Bible Query from
Numbers

Q: In Num, why is this book called "Numbers" in English?
A: This name is based on Greek Septuagint translation (arithmoi), from which we get the English word "arithmetic". This name was due to the census tallies in the book. The Hebrew name is taken from the first verse "In the desert". The fact that some people can feel lost in the wilderness when it comes to math, is not relevant!
 

Q: In Num, what is the main point of this book?
A: One can see the focus of Numbers by simply remembering that it is the book with many genealogies and censuses. The main point deals with individual and corporate responsibility before God. God holds people individually guilty for their own sins, but people often suffer the consequences for what others do too.
For some, the Book of Numbers is both an offense and an enigma. God is the most loving being in the universe, but some imagine God as nothing but love. Numbers is one book that those who would look that there is more to God than this. God is holy, and God has wrath too.
 

Q: In Num, what is an outline of this book?
A: There are various ways to outline this book. Most commentators agree on the small sections of a chapter or so, but disagree on which small sections stand alone and which are part of larger sections. Here is one outline that stresses what we can learn and apply from Numbers to our lives, when we metaphorically "Go beyond the peak: The wilderness from Sinai to the Promised Land."
I. 19-Day Sinai Training (Num 1-10:10)
A. Placement of the people (Num 1-4)

1. Counting the first census: 603,550 (Num 1)
2. Commands and obligations (Num 2-4)
B. Purity of the people (Num 5-10:10)
1. Purity and jealousy (Num 5)
2. Separation of a Nazirite (Num 6:1-21)
3. Temple duties (Num 6:22-7:89)
4. Levite duties (Num 8)
5. God's Provisions: Passover, the Cloud, and the silver trumpets (Num 9-10:10)
II. Handling opposition within: the 34-year long wilderness journey (Num 10:11-20:13)
A. From Sinai to Kadesh (Num 10:11-12:16)
1. Setting out from Sinai (Num 10:11-36)
2. Fire at Taberah, quail, and plague (Num 11)
3. Miriam and Aaron oppose Moses (Num 12)
B. Catastrophe at Kadesh (Num 13-20:13)
1. The 12-spy report; doubts & delays (Num 13)
2. Rebellion leads to defeat (Num 14)
3. Offerings and remembrance tassels (Num 15)
4. Korah's revolt among the leaders (Num 16)
5. Aaron's staff of vindication, a sign for rebels (Num 17)
6. Priestly duties and support (Num 18)
7. The red heifer and cleansing water (Num 19)
8. The sins of Moses (Num 20:1-13)
III. The plains of Moab: Handling opposition: (Num 20:14-25:18)
A. Handling estrangement and death (Num 20:14-27)

1. Edom: when relatives refuse (Num 20:14-21)
2. Death of Aaron (Num 20:22-27)
B. Learning to do fight different kinds of battles (Num 21)
1. Arad's little attack (Num 21:1-3)
2. How to fight snake poison (Num 21:4-9)
3. Fighting Sihon and Og (Num 21:10-35)
C. Moab against Israel (Num 22-25)
1. Balaam's cursing to blessing (Num 22-24)
2. Seduction and plague (Num 25)
IV. Preparation for the Promised Land (Num 26-36)
A. Num 26 Counting the 2nd census: 601,730
B. Obligations: family, public, and personal (Num 27-30)
C. Taking the Transjordan (Num 31-32)

1. Judgment on the Midianites (Num 31)
2. Less than the best: stopping short of the Promised Land (Num 32)
D. Covering past ground and future groundwork (Num 33-36)
1. Importance of retracing the past (Num 33)
2. Set future boundaries beforehand (Num 34)
3. Know your places of refuge (Num 35)
4. Choices to preserve the legacy (Num 36)
 

Q: In Num 1 and Ex 1, how could the Israelites have such a high birth rate to have 602,000 men from 67 men in 430 years?
A: That would be 2.15% per year, which is not that high an annual population growth rate. For reference, the 1983 annual population growth rates of New Guinea, Indonesia, and Malaysia was 2.5%. The 1983 annual population growth rate of central America was about 3.16%. Also for reference, the annual birth rates of New Guinea, Indonesia, and Malaysia were 4.2%, 4.15%, and 3.07%, respectively. The annual birth rate of Mexico was 4.2%, and other central American countries ranged from 3.5% to 4.86% per year.
If the Israelites were free from war and famine for 430 years, and they had a longer lifespan (as in Exodus 6:16-20), they might grow by 2.15% due to natural reasons alone. A mixed multitude of non-Israelites went with them (Exodus 12:38, Leviticus 24:10) and God also promised to increase Abraham's numbers in Genesis 17:2. See 1001 Bible Questions Answered p.311-312 for more on the mixed multitude.
 

