The *Israelites Travel through the *Desert
An EasyEnglish Bible Version and Commentary (2800 word vocabulary) on Numbers chapters 11 to 20
This commentary has been through Advanced Checking.
Words in boxes are from the Bible.
A word list at the end explains words with a *star by them.
Verses 1-3 This passage records the first of many times when the *Israelites complained on their journey. In the camp near Sinai mountain, they had obeyed God completely. But on their journey to the *Promised Land, often they did not obey him. They complained often, too.
The *Israelites had travelled for three days only. But already they had begun to complain. The text does not tell us why they complained. Perhaps they did not like to travel in the *desert. Perhaps they were tired. But they did not trust God to look after them. They did not thank him because he was leading them to the *Promised Land. This upset the *Holy Spirit (Ephesians 4:30). So the *Israelites had removed themselves from God’s protection.
This first time, God sent fire to their camp to show that he was angry. When the people saw the fire, they were afraid. They asked Moses to speak to God on their behalf. Moses did this and the fire stopped.
In chapter 33, there is a list of places where the *Israelites camped. But the list does not include Taberah. However, experts think that it was probably near Kibroth Hattaavah (see Numbers 11:34).
Verses 4-9 When the *Israelites left the country called Egypt, some foreigners came with them. We do not know why these foreigners came. Perhaps some of them were slaves who wanted to escape, too. But they did not know God. They complained because they had no meat. Then, the *Israelites started to complain, too.
God was providing food for them every day. They called this food ‘*manna’. There is a description of *manna in Exodus 16:14-16, too. They had plenty of it. It tasted good. Exodus 16:31 says that the *manna had the flavour of honey.
But on this occasion, the people wanted to eat different food. They talked about the different foods that they had eaten in Egypt. But they did not talk about the bad things that had happened there!
They were not grateful that God had rescued them. They were not grateful that he was providing lots of food in the *desert. They did not thank God because he gave them food. Instead, they complained about it! Still the *manna tasted good. But the people did not enjoy it because they wanted other things to eat. The *manna had not changed. But the people had changed. They had become greedy and selfish.
There is a lesson here for us. Nothing can satisfy people who are greedy and selfish. They are unhappy because always they want more.
We must remember to thank God always for everything that he provides. We must be grateful for the good things that we have.
Verses 11-15 God had chosen Moses to be the *Israelites’ leader. But Moses did not want to be their leader still. He felt that God had given to him too many responsibilities. He was desperate. So he prayed about the matter. And he told God about how he felt.
Moses had obeyed God. Moses had led the people out of the country called Egypt. But he realised that he could not do the work of a leader alone. He felt that he was failing as a leader. And he was so desperate that he asked God to let him die.
God answered his prayer. But God did not let him die. God did not expect him to do all the work of a leader without any help. The work was God’s work. So God would provide the help that Moses needed. God would tell Moses what he had to do.
Verses 16-17 God did not do what Moses asked. He did not let Moses die. Instead, he told Moses to be the leader. But he wanted him to share his responsibilities. So he answered Moses’ prayer, but not in the way that Moses expected.
God had given his *Spirit to Moses. God’s Spirit is the *Holy Spirit. He gave his *Spirit to the 70 leaders, too. God’s *Spirit gave them special authority to lead his people. Also, God’s *Spirit gave to them the power to do what God wanted.
These leaders were not priests. But they had special tasks to do. In the *Old Testament, God gave his *Spirit to particular people to do particular work for him. God gave his *Spirit to Moses. So the people recognised that God was with Moses in a special way. Like Moses, these leaders could *prophesy. So, the people would recognise that God was with these leaders, too.
But in the *New Testament, we read about how God gives his *Holy Spirit to all *Christians (Romans 8:9 and 8:14-17). The *Holy Spirit helps us to do things for God that we could not do alone. Whenever we need God’s power and strength, we can ask the *Holy Spirit to help us.
Verses 18-23 Also, God solved Moses’ other problem. The people wanted meat. So God promised to provide it. But he was angry that they preferred to live as *slaves in Egypt. So he promised to provide so much meat that they would hate it!
But Moses argued with God. He did not believe that God could provide so much meat. Moses was looking for a natural solution to the problem. But God intended to solve the problem with a *miracle. God did not become angry with Moses because Moses had doubts. He told Moses to wait. God would do what he had said.
‘Tell the people to prepare themselves so that I will accept them’ (verse 18). God would provide food for the people by means of a *miracle. The people had to prepare themselves to receive this wonderful gift. They should have been expecting God to do what he said. They should have been humble and grateful. Instead, they were greedy and they were complaining. So they needed to change their bad attitude. They needed to prepare themselves so that God would accept them.
Verses 24-30 When God gave his Spirit to the 70 leaders, they all *prophesied. They did not do this by natural, human means. God’s *Spirit gave to them the power to do this. This included Eldad and Medad, who had stayed in the camp. We do not know why they had stayed in the camp. But they began to *prophesy too. A young man went to Moses and told him. We know that Eldad and Medad had God’s *Spirit because they *prophesied. This shows that they were not doing anything wrong.
However, Joshua, Moses’ helper, was worried about what was happening. Perhaps also he thought that Moses might lose all of his authority. But Moses was not worried. He was happy that these men had God’s Spirit, too. He was happy that they were not complaining. Instead, they were praising God. In this case, that is what the word ‘*prophesy’ means. These men were not telling people what would happen in the future. They were not doing the special work of a *prophet. But they were praising God. And they were speaking about the wonderful things that he does. This would encourage the people to praise God, too (see 1 Corinthians 14:3). The *Holy Spirit gave to them the power to do this (see Joel 2:28).
Verse 31-32 ‘These piles were about a metre high’ (verse 31). God provided as much meat as he had promised. There were piles of birds everywhere! It is possible to translate this sentence in a different way. The *Hebrew words could mean also that the birds were flying about a metre from the ground. Anyway, the birds were easy to collect.
The people dried the meat so that they could keep it for a long time.
Verses 33-34 God gave to the people what they wanted. But also he punished them. They had not prepared themselves as God had ordered. They had not changed their attitude so that God would accept them (Numbers 11:18). God had given them an opportunity to do this. But they had not done it. Still they were greedy and ungrateful. So many of them died from a disease.
The *Hebrew word that we have translated as ‘greedy’ means ‘to want something very much.’ That thing can be good or bad. They were greedy for the wrong things. So many of them died.
Verse 35 ‘Hazeroth’ comes from a *Hebrew word that means ‘a place to make a home.’ It was a temporary home for the *Israelites as they travelled north to the *Promised Land.
Verses 1-2 Aaron, Moses’ brother, and Miriam, Moses’ sister, were leaders too. They helped Moses. But they had become jealous of him. Actually, they were accusing Moses. He was not the only person to speak on God’s behalf. Because of this, they were saying that Moses was not special. Also, they seemed to accuse him because he had married a foreigner.
To accuse an innocent person in this way is bad. In fact, the name ‘Satan’ (a name for the devil) means ‘the accuser’. It is the devil’s nature to accuse. It is very wrong to have this kind of attitude. It is the devil’s attitude. Paul warned about this in 1 Timothy 3:11. That passage is about the attitude that leaders and their relatives should have.
Aaron and Miriam did important work for God. Aaron was the *High Priest. Miriam was a *prophet (Exodus 15:20). But they were jealous because Moses was God’s special servant.
Verse 3 But Moses was not proud because he was God’s special servant. The word ‘humble’ refers to someone who depends on God completely. Moses knew that God gave him the power and strength to lead the *Israelites. Moses knew that he could not do this without God’s help. So he talked to God often. He asked God what to do.
