moses is ordered by God to speak to a rock but disobeys, is punished by the announcement that he shall not enter Canaan; the king of Edom refuses permission to pass through his land and they go around it. Aaron dies on Mount Hor; the Israelites are bitten by Fiery flying serpents for speaking against Moses.
A brazen serpent is made to ward off these serpents. The Israelites arrive on the plains of Moab. A new census gives the total number of males from twenty years and upward as 601,730, the number of the Levites from the age of one month and upward as 23,000; the land shall be divided by lot. The daughters of Zelophehad, who had no sons, are to share in the allotment. Moses is ordered to appoint Joshua as his successor. Prescriptions for the observance of the feasts and the offerings for different occasions are enumerated. Moses orders the Israelites to massacre the people of Midian; the Reubenites and the Gadites request Moses to assign them the land east of the Jordan. Moses grants their request after they promise to help in the conquest of the land west of the Jordan; the land east of the Jordan is divided among the tribes of
Aaron is a prophet, high priest, the brother of Moses in the Abrahamic religions. Knowledge of Aaron, along with his brother Moses, comes from religious texts, such as the Bible and Quran; the Hebrew Bible relates that, unlike Moses, who grew up in the Egyptian royal court and his elder sister Miriam remained with their kinsmen in the eastern border-land of Egypt. When Moses first confronted the Egyptian king about the Israelites, Aaron served as his brother's spokesman to the Pharaoh. Part of the Law that Moses received from God at Sinai granted Aaron the priesthood for himself and his male descendants, he became the first High Priest of the Israelites. Aaron died before the Israelites crossed the North Jordan river and he was buried on Mount Hor. Aaron is mentioned in the New Testament of the Bible. According to the Book of Exodus, Aaron first functioned as Moses' assistant; because Moses complained that he could not speak well, God appointed Aaron as Moses' "prophet". At the command of Moses, he let his rod turn into a snake.
He stretched out his rod in order to bring on the first three plagues. After that, Moses tended to speak for himself. During the journey in the wilderness, Aaron was not always active. At the battle with Amalek, he was chosen with Hur to support the hand of Moses that held the "rod of God"; when the revelation was given to Moses at biblical Mount Sinai, he headed the elders of Israel who accompanied Moses on the way to the summit. While Joshua went with Moses to the top, however and Hur remained below to look after the people. From here on in Exodus and Numbers, Joshua appears in the role of Moses' assistant while Aaron functions instead as the first high priest; the books of Exodus and Numbers maintain that Aaron received from God a monopoly over the priesthood for himself and his male descendants. The family of Aaron had the exclusive right and responsibility to make offerings on the altar to Yahweh; the rest of his tribe, the Levites, were given subordinate responsibilities within the sanctuary.
Moses anointed and consecrated Aaron and his sons to the priesthood, arrayed them in the robes of office. He related to them God's detailed instructions for performing their duties while the rest of the Israelites listened. Aaron and his successors as high priest were given control over the Urim and Thummim by which the will of God could be determined. God commissioned the Aaronide priests to distinguish the holy from the common and the clean from the unclean, to teach the divine laws to the Israelites; the priests were commissioned to bless the people. When Aaron completed the altar offerings for the first time and, with Moses, "blessed the people: and the glory of the LORD appeared unto all the people: And there came a fire out from before the LORD, consumed upon the altar the burnt offering and the fat when all the people saw, they shouted, fell on their faces". In this way, the institution of the Aaronide priesthood was established. In books of the Hebrew Bible and his kin are not mentioned often except in literature dating to the Babylonian captivity and later.
The books of Judges and Kings mention priests and Levites, but do not mention the Aaronides in particular. The Book of Ezekiel, which devotes much attention to priestly matters, calls the priestly upper class the Zadokites after one of King David's priests, it does reflect a two-tier priesthood with the Levites in subordinate position. A two-tier hierarchy of Aaronides and Levites appears in Ezra and Chronicles; as a result, many historians think that Aaronide families did not control the priesthood in pre-exilic Israel. What is clear is that high priests claiming Aaronide descent dominated the Second Temple period. Most scholars think the Torah reached its final form early in this period, which may account for Aaron's prominence in Exodus and Numbers. Aaron plays a leading role in several stories of conflicts during Israel's wilderness wanderings. During the prolonged absence of Moses on Mount Sinai, the people provoked Aaron to make a golden calf.. This incident nearly caused God to destroy the Israelites.