Q: In Num 1 and Ex 1, how could the Sinai Peninsula support over 600,000 men plus women and children?
A: The skeptical Asimov's Guide to the Bible p.166 says this is implausibly large. Even with more abundant rainfall back then, it still could not support them, as Exodus 16:3 indicates. That is why the miracles of the manna and quail (Exodus 16) were not merely helpful, but necessary. See also When Critics Ask p.96 and p.131 for more info and Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties p.129-134 for a particularly extensive answer.
 

Q: In Num 1, could the number be 30,000 instead of 600,000 men?
A: No. This theory was first published around 1955 to translate the Hebrew word ('eleph) as "clan" instead of "thousand" However, when this word is used, the following words are hundreds and then tens and ones. Furthermore, the total number, 600,000+, is consistent with reading ('eleph) as thousand, and not consistent with reading ('eleph) as clan. See Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties p.129-134 for more info.
 

Q: In Num 1 and Num 3, what is a short answer to why there was such a relatively low number of firstborn sons?
A: The number, 22,273 probably just counted those born in the two years that had wandered in the wilderness. The Passover already covered the others. Alternately, Pharaoh might have had many firstborn sons killed in Egypt. See the next question for more info.
 

Q: In Num 1 and Num 3, why was there such a relatively low number of firstborn sons?
A: First the basic facts, less-relevant info, and then the answer.
Basic facts: Numbers 1:46 and Numbers 2:32 say that in the first census, there were 603,550 non-Levite males who could serve in the army twenty years and older. Numbers 3:42 says the number of firstborn males, one month and older was 22,273. This gives a ratio of 27:1. The ratio could be considered even higher, as the first number is 20+ healthy males, and the second numbers is one month+ males.
Less-relevant info: While there is a lower percentage of firstborn sons when there are large families, that is probably not the main reason for the high ratio. Of course, God could have miraculously altered the ratio of females to males, but the Bible never claimed that God performed that miracle, and an appeal to that miracle is unnecessary to satisfactorily answer the question.
The answer has three parts.
Remember why this was done. All the firstborn who left Egypt were already "covered" by the Passover blood, so there was no need to sacrifice for the same firstborn twice. The Egyptians who were not covered already had their firstborn killed. Thus there was no need for a sacrifice or exchange of these firstborn. The need for an exchange or payment for the firstborn was only for those males who were born in the period after they left Egypt.
How long was this period? Numbers 1:1 says the first census was taken on the first day of the second month of the second year after they left Egypt. Since males under one month were excluded, that would be the firstborn males born in a 24 month period. The population growth rate of the Israelites in Egypt appeared to be around 2.15 % per year, and the annual birth rate of countries today with a similar annual growth rate varies from 3 to 4.86%. (See the discussion on Numbers 1 and Exodus 1 for these numbers.) In two years, 603,550 males and a 3 to 4.86% birth rate would be expected to produce between 37,000 and 61,000 more male infants, given an equal ratio of men to women. Of course deaths of babies less than two years old would make this figure less, but the fact that couples were might have been often separated by the men working on pyramids were now together all the time would perhaps more than offset the infant mortality.
While the 37,000 to 61,000 range of total males is actually about right for 22,273 firstborn males, given that some firstborn were probably killed when they were born in Egypt. (By the way, Exodus 13:12 shows that for man or animal, it is the firstborn, of the mother, not the father that is counted for dedication. The New Bible Dictionary p.423 says the same. (While inheritance was often counted as the firstborn of the father, that was inheritance, not offering.)
Pharaoh's decree: If you do not accept that the sacrifice was only for those born after leaving Egypt, but all firstborn males, then consider this: If Pharaoh's law was strictly enforced, there would be no firstborn Israelite males. While Exodus 1:15-20 says that Shiphrah and Puah let the firstborn boys live in Exodus 1:15-20, this was 80 years before the Exodus. Exodus is silent on whether the successors of Shiphrah and Puah had similar latitude in administering the midwives, especially during the times just prior to the Exodus.
Conclusion: It is doubtful somebody back in 1400 B.C. could have thought of all the mathematics and birth rates to concoct these numbers. The number of the firstborn serves as a validation of the accuracy of the census given the true record of the events.
See Bible Difficulties and Seeming Contradictions p.62-63 for a different answer.
 

Q: In Num 1, why did God have Moses just number the men?
A: Numbers 1:3,49 provides the answer. It was not all the males they were numbering, but the warriors. Those who could not fight, and Levites who should not fight, were excluded.
 