God considered that Moses was great. This was because Moses was humble. God considers people who serve other people to be great (Matthew 23:11). Jesus was humble. He came to serve us and to show us how to have this same attitude (Philippians 2:5-11).
Verses 4-9 Aaron and Miriam had important responsibilities. They were Moses’ helpers. But they were opposing him. They were saying wicked things. When leaders *sin, this affects the people that they lead. Leaders of *churches today should remember this!
God appeared to Moses, Aaron and Miriam. He spoke to them by means of a poem (verses 6-8). He said that he spoke to *prophets by means of dreams and *visions. But Moses was different. God spoke to Moses as a person speaks to another person. This is what the words ‘face to face’ mean (verse 8).
Miriam and Aaron had no right to complain about this. So God acted against them. He punished Miriam. He gave to her a disease that affected her skin. However, he did not punish Aaron like this. Perhaps Miriam was more guilty than Aaron. The author puts Miriam’s name before Aaron’s name in verse 1. This was not the custom usually, because Miriam was a woman. Also, the word ‘said’ in verse 1 actually means ‘she said’ in *Hebrew.
But Moses was not glad because God punished Miriam. When Aaron asked Moses to help Miriam, Moses prayed immediately. It was a very short prayer. But it was very sincere. Immediately, God answered Moses. He cured Miriam!
But Miriam had to stay outside the camp for a week. This was because she was *unclean (see Leviticus 13:1-6). So everyone in the camp knew that Miriam had done a bad thing. It was a sign of shame for a parent to spit in their child’s face (Deuteronomy 25:9; Job 30:10; Isaiah 50:6). (To spit means to send liquid out of the mouth.) Miriam felt this kind of shame. The camp could not move until she returned. People with diseases that affected the skin had to live away from other people. This was so that they did not give the disease to other people. But also, they had to stay outside the camp after the disease had gone. They had to show that it had gone. Also, they had to *purify themselves by means of special ceremonies (Leviticus 14:1-32). These were the rules about people with diseases that affected the skin. So her *sin delayed the *Israelites’ journey to the *Promised Land.
Miriam’s shame should have been an example to warn the people. They should have realised that it is very wrong to say such evil things about someone. This is what the devil does. The devil is the accuser of God’s people.
Also, it is wrong to be jealous of other people who have important jobs. We should be content to do the work that God gives to us. But the next chapter shows that the people did not learn from Miriam’s example.
Verses 1-15 The *Israelites had reached the borders of the *Promised Land. But they did not enter it for another 40 years! This was because they did not believe God’s promises. They did not trust God. Instead, they became afraid of the people who lived in the country called Canaan.
But before they entered the *Promised Land, the *Israelites wanted to know more about that country. So God allowed them to send some men there. God had not ordered the *Israelites to discover more about the country. Already he had given it to them. They should have gone in and lived there. It was the *Israelites’ idea to send men ahead in order to discover what was there. (Deuteronomy 1:20-25).
These men were leaders. But they were different leaders from the leaders in the lists for the *census (Numbers chapters 1, 2, 7 and 10). Probably, these men were younger and more healthy. They had to be able to walk a long distance.
There were 12 leaders. But 40 years later, only two of these leaders entered the *Promised Land with the *Israelites. The two leaders were Joshua and Caleb.
Verse 16 When Moses died, Joshua became the *Israelites’ leader. Before, he was called Hoshea, which means ‘(God) saves.’ Moses changed this name to Joshua, which means ‘the *LORD saves. The name Joshua (*Hebrew: Y’shua) included God’s name, Yahweh. God had told this name to Moses (Exodus 6:3).
Verses 17-20 The *Israelites were preparing to enter the country called Canaan. So they wanted to know several things about the land. They wanted to know whether many people lived there. They wanted to know if these people were strong or weak. Then they could prepare for any battles. Also, they wanted to know about the trees that grew there. Some kinds of trees had wood that they could use to build things. Other kinds of trees produced special oils. So they wanted to know if they could use the trees for themselves and for commerce.
‘It was time for *grapes to be ripe’ (verse 20). From this verse, we know that it was the end of the summer.
Verses 21-22 The 12 men travelled through the country called Canaan from the south to the north. They visited the city called Hebron. The graves of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were in this city. But the men did not seem to notice this. Instead, they noticed that the people were very tall. Also, they compared the city called Hebron with the city called Zoan (verse 22). Zoan was the capital city of the country called Egypt. Probably, they compared Zoan with Hebron because Hebron had many strong buildings too.
They noticed the size of the people and their city, as Moses had requested. But they did not seem to remember God’s promises that he would give this country to them.
Verses 23-24 The soil of the country was very good for crops. The men cut an enormous *bunch of *grapes as the proof. There was plenty of food and drink for everyone in the *Promised Land.
Verses 25-29 When the 12 men returned, they gave a report about the *Promised Land to Moses and the *Israelites. They started with good news. The soil could produce good crops. The men had brought some fruit to prove this.
But then they said some bad things about the *Promised Land. The people who lived there were strong and powerful. The buildings in their cities were strong, too, to protect these people from an attack. The men mentioned the different groups of people who lived in the country (verse 29). The men were speaking the truth, but their intentions were wrong. The men were trying to oppose God, who had given the *Promised Land to them. The country was good. But the men were giving reasons why they should not enter it. They did not want to obey God. In fact, they were persuading the people not to obey God, too.
The *sin of the people against God was becoming worse. In chapter 11, they had been greedy. In chapter 12, Miriam and Aaron had said bad things about Moses. And in chapter 13, the people were not obeying God. They were *rejecting the land that he had given to them.
Verses 30-33 Caleb encouraged them to enter the land. This was because he believed God’s promises. He was humble and he trusted God completely. With God, it is possible to do anything. But the people did not listen to Caleb.
The other men said more bad things about the *Promised Land. They said that the *Promised Land ‘seems to eat its inhabitants’ (verse 32). They meant that it was a difficult and dangerous place to live. The men also mentioned the *Nephilim, the giant people who lived on the earth before the big flood (Genesis 6:4). This would make the people become even more afraid. They felt very small. They forgot that God was bigger than all their problems!
When we have problems, it is easy to worry or to be afraid. Like the *Israelites, we need to remember that God will look after us. We must believe that he can help us. Like Caleb, we must trust him and we must obey him always.
Verses 1-6 Everyone in the camp became afraid to enter the country called Canaan. God wanted to give to them this land. But they did not want it. They complained again, as they had complained many times before. They had been afraid of the *Egyptian army when they had left the country called Egypt (Exodus 14:10-14). They had complained then. They had thought that they would die. Also, they had complained when they had no water to drink in the *desert (Exodus 15:22-27 and 17:1-7). Some of the people had complained at Taberah and God had sent fire (Numbers 11:1-3). They had complained about the *manna (Numbers 11:6).
We can learn something very important from this. When we have problems, we have a choice. We can cry out to God, or we can complain against him. We can ask for his help, or we can fight against him. The *Israelites made the wrong choice, not just once, but many times.
They did not trust God’s promise to give to them their own land. So they wanted to choose a new leader who would take them back to Egypt! They were opposing God and his special servant, Moses.
This situation upset Moses and Aaron very much. So they lay down with their faces on the ground. This showed that they respected God very much. They were praying. They knew that he was angry. They knew that he had to punish the people.
‘Joshua and Caleb tore their clothes’ (verse 6). The *Israelites used to tear their own clothes to show that they were very unhappy. Usually, people tore their clothes when someone had died. Joshua had not spoken when Caleb gave his report. But he showed that he was on Caleb’s side. Moses, Aaron, Caleb and Joshua all trusted God to give the *Promised Land to them. The rest of the *Israelites did not trust God.