Moses intervened, but led the loyal Levites in executing many of the culprits. Aaron, escaped punishment for his role in the affair, because of the intercession of Moses according to Deuteronomy 9:20. Retellings of this story always excuse Aaron for his role. For example, in rabbinic sources and in the Quran, Aaron was not the idol-maker and upon Moses' return begged his pardon because he felt mortally threatened by the Israelites. On the day of Aaron's consecration, his oldest sons and Abihu, were burned up by divine fire because they offered "strange" incense. Most interpreters think this story reflects a conflict between priestly families some time in Israel's past. Others argue that the story shows what can happen if the priests do not follow God's instructions given through Moses; the Torah depicts the siblings, Moses and Miriam, as the leaders of Israel after the Exodus, a view reflected in the biblical Book of Micah. Numbers 12, reports that on one occasion and Miriam complained about Moses' exclusive claim to be the LORD's prophet.
Their presumption was rebuffed by God who affirmed Moses' uniqueness as the
The Israelites were a confederation of Iron Age Semitic-speaking tribes of the ancient Near East, who inhabited a part of Canaan during the tribal and monarchic periods. According to the religious narrative of the Hebrew Bible, the Israelites' origin is traced back to the Biblical patriarchs and matriarchs Abraham and his wife Sarah, through their son Isaac and his wife Rebecca, their son Jacob, called Israel, whence they derive their name, with his wives Leah and Rachel and the handmaids Zilpa and Bilhah. Modern archaeology has discarded the historicity of the religious narrative, with it being reframed as constituting an inspiring national myth narrative; the Israelites and their culture, according to the modern archaeological account, did not overtake the region by force, but instead branched out of the indigenous Canaanite peoples that long inhabited the Southern Levant, ancient Israel, the Transjordan region through the development of a distinct monolatristic—later cementing as monotheistic—religion centered on Yahweh, one of the Ancient Canaanite deities.
The outgrowth of Yahweh-centric belief, along with a number of cultic practices gave rise to a distinct Israelite ethnic group, setting them apart from other Canaanites. In the Hebrew Bible the term Israelites is used interchangeably with the term Twelve Tribes of Israel. Although related, the terms Hebrews and Jews are not interchangeable in all instances. "Israelites" refers to the direct descendants of any of the sons of the patriarch Jacob, his descendants as a people are collectively called "Israel", including converts to their faith in worship of the god of Israel, Yahweh. "Hebrews", on the contrary, is used to denote the Israelites' immediate forebears who dwelt in the land of Canaan, the Israelites themselves, the Israelites' ancient and modern descendants. "Jews" is used to denote the descendants of the Israelites who coalesced when the Tribe of Judah absorbed the remnants of various other Israelite tribes. Thus, for instance, Abraham was a Hebrew but he was not technically an Israelite nor a Jew, Jacob was both a Hebrew and the first Israelite but not a Jew, while David was all three, a Hebrew, an Israelite, a Judahite.
A Samaritan, on the contrary, while being both a Hebrew and an Israelite, is not a Jew. During the period of the divided monarchy "Israelites" was only used to refer to the inhabitants of the northern Kingdom of Israel, it is only extended to cover the people of the southern Kingdom of Judah in post-exilic usage; the Israelites are the ethnic stock from which modern Jews and Samaritans trace their ancestry. Modern Jews are named after and descended from the southern Israelite Kingdom of Judah the tribes of Judah, Benjamin and Levi. Many Israelites took refuge in the Kingdom of Judah following the collapse of the Kingdom of Israel. In Judaism, the term "Israelite" is, broadly speaking, used to refer to a lay member of the Jewish ethnoreligious group, as opposed to the priestly orders of Kohanim and Levites. In texts of Jewish law such as the Mishnah and Gemara, the term יהודי, meaning Jew, is used, instead the ethnonym ישראלי, or Israelite, is used to refer to Jews. Samaritans refer to themselves and to Jews collectively as Israelites, they describe themselves as the Israelite Samaritans.