Q: In Num 1, in the second year of the Exodus, was the census taken in the second month, or the first month as Ex 40:2 [allegedly] implies?
A: The military census was in the second month. Four points to consider in the answer.
1. The counting by tribes for military purposes (Numbers 1:46) was done on the second month (Numbers 1:1-2).
2. While the Tabernacle (Tent of Meeting) was set up in the first month (Exodus 40:2), it does not say the tax for the Tabernacle, was collected immediately at that time.
3. If there was only one census count, in the second month, then of course the total number and the sum of the tribes would match.
4. If there were two census counts, one in the first month for the Tabernacle tax, and one in the second month for military purposes, the numbers would match because they were so close together.
See When Critics Ask p.97 for more info.
 

Q: In Num 1:2-42, is there any extra-Biblical evidence that some Israelites tribes were in Palestine long before the Exodus?
A: No. In the early part of the Twentieth century, some pointed to words in Ugaritic Epics that had similarities to the words Asher and Zebulun. K.A. Kitchen Ancient Orient and Old Testament p.71 says "The supposed references to Asher, Zebulun, etc., in the Ugaritic epics were proved non-existent long ago." In his footnotes, he mentions W.F. Albright BASOR 63 (1936) p.27-32 and BASOR 71 (1938) p.35-40. R. de Langhe Les Textes de Ras Shamra-Ugarit..., II 1945, p.469-519.
 

Q: In Num 2, where did the non-Israelite "mixed multitudes" mentioned in Ex 12:38, camp?
A: Some probably went their own way and left the company of the Israelites. Others of them undoubtedly camped on the outskirts of the Israelite camp, such as the blaspheming half-Israelite in Leviticus 24:10. If they could get the manna and quail too, it would be worthwhile. Still others probably lived among a particular Israelite tribe.
 

Q: In Num 3:12 and Num 18:15 (KJV), what does "opened the matrix" mean?
A: This means the one who opened the womb, in other words, the firstborn child.
 

Q: In Num 3:12, since the firstborn of all the tribes were to be given to the Lord, why was the entire tribe of Levi given to God instead?
A: Scripture does not say why the tribe of Levi was exchanged. Of course, since all were God's people anyway, God could establish things the way He wished. As a side note, in Geneses 47:7, Jacob prophesied that the tribe of Levi would be dispersed. See When Critics Ask p.97 for more info.
 

Q: In Num 3:13, how does God killing the firstborn Egyptians make the firstborn Israelites belong to God?
A: There is no logical requirement that it had to be that way. Scripture does not tell us why God made the choice to include that as part of the agreement between Him and His Covenant people. However, we can speculate on three reasons.
Past reminder: This custom would serve as an important reminder of their deliverance from Egypt.
Timeless truth: Everybody really belonged to God anyway, while God could have required this of everyone, He chose to just require it of some.
Future purpose: This practice could serve as some protection against them copying the Canaanite practice of sacrificing the firstborn children to idols.
 

Q: In Num 3:16-34, why were only Levite males counted?
A: The census was for the purpose of doing the physical work with the Tabernacle and sacrifices, and the men did that. See also the next question.
 

Q: In Num 3:16-34, why were Levites from one-month old counted, since males one-month old were not counted for the other tribes?
A: Scripture does not say. One possible reason might be that the ratio of men to young boys was not affected by war, since the Levites did not go to war.
 

Q: In Num 3:28, why do the totals not add up?
A: There likely is a copyist error here, copying 8,600 when it should have been 8,300. See The NIV Study Bible p.194 for more info.
 

Q: In Num 3:42-46 why does the percentage of firstborn males appear low?
A: Either this is the firstborn born in the wilderness, or Pharaoh had most of the firstborn in Egypt killed. See the discussion on Numbers 1 for the answer.
 

Q: In Num 3:48, why did they have to pay for the odd number?
A: God could deal with the Israelites however He wanted. God apparently desired to deal with them in a way they could understand.
 

Q: In Num 4:3, did the Levites start serving at age 30, or 25 in Num 8:24, or 20 in Ezra 3:8?
A: Numbers 8:24 says all Levites, 25 to 50 years old are to take part in the work in the Tent of Meeting.
Numbers 4:3 says to count the Kohathite men 30 to 50 years, "who come to serve in the work in the Tent of Meeting." It never said the 25 to 30 years old Kohathites did not serve, only not to count them. This might have been because the Levites had a period of apprenticeship.
In Ezra 3:8, when the exiles were building the Temple, the Levites 20+ years not to serve in the Temple, but to supervise the building of the Temple. The young age might have been a practical consideration due to the small number of Levites.
See When Critics Ask p.97-98, Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties p.134-135, Hard Sayings of the Bible p.164, and Bible Difficulties and Seeming Contradictions p.153-154 for more info.
 