Verses 7-10 But still Joshua and Caleb tried to encourage the people to trust God. They told them that the country was good. The *LORD would lead them all into the country called Canaan. But they had to do two things. They should not oppose God. Also, they should not be afraid of the people who lived in Canaan. God was with them. He would protect them. The people in Canaan had no protection. They would not be able to defend themselves against the *Israelites.
But the people did not believe Joshua and Caleb. Instead, they became more angry with them. They wanted to kill Moses, Aaron, Joshua and Caleb. Then suddenly, God appeared. All the *Israelites saw the cloud.
Verses 11-12 But when God spoke, he did not speak to the people. Instead, he spoke to his servant Moses about the people’s wicked behaviour. He was very angry because they did not trust him.
God had already done so many wonderful things to help the *Israelites. He had allowed 10 bad things to happen in the country called Egypt. This was so that the king would let the *Israelites leave (Exodus chapters 7-12). God had made the Red Sea separate into two parts, so that the *Israelites could walk through it (Exodus chapter 14). He had provided food and water for them in the *desert (Exodus chapters 16 and 17). But still they did not believe that he had power to give to them the *Promised Land.
God wanted to destroy *Israel suddenly. In other words, he intended to let a disease kill all the *Israelites. He had already allowed the *Egyptians’ *first-born sons to die in a similar manner. God wanted to make a new nation from Moses’ family. This was the second time that God had wanted to do this (see Exodus 32:10). The people in this new nation, like Moses and Aaron, would trust and obey God.
Verses 13-16 But Moses did not want God to start a new nation with his family. He was a really humble man! Instead, he worried that the people in Egypt and the other nations might say bad things about God. These other nations knew that the *Israelites were special to God. God spoke to the *Israelites. He looked after them. If God killed all the *Israelites, the other nations would not know the real reason. So they might say that God was not powerful enough. He could not do what he had promised. He could not lead his people into the *Promised Land.
Moses was not worried about what the other nations might say about him, or the *Israelites. He was worried that they might insult God.
Verses 17-18 Next, Moses described God’s special qualities. Moses referred to God’s own words in Exodus 34:6-7. God is kind. He forgives people even when they do not deserve it. He does not become angry quickly. But also he is *holy. He is fair. So he must punish people when they *sin. *Sin is serious. When a person *sins, it can affect their whole family and even their *descendants (Exodus 20:3-5).
The special word for ‘love’ in verses 18 and 19 means that God will keep his special promise (his *covenant) to his people, the *Israelites.
Some people think that, in the *Old Testament, God is always strict and angry. They think that, in the *New Testament, he is different! But God does not change. His character is the same always. He loves us always. But because he is fair, he must punish us for our *sins. So he sent his son Jesus to take the punishment that we all deserve. God loves us so much that he *sacrificed his only son! If we are sorry for our *sins, God will forgive us. He will not punish us, because Jesus had already received our punishment on our behalf.
Verse 19 Then, Moses remembered that already God had forgiven the *Israelites many times. He asked God to forgive them again. Moses knew God well. He knew that God could be very angry. But he also knew that God had forgiven the *Israelites before.
Verses 20-23 God listened to Moses. Moses’ words affected God. This encourages us all when we pray. Our prayers affect God, too. The words that we use are not important. But God knows what is in our hearts. If we are humble and honest, like Moses, God will answer our prayers.
God agreed to forgive the *Israelites. But this did not mean that they would escape from his judgement. So they would not receive the good things that he had promised. The people who had left the country called Egypt would never enter the *Promised Land.
The words ‘10 times’ (verse 22) might refer to the actual number of times that the people had not trusted God. Or it might just mean ‘too many times’!
Verse 24 However, Caleb was the exception to God’s judgement. He had remained loyal to God. So God would allow him to enter the *Promised Land. Also, God allowed Joshua to enter the *Promised Land. Both Joshua and Caleb had tried to persuade the people that the *Promised Land was a good place (verses 7-9). Joshua had remained loyal to God, too.
Verse 25 God told the *Israelites to turn back towards the Red Sea. They would not fight the *Amalekites or the *Canaanites. These were the people who lived in the country called Canaan.
They had wanted to die in the *desert or to return to the country called Egypt. It seemed that God had granted their request! They would wander in the *desert for nearly 40 years, until their *generation had all died. God would give the *Promised Land to their children, who had not *rejected him.
Verses 26-35 God repeated his judgement against the *Israelites. They had wanted to die in the *desert (Numbers 14:2). So they would get what they wanted. They would die in the *desert! God promised that this would happen.
Only Joshua and Caleb would enter the *Promised Land, because they had remained loyal to God. They had believed in God’s promises. The people had been afraid that their children would die (Numbers 14:3). They had not trusted God to protect their children. But God promised that he would look after their children. He would lead their children into the *Promised Land. But first, they would wander in the *desert for nearly 40 years. This was their parents’ fault. Their parents had not obeyed God. So they could not enter the *Promised Land until all their parents had died.
Verses 36-38 God had wanted to kill all the *Israelites immediately. But after Moses had prayed, God had let them live. However, the men who had said bad things about the *Promised Land died immediately. Verse 38 emphasises again that God did not punish Joshua and Caleb. This was because they trusted him.
Verses 39-45 The *Israelites had not learned anything from their mistakes. Again, they did not obey God. They did not turn back to the *desert. Instead, they decided to enter the country called Canaan without Moses or God!
They said that they should not have complained against God. Perhaps they thought that God would help them again. But Moses warned them that God was not on their side (verse 43). The people should have been afraid. But they were not afraid.
The people who lived in Canaan defeated the *Israelites. This happened because the *Israelites had not obeyed God. In fact, they had done the opposite of what God had told them to do. Hormah was a village on the southern borders of Canaan (see Joshua 15:30).
Verses 1-2 Some people think that it is strange to interrupt the story with another list of rules. This chapter is similar to some chapters in the first part of the book, before the *Israelites began their journey. So it seems as if nothing bad has happened!
But there is a possible reason why this chapter is here, at this place in the book. It reminds us that God had promised the land to the *Israelites’ children. Therefore, they had to prepare for the time when their children would live in it. They had to know God’s rules, so that they could tell their children. God was punishing the *Israelites. But also, he was promising them that their children would live in the country called Canaan.
Still, the *Israelites were the people whom God had chosen to belong to him. These rules and laws showed that they had to live as God’s people in the *Promised Land. If they *sinned, they had to offer *sacrifices. Then God would forgive their *sins and he would *bless them.
Verses 3-16 When the people burned an animal as a *sacrifice, they also had to offer grain, *olive oil and wine. The people burned only some of the *grain offering. They gave the rest to the priests. They poured the wine over the *altar.
The smell from these *sacrifices pleased God (verses 3, 6-7, 10). People offered them to show that they were God’s people. They wanted to show God that they loved him. They wanted to thank him for his good gifts.
Verses 17-21 This rule reminded the *Israelites again about their children’s good future in the country called Canaan. They would produce crops there. God told them to give to him some of the first dough (a mixture of flour, oil and water) that they made after each harvest.
God would provide food for them. So they had to offer some food to him in order to thank him. We must never forget that God provides our food, too. We should remember to pray to him before we eat. We should always thank him for our food.
Verses 22-29 The *Israelites had many rules and laws. It was easy to do something wrong by accident. So if all the people, or even just one person *sinned by accident, they had to offer a *sacrifice.