The term Israelite is the English name for the descendants of the biblical patriarch Jacob in ancient times, derived from the Greek Ισραηλίτες, used to translate the Biblical Hebrew term b'nei yisrael, יִשְׂרָאֵל as either "sons of Israel" or "children of Israel". The name Israel first appears in the Hebrew Bible in Genesis 32:29, it refers to the renaming of Jacob, according to the Bible, wrestled with an angel, who gave him a blessing and renamed him Israel because he had "striven with God and with men, have prevailed". The Hebrew Bible etymologizes the name as from yisra "to prevail over" or "to struggle/wrestle with", el, "God, the divine"; the name Israel first appears in non-biblical sources c. 1209 BCE, in an inscription of the Egyptian pharaoh Merneptah. The inscription is brief and says simply: "Israel is laid waste and his seed is not"; the inscription refers to a people, not to a nation-state. In modern Hebrew, b'nei yisrael can denote the Jewish people at any time in history. From the period of the Mishna the term Yisrael acquired an additional narrower meaning of Jews of legitimate birth other than Levites and Aaronite priests.
In modern Hebrew this contrasts with the term Yisraeli, a citizen of the modern State of Israel, regardless of religion or ethnicity. The term Hebrew has Eber as an eponymous ancestor, it is used synonymously with "Israelites", or as an ethnolinguistic term for historical speakers of the Hebrew language in general. The Greek term Ioudaioi was an exonym referring to members of the Tribe of Judah, which formed the nucleus of the kingdom of Judah, was adopted as a self-designation by people in the diaspora who identified themselves as loyal to the God of Israel and the Temple in Jerusalem; the Samaritans, who claim descent from the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh, are named after the Israelite Kingdom of Samaria, but until modern times many Jewish authorities contested their claimed lineage, deeming them to have been conquered foreigners w
The Exodus is the founding myth of the Israelites. Spread over the books of Exodus, Leviticus and Deuteronomy, it tells of the enslavement that befell the children of Israel in Egypt, their liberation through the hand of Yahweh and the revelations at Sinai, their wanderings in the wilderness up to borders of Canaan, the land their God has given them, its message is that Israel was delivered from slavery by Yahweh and therefore belongs to him through the Mosaic covenant, the terms of which are that Yahweh will protect his chosen people for all time, so long as they will keep his laws and worship only him. The narrative and its laws remain central to Judaism, recounted daily in Jewish prayers and celebrated in festivals such as Passover, as well as serving as an inspiration and model for non-Jewish groups from early Protestants fleeing persecution in Europe to African-Americans striving for freedom and civil rights. Scholars are broadly agreed that the Exodus story was composed in the 5th century BCE.
The traditions behind it can be traced in the writings of the 8th-century BCE prophets, but it has no historical basis. Instead, archaeology suggests a native Canaanite origin for ancient Israel; the story of the Exodus is told in the books of Exodus, Leviticus and Deuteronomy, the last four of the five books of the Torah. It begins with the Israelites in slavery, their prophet Moses leads them out of Egypt and through the wilderness to Mount Sinai, where Yahweh reveals himself to his people and establishes the Mosaic covenant: they are to keep his torah, in return he will give them the land of Canaan. The Israelites accept the covenant and receive their laws, with Yahweh now present in their midst, journey on from Sinai, towards the promised land, but when told that the land is filled with giants they refuse to go on, Yahweh condemns them to remain in the desert until the generation that left Egypt passes away. After thirty-eight years at the oasis of Kadesh Barnea the next generation travel on to the borders of Canaan, where Moses addresses them for the final time, reviewing their travels and giving them further laws.