Q: In Num 4:6, were the poles to be removed from the Ark of the Covenant, or were they to stay in the Ark as Ex 25:15 suggests?
A: Numbers 4:6 says the poles were [*] the ark when it was being transported. The word in [*] can mean fastened, inserted, or possibly adjusted.
Exodus 25:15 says the poles were not to depart from the ark. This could also mean the poles were not to be removed from the holes in the ark.
There are two possible answers.
1. When the ark was at rest, the poles were removed from the ark, but kept close by it.
2. The poles always remained in the holes of the ark, but they were adjusted and fastened before transport. See When Critics Ask p.98 and Haley's Alleged Discrepancies of the Bible p.242 for more info on the second answer.
 

Q: In Num 5:13-22, if all drank the same water, doesn't this seem superstitious?
A: Not at all. There was no natural cause why the guilty would swell and the innocent would not. God would supernaturally cause the difference. See When Critics Ask p.98-99 for more info.
 

Q: In Num 6:2, could a woman be a Nazirite?
A: Sure. Numbers 6:2 expressly teaches women could be Nazirites, too.
 

Q: In Num 6:5, since a Nazirite was not to cut his hair, and Paul said men should not have long hair in 1 Cor 11:4, could only bald men be male Nazirites?
A: First, Paul was talking about ordinary life, not the special vow of a Nazirite, because after writing 1 Corinthians, Paul himself paid the expenses of Nazirites in Acts 21:23-24. Second, Nazirite vows were not mentioned for non-Jews, including non-Jewish Christians. See When Critics Ask p.99-100 for more info.
 

Q: In Num 7:9, why did God have the things of the sanctuary carried on the backs of the men, when ox-drawn wagons could carry everything else?
A: God probably wanted this for two reasons.
Practical: Things get scratched and dinged less if they are carefully carried by people than if they are in a cart drawn by oxen that might travel in rough terrain.
Symbolic: This would be an illustration to the Israelites that the parts associated with the priestly worship were to be treated with respect, even when worship was not being conducted. In 1 Samuel Uzzah was killed by God when he touched the ark when it was being carried in a cart.
 

Q: In Num 8:17-19, why did God "swap" the Israelite firstborn for the Levites here?
A: Four points to consider for a possible explanation.
1. God as Creator can claim the right over the firstborn, second born, and all the born.
2. God's saying this served as a reminder that God rescued the firstborn of the Israelites during the Passover, when all the firstborn of Egypt were killed.
3. To serve as a reminder, God required the "sacrifice" of the firstborn of all the animals and people. Since people are not to be physically killed in any sacrifice, they could be given to the Lord's work for life.
4. Instead of the firstborn of Israel being given to the Lord's work for life, God had the Levites take their place.
 

Q: In Num 8:24, were all Levite men 25 years and older to come to take part in the work of the tent of meeting, or were all Levite men 30 years and older who came to work at the tent of meeting counted in the census, as Num 4:3 says?
A: This could be a scribal error, but The Expositor's Bible Commentary vol.2 p.770 suggests there could have been a five-year apprenticeship.
 

Q: In Num 8:24 were the Levites to take part in the temple work at 25 years old, or were the Levites who worked 20 years old as Ezr 3:8?
A: Both, because they refer to different things. First what is not the answer, and then the answer.
Not the answer: Numbers 8:24 gave the law for the Levites in Moses' time, and Ezra 3:8 says what Zerubbabel appointed Levites 20 years and older for the special circumstances in a different time. This is not the answer because it implies Zerubbabel ignored the Mosaic Law, and there is a much simpler explanation that does not require this.
The answer: A sacrifice helper is different than a construction worker. The regulations in Numbers 8:24 were for Levites 25-50 years old who did the work assisting the priests in the tabernacle and later the temple. Ezra 3:8 spoke of Zerubbabel appointed as construction supervisors Levites 20 years and older.
See 735 Baffling Bible Questions Answered p.72-73 for more info.
 

Q: In Num 9:15-21, how could the cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night follow the Israelites?
A: Obviously these were supernatural signs God used simply and very visibly to assure them of His presence. Even so, the Israelites often were disobedient. Today, when God dwells inside of us, we do not have such visible signs of His presence, it might be easy to say "if only I saw more miracles I would be more obedient." Well the Israelites saw many miracles, but they still were disobedient. Also, many of the people in the crowds that followed Jesus later would not follow him? Thus not even supernatural signs alone are sufficient to convince some people.
 