Verses 30-31 The *Hebrew words in these verses refer to proud people who opposed God. These wicked people understood what God wanted them to do. But they refused to obey his rules. They *rejected him. So they did what they wanted to do. This was a very serious matter. They were *blaspheming against God. And they were not sorry for their *sins. They would not *repent. So God could not forgive them. These wicked people did not have the protection of God. They did not belong to him. They could never benefit from his special promises to his people. He had separated them from his people for all time.
Verses 32-36 This passage provides an example of a person who was *sinning *defiantly. He was opposing God’s laws on purpose. The *Sabbath was (and it is still) a very special day for the *Jews. They did no work. This was because God had told them to rest.
One of the 10 most important rules that God gave to Moses was about the *Sabbath (Deuteronomy 5:12). God told the people to remember always that the *Sabbath was a *holy day. All the people had to rest. God did not want them to work. On the *Sabbath, he wanted them to remember that he had rescued them from the *Egyptians. He wanted them to remember that they belonged to him.
It was a very serious crime to work on the *Sabbath. Every *Israelite knew this. The punishment was death for anyone who worked on the *Sabbath (Exodus 31:15; 35:2-3). But ‘nobody knew what to do’ about this man (verse 34). They did not know whether he had *sinned *defiantly. Perhaps he had not realised that it was the *Sabbath. Or perhaps he had a mental illness, so he was not able to understand about God’s laws. Because of these or other reasons, the man may not have *sinned *defiantly. The man was clearly guilty because of his actions. But only God knew whether he had *blasphemed. Only God knew whether he had *sinned *defiantly.
God told Moses that they had to punish the man. He had *sinned *defiantly. The man knew God’s rules. But he had decided not to obey them. In other words, the man was *rebelling against God on purpose. The man was guilty of *blasphemy. The punishment for *blasphemy was death. So the people obeyed God’s rules (Leviticus 24:10-23).
It is important to realise that God wants to forgive all our *sin. He is eager to forgive; he does not want to punish us. But he will only forgive us if we *repent.
King David was another man who *sinned on purpose. He had sex with a married woman called Bathsheba. Afterwards, David did not want anyone to know about his *sin. So he caused the death of Bathsheba’s husband. And then David married Bathsheba. But David was guilty of *adultery and murder (2 Samuel chapter 11). God sent a *prophet to speak to David. And then David *repented. David’s prayer, when he confessed his *sin to God, is in Psalm 51.
The Bible says that David loved God with all his heart (for example, 1 Kings 11:4). And it says that David obeyed God completely (for example, 1 Kings 11:6). We can see that David was guilty of terrible *sins. And he *sinned on purpose. But God forgave David because David *repented.
Verses 37-41 Every *Israelite had to sew *tassels onto their clothes. Whenever they saw these *tassels, they should remember God’s laws. They should remember that they were God’s special people. They should remember his special promises to them. Therefore they would not want to think about their own selfish and greedy wishes and desires.
Blue was a special colour. A blue cloth covered the *Ark (Numbers 4:6). There were blue curtains in *God’s Tent. Also, kings often wore blue clothes. The blue string reminded the people that they belonged to God, the king of kings.
The next stories follow the passage about the *tassels for a reason. The people looked at the *tassels to remind them about God’s special promises to them. They were his special people. He had given his *Law to them. He had promised to give to them their own land. But it seems that Korah did not look at the *tassels. He did not want to think about God’s promises. Instead, he thought only about his own wishes and desires.
Moses and Aaron were leaders, but they were God’s servants, too. Korah did not want to serve God. He did not want to serve the people. He wanted to be a leader so that he would have power. So he opposed Moses and Aaron and he tried to become a leader himself.
Verses 1-3 Korah was from Levi’s *tribe. His duties were to help the priests. He was from Kohath’s *clan. So he looked after the most *sacred objects in *God’s Tent (Numbers 4:1-15). He had a very important job. But he was not content with this. He wanted to be a priest. But he did not want to be a priest for the right reasons. Probably, he thought that it was a more important job. And he wanted more power and authority (Numbers 16:10).
He persuaded 250 other important leaders to join him. Then he went to Moses. But he did not say that he wanted to be a priest. Instead, he said that all the *Israelites were holy. They were all God’s people. He said that Moses and Aaron were not more important or holy than any other *Israelite. He did not care that God had given special authority to Moses and Aaron. Korah was jealous of Moses and Aaron. He saw that they had power over the people. It seems that he wanted to have that same power. So he *rebelled against them.
Verse 4 Moses did not argue with Korah. Instead, he prayed to God. He trusted God to help him.
Verse 5 When Moses spoke, he spoke God’s words. Moses knew that God had chosen him to lead the *Israelites. God would prove it to them.
Verses 6-7 Moses told Korah and his *followers to fill some pans with coals and *incense. Only priests had the right to carry these pans with fire and *incense in them. So Moses was giving a challenge to them. (To give a challenge to someone means to invite that person to prove something.)
Verses 8-11 Moses reminded Korah and his *followers that Levi’s *tribe had special responsibilities. Already God had chosen them to work for him. But this did not satisfy them. Korah wanted more. He wanted to be a priest. He wanted to do a more important job for God. But really, he was God’s enemy! When he and his *followers opposed God’s priest, Aaron, they were opposing God. Moses and Aaron had not done anything wrong. God had chosen them to do their special jobs.
Verses 12-14 Dathan and Abiram were not with Korah. Probably, they were in their tents still. They refused to go to Moses. Instead, they sent a message to him. They complained that Moses had not brought them to the *Promised Land. They even said good things about the country called Egypt. But they did not really believe that their lives in Egypt were good. They said these things on purpose, to insult God’s *Promised Land. They were blaming Moses, God’s servant, because they were in the *desert still. But they were not just insulting God’s servant. They were saying that God’s promises were lies. Therefore, they were insulting God. This was *blasphemy.
Verse 15 Moses had been very patient with these men. But he became angry when they insulted him. He had been a fair and responsible leader always. He had never stolen anything from them. He had not hurt anyone. But he did not argue with them. Instead, he talked to God.
Verses 16-17 Moses wanted to prove which men God had chosen as his priests. God allowed only priests to offer *incense to him. So it seemed that Korah and his *followers wanted to be priests! So Moses told them all to offer *incense in *God’s Tent. Then they would see whether God allowed them to do this.
Verses 18-24 But God would not allow them to do this! They were proud. They wanted power and authority that God had not given to them. So God decided that he would act against them.
God said he would kill all the people. But Moses and Aaron asked God not to punish everyone because of Korah’s *sin. So God said he would punish only Korah, Dathan and Abiram and their families.
Verses 22-35 Moses and Aaron’s prayers saved all the people from death. It seems that Korah had left his 250 *followers. He was standing next to Dathan and Abiram. Moses told the people to move away from the tents of these three wicked men.
The terrible thing that happened next was God’s punishment. It was ‘something new’ (verse 30). Moses wanted everyone to know this. Nobody had seen anything like it before. The ground opened up and the wicked men went down alive into a hole in the ground. The *Israelites understood that these people were going to *Sheol. This was God’s judgement on them.
The *Israelites used the word *Sheol to describe the place where people go after death. Of course, the person’s body remains in the grave. But the person’s spirit does not remain in the body after death. So people would say that the person’s spirit was in *Sheol. For a wicked person, the idea of *Sheol included the idea of punishment. A wicked person would go to a terrible place that is dark and far away from God. The *Israelites actually saw when Korah, Dathan and Abiram suddenly disappeared into this dark place! And everyone was very afraid.
Then, God punished Korah’s 250 *followers. He sent a fire to kill them.