The Exodus ends with the death of Moses on Mount Nebo and his burial by Yahweh, while the Israelites prepare for the conquest of the land. The climax of the Exodus is the covenant between God and Israel mediated by Moses at Sinai: Yahweh will protect Israel as his chosen people for all time, Israel will keep Yahweh's laws and worship only him; the covenant is described in stages: at Exodus 24:3–8 the Israelites agree to abide by the "book of the covenant" that Moses has just read to them. The laws are set out in a number of codes: Ethical Decalogue, Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5. Scholars are broadly agreed that the publication of the Torah took place in the mid-Persian period, echoing a traditional Jewish view which gives Ezra, the leader of the Jewish community on its return from Babylon, a pivotal role in its promulgation; the first trace of the traditions behind it appears in the northern prophets Amos and Hosea, both active in the 8th century BCE in northern Israel, but their southern contemporaries Isaiah and Micah show no knowledge of an exodus.
The story may, have originated a few centuries earlier the 9th or 10th BCE, there are signs that it took different forms in Israel, in the Transjordan region, in the southern Kingdom of Judah before being unified in the Persian era. Many theories have been advanced to explain the composition of the Torah, but two have been influential; the first of these, Persian Imperial authorisation, advanced by Peter Frei in 1985, holds that the Persian authorities required the Jews of Jerusalem to present a single body of law as the price of local autonomy. Frei's theory was demolished at an interdisciplinary symposium held in 2000, but the relationship between the Persian authorities and Jerusalem remains a crucial question; the second theory, associated with Joel P. Weinberg and called the "Citizen-Temple Community", proposes that the Exodus story was composed to serve the needs of a post-exilic Jewish community organised around the Temple, which acted in effect as a bank for those who belonged to it.
The Torah served as an "identity card" defining who belonged to this community, thus reinforcing Israel's unity through its new institutions. The Exodus is at the centre of Jewish identity, it is remembered daily in Jewish prayers and celebrated each year at the feasts of Pesach and Shavuot, the two being known as "the time of our freedom" and "the time our Torah was given". The two are linked, with Pesach announcing that the freedom it introduces is only realised with the giving of the law. A third Jewish festival, the Festival of Booths, commemorates how the Israelites lived in booths following the exodus from their previous homes in Egypt; the Exodus roots Jewish religion in history, in contrast to pagan religions which are oriented towards nature. The festivals now associated with the exodus (Passove
Mount Hor is the name given in the Old Testament to two distinct mountains. One borders the land of Edom in the area south of the Dead Sea, the other is by the Mediterranean Sea at the Northern border of the Land of Israel; the first Mount Hor is significant to the Israelites as Aaron the high priest, brother of Moses, died there. This Mount Hor is situated "in the edge of the land of Edom" and was the scene of Aaron's divestiture and burial; the exact location of Mount Hor has been the subject of debate, but based on the writing of Josephus it has customarily been identified with the Jebel Nebi Harun, a twin-peaked mountain 4780 feet above sea-level in the Edomite Mountains on the east side of the Jordan-Arabah valley. On the summit is a shrine, the Tomb of Aaron, said to cover the grave of Aaron; some investigators at the turn of the 20th century dissented from this identification: for example, Henry Clay Trumbull preferred the Jebel Madara, a peak about 15 miles northwest of'Ain Kadis, near the modern border between Israel and Egypt.
Another Mount Hor is mentioned in the Book of Numbers, defining the northern boundary of the Land of Israel. It is traditionally identified as the Amanus Mountains; when in the Second Temple period, Jewish authors seeking to establish with greater precision the geographical definition of the Promised Land, began to construe Mount Hor as a reference to the Amanus range of the Taurus Mountains, which marked the northern limit of the Syrian plain. Rabbinic writings declare Amanah a boundary of the land of Israel, saying "from the mountains of Amanah, to the river of Egypt, it is not to be confused with Mount Amana in the Anti-Lebanese Mountains. This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed.. "Hor, Mount". Encyclopædia Britannica. Cambridge University Press