This is a very sad story. These men had opposed God. They had opportunities to *repent. But they continued to oppose God. So God punished them. But God did not kill Korah’s sons (Numbers 26:11). They had not joined their father to oppose Moses and Aaron. Their *descendants wrote many psalms (songs about God that people use to *worship him). The Book of Psalms is in the *Old Testament. See, for example, Psalms 84, 85, 87 and 88.
But the *Jews remembered Korah as a wicked man who opposed God (Jude 11).
Verses 36-40 The fire had burned the 250 men until they became ashes. God gave instructions that Eleazar had to collect the pans. The pans had not burned because the people had made them from *bronze. These pans were holy because the men had used them to offer *incense to God. Eleazar used the *bronze from the pans to make a cover for the *altar. This cover would always remind the *Israelites about how God had punished Korah’s *followers. They would remember that God allowed only his priests to offer *incense to him.
Verses 41-50 Again, the people complained against Moses and Aaron. The people blamed them for the deaths of Korah’s *followers. But the cloud appeared again over *God’s Tent. God showed the people that he was on Moses’ and Aaron’s side. He was angry with the people who opposed them still. He wanted to punish the people. So he told Moses and Aaron to move away from the people.
A bad disease began to spread quickly. It was as if God had allowed an evil spirit to start the disease. (Evil spirits work for the devil. They are alive but we cannot see them.) Aaron offered *incense to God so that God would forgive the people. God accepted the *incense that he offered. God forgave the people’s *sins and the disease stopped. It stopped spreading at the spot where Aaron stood. He stood between the dead people and the people who had not yet got the disease.
Verses 1-13 This is the third story to show that Aaron was God’s *High Priest. These sticks were not branches that people had just cut off a tree. They were the special sticks that the leaders carried. The sticks were dead. Leaves did not grow on them.
Each leader wrote his name on his stick. So there could not be a mistake about whose stick had started to grow leaves.
Moses put all the sticks close to the *Ark. He returned the next day to collect the sticks. Aaron’s stick had leaves, flowers and nuts on it! God had made a dead stick alive again. This proved that he had chosen Aaron to be his *High Priest. Nobody could doubt it. God told Moses to keep Aaron’s stick in front of the *Ark always.
The *tassels on the *Israelites’ clothes reminded them to obey God’s *Law (Numbers 15:37-41). The cover on the *altar reminded them that they must never oppose God (Numbers 16:36-40). Aaron’s stick reminded them that God had chosen Aaron and his family to be his only priests.
God did not want the people to die. And they would not die if they obeyed God’s *Law. But the people said that this would happen anyway. They had become very afraid. So they said this to show their despair because so many people had died.
Verses 1-7 God had already provided protection for the people. They could not go near to *God’s Tent by accident. Levi’s *tribe guarded *God’s Tent so that this should not happen (Numbers 8:19).
God spoke to Aaron about this. It was unusual for God to speak to Aaron alone. Usually, Moses gave Aaron instructions from God. But Aaron had special responsibilities as the *High Priest. God reminded Aaron about the duties of the priests and also the duties of Levi’s *tribe.
God did not allow Levi’s *tribe to do any of the priests’ duties. If anyone from Levi’s *tribe came too near to the *sacred objects, God would punish both the priests and the people from Levi’s *tribe. It was the priests’ fault if this happened. They had to check that Levi’s *tribe did only their own jobs.
Verses 8-20 God did not allow the priests to own any property or land. Instead, he promised to provide what they needed by means of the people’s gifts to him (verse 20).
This passage describes which parts of the *sacrifices and *offerings belonged to the priests.
There were two types of *offerings:
1. The ‘most holy things’ (verses 8-9). These were the *sin offering, the *guilt offering and the *grain offering. God allowed only the priests to eat parts of these *offerings.
2. The ‘holy things’ (verses 11-18). The priests could share parts of these *offerings with their families. But anyone who ate them had to be *clean (verses 11 and 13). This was because people had offered the food to God first.
‘Everything that the *Israelites have completely given to me’ (verse 14). Usually, this phrase meant the things that the *Israelites had taken during a war (compare with Leviticus 27:28-29; Joshua 6:18-19; 1 Samuel 15:21).
Also, the priests received money. This money was the payments for the *first-born sons and also the *first-born male animals that were *unclean (see Numbers 3:41).
The people did not give their *first-born sons to the priests. Instead, they paid 5 pieces of silver. This was the same amount of money as a person would earn in six months. The priests could not *sacrifice *unclean animals. So they received a payment for every *first-born animal that was *unclean, too.
By this means, God promised to provide everything that the priests and their families needed.
Verses 21-24 Levi’s *tribe did an important job. Their job was dangerous sometimes. They looked after the *sacred objects. They carried the parts of *God’s Tent when the *Israelites travelled. Also, Levi’s *tribe had to guard *God’s Tent so that the other *Israelites did not come too near. If this happened, it was the fault of Levi’s *tribe. So Levi’s *tribe received a punishment, too.
But, like the priests, God did not allow Levi’s *tribe to own land or property. Instead, he gave to them a part of the things that belonged to him.
In ancient *Israel, people gave one-tenth of their crops and animals to God. Both Abraham and Jacob had done this (Genesis 14:20; 28:22). But it was a new rule that Levi’s *tribe must receive it.
Verses 25-32 Levi’s *tribe helped the priests. They were not farmers, like the other *Israelites. They did not receive wages for their work. But they did have an income. Their income was one-tenth of the other *Israelites’ food and drink. The other *Israelites had to give to Levi’s *tribe the best part of their food and drink.
Then Levi’s *tribe had to give one-tenth to God of what they received. They had to give to God the best part. The rest belonged to them.
In *Jewish *Law, *sin could be *unintentional, *intentional or *defiant. For example, a person could become *unclean in many ways (see Leviticus chapters 11 to 15). It was impossible to avoid this in daily life. So this *sin was *unintentional. But, because the first man Adam *sinned, his punishment was death. And Adam was every person’s *ancestor, so his punishment affected every person. Therefore, a person who became *unclean had to make themselves *clean by means of a special ceremony and a *sacrifice.
*Intentional *sins were *sins that people did on purpose. For example, to kill someone was an *intentional *sin. The person knew that it was wrong. A person had to ask God to forgive them. There was no *sacrifice for this type of *sin.
*Defiant *sin was *blasphemy. God could not forgive that person because they did not *repent. The punishment was death.
It is easy to understand why *intentional and *defiant *sins are wrong. God’s 10 rules are about these types of *sin (Exodus 20:1-17). They are commands that are for all people at all times. But *unintentional *sins are more difficult to understand. God gave rules about such *sin, but the rules did not have a natural explanation. They were for the *Jews only.
To touch a dead body was an *unintentional *sin. People who had touched a dead body had to make themselves *clean. This chapter describes what they had to do.
Verses 1-10 The first part of the chapter describes the first part of the ceremony. It was not a *sacrifice. Here are some of the differences between this ceremony and a *sacrifice:
1. This animal was female.
2. People killed it outside the camp. It was not like a *sacrifice that people killed in front of *God’s Tent. The *Hebrew word for ‘kill’ (verse 3) did not mean ‘to *sacrifice’.
3. An ordinary person, not a priest, killed the animal.
4. People did not collect the blood and pour it on the *altar. Instead, the people burned the blood with the rest of the cow’s body. The *Hebrew word for ‘burn’ (verse 5) was not the same word that people used about *sacrifices.
The priest put cedar wood, hyssop and red wool into the fire. They offered them to God. Cedar is a type of tree and hyssop is a type of plant. People used these things to make people and houses *clean (Leviticus 14:1-7 and 14:48-53).
This ceremony was very important. So the priest and his helper had to wash themselves afterwards. Also, they had to wash their clothes. The *Hebrew word for ‘wash clothes’ (verses 7, 8 and 10) meant also ‘wash away *sins from oneself’ in Psalms 51:2 and Jeremiah 2:22.
Someone put the ashes outside the camp. The ashes were ready then for the *Israelites to mix with water. They used the ashes for the ceremony that God described to Moses next (verses 11-22).
Verses 11-22 The first part of chapter 19 gives instructions about how to prepare special water and ashes. If a person touched a dead body, they became *unclean. Of course, the *Israelites had to touch dead bodies. There were thousands of people in the camp, including both young and old people.
But anyone who touched a dead body had to follow these instructions. It was a very serious matter if anyone refused to do this. That person was *unclean. Anything that an *unclean person touched became *unclean, too. Therefore that person made the camp *unclean. So if the person refused to follow the instructions, he or she could not remain with the other *Israelites. The punishment might be death. Or it might be that the person had to leave the *Israelites permanently.
Also, these instructions were for people who had been in a tent with a dead body. People who had touched a human bone or a grave had to follow these instructions, too. Even the person who had splashed water on the *unclean person became *unclean. That person had to wash his or her clothes also. Afterwards, that person had to wait until evening to be *clean.
We do not have to wash in a special way in order to come near to God. After Jesus died as a *sacrifice on our behalf, these instructions were not necessary any longer. His blood makes us *clean inside our hearts and our spirits. But we must *believe in Jesus as our *Lord. We must believe that he died on our behalf. We must be sorry for our *sins. We must not want to *sin again. And we must invite Jesus into our lives.
Verse 1 The *Israelites arrived at the Zin *desert during the ‘first month’. This was the 40th year since they had started their journey. Miriam, Moses’ sister, died in Kadesh. She was over 120 years old. When Moses was a baby, Miriam had saved him from death (Exodus chapter 2). After the *Israelites had escaped across the Red Sea, Miriam led the women to thank God (Exodus chapter 15). She had helped her brothers to lead the *Israelites during their journey in the *desert. She had opposed Moses once and she had suffered a punishment for that (Numbers chapter 12). But she was a very great woman. We can be sure that Moses and Aaron were very sad about her death.
Verses 2-5 The *Israelites had no water. They wished that they had died suddenly, like some of the other *Israelites. They did not want to die slowly because they had no water. They cried out to Moses and Aaron because they were so desperate.
Verse 6 Moses did not argue with them. He went with Aaron to *God’s Tent to pray. This was what he did usually in this type of situation (Numbers 14:5; 16:4; 16:22; 16:45; 22:31).
God told them what to do. He told Moses to get his stick. Moses had used this stick to do God’s *miracles before (Exodus 7:20; 14:16; 17:6). But God did not tell Moses to hit the rock with the stick. Instead, God told Moses that he should just speak to the rock. Moses would order the rock to provide water, and the rock would obey.
Verses 7-13 It was nearly time to enter the *Promised Land. But still there were problems. It seems that Moses was tired and angry. Moses believed that God was able to provide water. But Moses was not patient enough. Instead, he acted suddenly. God had told him to speak to the rock. But Moses did not do this. Instead, he hit the rock twice with his stick.
God provided water from the rock anyway. However, he punished Moses and Aaron. He told them that they would not lead the *Israelites into the *Promised Land. They were the *Israelites’ chief leaders. But Moses had not obeyed God’s instructions. Moses had hit the rock. Due to Moses’ anger, God had not received honour. If Moses had spoken to the rock, the people would have seen the *miracle more clearly. This would have brought greater *glory to God. Moses and Aaron had *sinned, so they had to receive a punishment. But still God allowed them to be the *Israelites’ chief leaders.
God told Moses and Aaron that they did not believe in him (verse 12). This does not mean that they did not trust God. It means that they were not loyal to God. Moses had not obeyed God’s instructions. Instead, Moses acted because of his anger. Therefore Moses and Aaron did not let the people see God’s power. In other words, they did not show God’s true character to the *Israelites. And they did not show the *Israelites how *holy God is. So God punished them (verse 12).
This story is similar to another story in Exodus 17:1-7. That event in Exodus was the first time that the *Israelites complained about the lack of water. But there are several differences. The most important difference is that, in the Exodus story, God told Moses to hit the rock. In the Numbers story, God told Moses to speak to the rock only.
The incident in Exodus happened in Rephidim, not Kadesh. But the *Israelites called both places ‘Meribah’ (‘to complain’). God had provided water for them although they had complained. God was generous to them. They knew that they were wrong to complain. So they called the places ‘Meribah’ to show that they knew this.
Moses accepted his punishment. He did not argue about it. He continued to serve the people as their leader. But his punishment had to be severe. It taught the people that it was very important to obey God. Moses realised this (Deuteronomy 3:26).
Verses 14-21 The *Israelites were travelling north to the country called Moab (Numbers 33:48). In Moab, Moses would prepare the people to enter the *Promised Land. The road through Edom was the easiest way to Moab. It was called ‘the *king’s highway’. It was the main route for trade, so many people used it.
The people in Edom were the *descendants of Esau (Genesis chapter 36). The *Israelites were the *descendants of Jacob, Esau’s brother. So they shared the same *ancestors.
Probably, verses 14-17 were a letter that Moses wrote to the king of Edom. Moses asked the king to allow the *Israelites to travel through Edom. It was a typical official letter to a ruler. Moses had been a prince in the country called Egypt. So he would have known how to write official letters to other rulers.
Moses reminded the king that the *Israelites were his relatives. He wanted the king not to consider the *Israelites as enemies. Moses wanted the king to realise that the *Israelites did not intend to defeat Edom. They wanted only to pass through it on their way to Moab. Also, Moses reminded the king that God had rescued the *Israelites from the *Egyptians. This showed that God was helping the *Israelites. So the king of Edom should help them, too. He would not want to oppose God!
Moses promised that the *Israelites would stay on the *king’s highway. They would not take any of the crops or water. But the king refused to let the *Israelites pass through Edom. So Moses asked him again. Moses promised to pay for any water that the *Israelites and their animals drank. But still the king refused Moses’ request. He sent a large army to stop the *Israelites. The *Israelites could have fought this army. God had helped them to defeat their enemies before. But this was not part of God’s plan. So Moses decided not to fight them. Instead, the *Israelites went another way.
Many centuries later, the people from Edom helped the *Jews’ enemies. Those enemies attacked Jerusalem. Jerusalem was the *Jews’ most important city. When the *Jews tried to escape from Jerusalem, the people from Edom stopped them (Book of Obadiah; Psalm 137:7). But God punished the people from Edom. He allowed their enemies to defeat them completely. They had to leave their country.
Verses 22-29 God had said that Moses and Aaron would not enter the *Promised Land. This was their punishment because they had not followed God’s instructions at Meribah (Numbers 20:12).
God told Moses to go with Aaron and Eleazar up Hor mountain. This was because it was time for Aaron to die. He was 123 years old. It was the first day of the 5th month. It was nearly 40 years since the *Israelites had left the country called Egypt. (Numbers 33:38-39).
God did not kill Aaron. Aaron died of natural causes. God had *blessed him with a long life. Malachi 2:4-6 describes Aaron’s character. Aaron respected God. Aaron taught the truth and he did not lie. He led many people to turn away from *sin. He obeyed God.
Aaron was the *High Priest. God wanted Aaron’s son, Eleazar, to be the *High Priest after Aaron died. So God told Moses what to do. The *High Priest wore special clothes. God had told Moses how to make these clothes (Exodus 28:1-39). Moses had put the clothes on Aaron during a special ceremony, when Aaron became the *High Priest (Leviticus 8:7-9). God told Moses to remove these clothes from Aaron and to put them on Eleazar. This showed that Eleazar was the new *High Priest. Then Aaron died.
Moses and Eleazar came down from Hor mountain. The people saw that Eleazar was wearing the *High Priest’s clothes. So they knew that Aaron was dead. All the *Israelites mourned him for 30 days. (To mourn means to be sad after someone has died.) They respected him very much as their *High Priest and their leader.
adultery ~ when a man or a woman has sex with someone who is not their wife or husband.
altar ~ a special table where the priests burned animals or other gifts as a *sacrifice to God (or, to a false god).
Amalekite(s) ~ a group of people who lived in the southern part of the country called Canaan.
Ammonite(s) ~ a group of people who lived north of the Dead Sea, between the Arnon river and the Jabbok river.
Amorite(s) ~ a group of people who lived in the country called Canaan and on the east side of the Jordan river. The *Israelites defeated them in a battle.
Anakim ~ a group of very tall people who lived in the country called Canaan. People thought that the Anakim were the *descendants of the *Nephilim.
ancestor ~ a previous member of a family, especially someone who was important during a past century.
angel(s) ~ God’s servant who takes messages from God to people on the earth. Angels live with God in heaven.
anoint ~ to pour oil over a person. This shows that God has chosen that person for a special purpose.
Ark ~ a wooden box that contained things that were special to the *Israelites. God said that he would meet his people at the Ark. It was a *symbol that God was there in a special way.
BC ~ the period of time before Jesus was born.
believe (in) ~ to follow someone or something that you are sure is true.
blaspheme ~ to insult God.
blasphemy ~ an insult against God.
bless ~ 1. To ask God to do good things for a person or people. 2. God blesses us when he does good things for us. He guards us and he keeps us safe from evil things.
blessing(s) ~ a good thing or things that God does for us.
bodily discharge ~ liquid that comes out of the body.
bronze ~ a kind of metal.
bull(s) ~ the male animal that mates with a cow.
bunch ~ a group of things that join together. For example, a ‘bunch of *grapes’ means *grapes that are growing together.
burnt offering ~ an animal that the priests burnt on the *altar as a *sacrifice.
Canaanites ~ a group of people who lived in the country called Canaan.
capture ~ 1. to catch a person and to make that person your prisoner. 2. To take something from an enemy and to possess it.
celebrate ~ to do something special or to have a party on an important day or days.
census ~ an official list which records the number of people in a particular place.
Christ ~ a title for Jesus. It means ‘the person whom God *anointed’. This means that God chose him to save us from the results of our *sins.
Christian(s) ~ a person who follows Jesus *Christ. A Christian believes what Jesus taught.
church(es) ~ 1. All *Christians everywhere. 2. The members of a local group of *Christians.
clan(s) ~ a group of several families who are the relatives of each other.
clean ~ in the *Jewish religion, this means something or someone that God accepts. People had to be clean in order to approach *God’s Tent. People had to be clean to be in the *Israelites’ camp. There is no human way to explain what was clean or *unclean. We know only because God has shown us, in the Bible.
covenant ~ a special promise that God made to the *Israelites. The *Israelites had to remain loyal to God because of the covenant.
cross ~ two pieces of wood that someone has fixed together. The Romans fixed people to a cross in order to *execute them. (The Romans were people from the city called Rome. They ruled many countries during Jesus’ life on the earth.) Jesus died on a cross. The cross is now the sign of the *Christian *church.
curse ~ a declaration that something bad will happen. In the early books of the Bible, a curse was a type of *prophecy from God. This *prophecy described something bad that would happen in the future. To curse means to speak this *prophecy.
dedicate ~ to say that something belongs to someone for a special purpose.
dedication ~ a ceremony in order to *dedicate something.
defiant(ly) ~ a person is defiant if they refuse to obey. A person is defiant towards God if they oppose his authority.
descendant(s) ~ a future member of a family or a nation.
desert ~ a dry region, or a region where there is just a little water. A few wild plants are able to grow in some deserts. So people who are travelling can live in these deserts in their tents. And they can lead animals through the desert. The *Israelites lived in a desert for nearly 40 years.
donkey(s) ~ an animal like a small horse. It carries people and things.
Egyptian(s) ~ the people who lived in the country called Egypt.
execute ~ to kill a person legally because they are guilty of a crime.
festival(s) ~ like a party, when people *celebrate a special occasion or event.
first-born ~ the first child to be born to a mother; the oldest child in a family. The word can refer to animals as well as people.
follower(s) ~ a person who accepts another person as their guide and their leader.
frame(s) ~ something that people make with poles and bars in order to support something.
generation(s) ~ the word that describes a group of people who were born at a particular time.
glory ~ everything that makes God great and beautiful. A bright light that comes from God or Jesus to show that they are beautiful and *holy.
God’s Tent ~ a special tent that had two rooms. There were special objects in these rooms which included the *Ark. God’s Tent showed the people that God was living among them.
grain offering ~ an *offering of something that people made from grain.
gram ~ a measurement of weight today. 28 grams make one ounce. 1000 grams make one *kilogram.
grape(s) ~ a kind of fruit. People made wine from grapes.
guilt offering ~ an *offering for particular *sins (see Leviticus 5:14 to 6:7).
Harvest Festival ~ a *festival when the *Israelites thanked God for the grain harvest. In the *New Testament, this *festival is called ‘Pentecost’. (The *Festival of Shelters was a different *festival, when the *Israelites thanked God for the fruit harvest.)
Hebrew ~ the language of the *Jews.
High Priest ~ the most important priest.
Hittites ~ a group of people who lived in the country called Canaan.
holiness ~ a quality of God. Complete goodness. The opposite of *sin.
holy ~ what God is like. God’s character: perfect, completely good with nothing bad in it. Separate from *sin.
Holy Place ~ the bigger room in *God’s Tent.
Holy Spirit ~ God’s Spirit. The Holy Spirit is a person, but not human as we are. He lives and works for God. There is only one God. The Holy Spirit is God, with God the Father and God the Son. He comes to give to people the power to do what God wants.
holy war ~ a special war that God had ordered against *Israel’s enemies. Not all wars that *Israel fought were holy wars. Holy wars happened only until the *Israelites had *settled into the *Promised Land.
idol(s) ~ a false god; anything that people *worship instead of the real God.
incense ~ a substance that people make from plants. It has a good smell when people burn it.
inherit ~ to receive land or property when a relative dies.
inheritance ~ the land and property that relatives receive when a person dies.
intentional ~ when someone does something on purpose, this is intentional. They know what they are doing. And they mean to do it.
Israel ~ the *Israelites and their nation.
Israelite(s) ~ a *Jewish person; the people to whom God promised the nation called Israel.
Jebusites ~ a group of people who lived in the country called Canaan. Their city, Jebus, became Jerusalem, the capital city of the *Israelites (2 Samuel 5:1-9).
Jew(s) ~ a person who is from the family of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and their children.
Jewish ~ the word that describes a *Jew or anything that belongs to the *Jews.
keep a promise ~ to do what you have promised.
Kenite(s) ~ a group of people who lived among the hills south-west of the Dead Sea.
kilogram ~ 1000 *grams.
King’s highway ~ the road that travellers used in the country called Edom.
Law ~ the rules that God gave to Moses for the *Jews.
live ~ alive.
LORD ~ a special name for God that his people use. In *Hebrew, it is Yahweh. This name means something like ‘I am’ or ‘always alive’.
Lord ~ one who rules. God is the Lord who rules everyone.
lots ~ pieces of wood or stones that people used to divide territory or to make a decision. The lots seemed to make the decision by chance. But people believed that, in fact, God had made the decision.
manna ~ food that God provided for the *Israelites when they were in the *desert.
Midianite(s) ~ a name for any of the people who lived in the Sinai *desert and the *deserts east of the Jordan river. Probably, the *Moabites’ king ruled some of these people.
miracle(s) ~ wonderful works that only God can do by his power.
Moabite(s) ~ the people who lived in the country called Moab.
Most Holy Place ~ the smaller room in *God’s Tent. The *Ark was in that room.
murderer(s) ~ a person who murders another person or people.
Nazirite(s) ~ someone who promised to give themselves to God completely for a particular period of time. (See Numbers chapter 6.)
Nephilim ~ the giant people who lived on the earth before the flood (Genesis 6:4).
New Testament ~ the last part of the Bible, which the writers wrote after the life of Jesus on the earth. It is about the things that Jesus did. And it is about the things that he taught. It is also about the *church and what *Christians should believe.
occupy ~ to use military force in order to possess territory. To live in the territory of an enemy whom you have defeated.
offering(s) ~ a gift that people offer to God.
Old Testament ~ the first part of the Bible; the *Jews’ holy book. The writers wrote this before the life of Jesus.
olive(s) ~ a type of fruit. People made oil out of olives.
olive oil ~ oil that people make from fruit called *olives. They use the oil to cook food. Also, they put it on their hair and their bodies.
ox/oxen ~ a strong farm animal; a type of cow or *bull. (Oxen is the plural of ox.)
Passover ~ an important holy day for the *Jews. They ate a special meal on this day every year. This was to remember that their families were *slaves in the country called Egypt. And, that God had freed them.
pasture ~ land where grass grows that is suitable for animals such as cows and sheep.
peace ~ a calm and content attitude, even when there are problems.
peace offering ~ an *offering that a person makes to be at *peace with God. God gave people the rules about *offerings so that they could receive *blessing from him (Exodus 20:24).
Philistines ~ a group of people who lived near the south coast of the country called Canaan.
prey ~ any animal that another animal has killed.
Promised Land ~ the country that God promised to give to Abraham and his *descendants.
prophecy/prophecies ~ words and messages from God.
prophesy ~ to speak or to write God’s words.
prophet(s) ~ a person who hears God’s words and tells them to other people. Some prophets wrote books in the *Old Testament. Sometimes, they told about future events before those things happened.
purify/purification ~ to make something or someone *clean.
rebel ~ to oppose or to fight against a leader or a government.
redeemer of blood ~ a person who had the right and the responsibility to do certain acts on a person’s behalf, usually their closest relative. If a person murdered someone, the dead person’s redeemer of blood had the right to kill the *murderer.
reject ~ not to accept or not to believe in someone or something.
repent ~ to decide not to do bad things that you did before. To decide to do what God wants.
ritual ~ when people follow particular instructions in a particular order, this is called a ‘ritual’.
rope(s) ~ thick string.
Sabbath ~ the Sabbath was the 7th day of the week (Saturday) which was special to the *Jews. It was the day on which the people had to rest from work (Exodus 20:8-11).
sacred ~ special for God. ‘Sacred’ means that something is separate from other things, for God’s purposes only.
sacrifice(s) ~ a gift to God (or, to a false god). God gave the rules about sacrifices so that people could receive *blessing from him (Exodus 20:24). The *Jews killed animals as sacrifices. Also, the word means ‘to make a sacrifice’.
safe town(s) ~ a special town where a person could go if they had killed somebody by accident.
Saviour ~ Jesus, who saves us from the results of our *sins.
settle ~ to decide to stay in a place and to make a home there.
Sheol ~ a word that the *Israelites used to describe death. Another word for ‘the grave’.
shepherd(s) ~ a person who looks after sheep as their job.
sin ~ the nature of all people since Adam chose not to obey God. People’s lives are not acceptable to God because of sin. ‘Sins’ are states, attitudes and acts that are not acceptable to God. A person sins whenever that person is guilty of a sin.
sinner ~ someone who *sins.
sin offering ~ an *offering that God accepts in place of a *sinner’s *sin. The opportunity to give an *offering is God’s gift. In this way, a person can know that God forgives him or her.
slave(s) ~ a person who has to work hard for someone else. The *Egyptians forced the *Israelites to make bricks (Exodus chapter 5) and to build cities (Exodus 1:11). Also, the *Israelites had to work in the fields on behalf of the *Egyptians. But the *Egyptians allowed them to keep their own animals and to produce their own crops.
Spirit ~ the *Holy Spirit.
spiritual ~ a description of something that belongs to the spirit rather than to physical things.
spoils ~ things that soldiers take from their enemies after they have defeated them.
stand ~ an object that supports another object, for example, a lamp.
symbol(s)/symbolic ~ a thing that points to something else and reminds us of it, especially an idea or a quality. Something that is a symbol is called ‘symbolic’.
tassel(s) ~ a *bunch of threads that people tie together at the top. (Threads are thin pieces of material, often cotton. People use them to sew.)
trial ~ the time when a prisoner is in a legal court. The purpose of the trial is to decide whether the person is guilty of a crime.
tribe(s) ~ a group of *clans who live together and who have the same *ancestor.
trumpet(s) ~ a musical instrument that people blow.
unclean ~ in the *Jewish religion, an unclean person could not go near to *God’s Tent or into the *Israelites’ camp, depending on the type of *uncleanness. There is no human way to explain what was *clean or unclean. We know only because God has shown us, in the Bible.
uncleanness ~ the state of something that is *unclean.
unfaithful ~ a person is unfaithful if you cannot trust them. A wife or husband is unfaithful if they have sex with another person.
unintentional ~ when someone does something by accident, this is unintentional. They do not realise whether they are doing something wrong.
vine ~ a plant that grows *grapes.
vineyard(s) ~ a farm where people produce *grapes.
vision(s) ~ a dream that God gives to someone when that person is awake.
wine offering ~ an *offering of wine that the priests poured on the *altar.
worship ~ to give honour to God and to thank him. Sometimes, people worship false gods.
yeast ~ a substance that people use to make bread. It makes the bread rise.
Tokunboh Adeyemo (general editor) ~ Africa Bible Commentary ~ Zondervan
Pat Alexander (editor) ~ The Lion Encyclopedia of the Bible ~ Lion Publishing
Pat & David Alexander (editors) ~ The New Lion Handbook to the Bible ~ Lion Publishing
Ronald B Allen (general editor - Frank E Gaebelein) ~ The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Volume 2 ~ Zondervan
W H Bellinger, Jr. ~ New International Biblical Commentary, Leviticus, Numbers ~ Paternoster Press
D Guthrie & J A Motyer (editors) ~ New Bible Commentary (Third Edition) ~ Inter-Varsity Press
Walter Riggans (general editor, John C L Gibson) ~ The Daily Study Bible, Numbers ~ The Saint Andrew Press
Merrill C Tenney (general editor) ~ The Zondervan Pictorial Bible Dictionary ~ Zondervan
Gordon J Wenham (general editor, Professor D J Wiseman) ~ Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries, Numbers ~ Inter-Varsity Press
Warren W Wiersbe ~ Be Counted, Living a Life that Counts for God, An Old Testament Study – Numbers ~ Chariot Victor Publishing
Bible versions: Contemporary English Version, The Good News Bible, New Century Version, New International Version, The Amplified Bible
© 2009, Wycliffe Associates (UK)
This publication is written in EasyEnglish Level B (2800 words).
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