Q: In Num 10:30-31, why did Moses ask Hobab to guide the Israelites, since Num 10:34 and Ex 13:21-22 said God was leading them by a cloud and a pillar of fire?
A: One answer would be that perhaps Moses was simply mistaken in thinking Hobab would be needed since God was guiding them. However, this is probably not correct; even with God guiding them Hobab would still have been useful.
Exodus 13:21-21 and Numbers 10:34 indicate that the purpose of the cloud and pillar were to tell them when to set out, to provide light for their travels by night, and to guide them on their way.
In Numbers 10:30-31, Hobab was not asked to tell them where they should travel, but rather to direct them where to camp, to be their eyes in the desert.
Today some can rely solely on human judgment and not look to God. Others can look to guide and disdain all human help. We should be guided by God, but we must also recognize that sometimes God providentially provides people to give us help and wise counsel.
See When Critics Ask p.100 for more info.
 

Q: In Num 10:33, was the ark before the camp, or in the middle of it as Num 2:17 says?
A: Each of the tribes had its own camp, facing the center. Thus the ark was in the middle, before the front of every tribes' camp (except the Levites in the center). See When Critics Ask p.100-101 for more info and other suggestions.
 

Q: In Num 11:4-6, the people had a strong craving for meat and began to complain. I was wondering - couldn't the people have killed some lambs and had that for meat? In verse 22 Moses even asks God if the animals should be slaughtered to provide food for the whole nation. I know Moses spoke in frustration, but perhaps lambs could have just been killed for those who had the intense craving. As I understood it, the people were allowed to eat lambs, cows, etc., and they did have access to those animals at this time since they had to sacrifice them for trespass offerings, atonement offerings, etc., while in the wilderness. Am I right in my understanding of that period? Couldn't they have killed some of the livestock instead of complaining about God? I don't think Moses would have denied their request. I welcome your thoughts and any insight you can provide.
A: While we don't know all the particulars, we can make a few observations about their situation. Climate wise, that region of the world was somewhat wetter in the past than today. But even so, it was still a dry wilderness, Moses indicated in Numbers 11:21-22 that the land would not have been able to sustain the flocks and herds necessary to feed everyone. They had a legitimate need for more food than the land and their herds could provide, and God provided for them with manna. I am sure they did supplement the manna by killing some sheep and cattle. It does not say they did not eat anything besides manna, but only that they were complaining as it that was the case. But they got tired of the current situation, and rather than respectfully ask God about their desire, they disrespectfully said, "If only we had meat to eat! We remember the fish we ate in Egypt at no cost - also the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions, and garlic. But now we have lost our appetite; we never see anything but this manna." (Num 11:4b-6 NIV).
God was not angry in Numbers 11:10 because they asked God, but rather because of how they asked. There is a lesson for us there too. When we have needs, and also wants, it's fine to us to ask God, but we should be careful to ask respectfully.
 

Q: In Num 11:8, did manna taste like bread made with oil, or did it taste like a bread made with honey in Ex 16:31?
A: The two are not mutually exclusive, especially noting that the oil taste would be stronger after manna was cooked in oil. See When Critics Ask p.101 for more info, and 1001 Bible Questions Answered p.352 for an excellent discussion of what manna was.
 

Q: In Num 11:16,25, were the seventy elders God's idea, or Jethro's idea in Ex 18:14-27?
A: Instead of God directly telling Moses this idea, God knew that Jethro would see this solution and suggest this to Moses. Since this was a good idea that Moses knew that God approved, Moses was right in following this idea, regardless of the fact that He first heard it from Jethro, and not God.
This small detail from back then could easily have been omitted from the Bible, but I believe it was included to teach us a timeless lesson. When we know something is right and God wants us to do it, it does not matter whether we heard it directly from God, a Christian, or a non-Christian.
 

Q: In Num 11:24, since they had to go outside their camp to get to the Tabernacle, how could the Tabernacle be inside the camp in Num 2?
A: The tabernacle surrounded the ark, so see the discussion on Numbers 10:33
 

Q: In Num 11:27-29, why was there this situation with Eldad and Medad?
A: Either they were unable to come, which would be quite understandable, or they were unwilling to come, which is more probable. If it was the unfortunate situation that they were able to come but unwilling, this situation would be similar to Jonah and Balaam. See the discussion on Jonah for more info.
 

Q: In Num 11:31, were the quail piled three feet on the ground, or did they fly three feet above the ground?
A: The Hebrew word can mean either "upon" or "above". The KJV takes this to mean "upon", the NKJV says "fluttering ... two cubits above the surface of the ground", and the NIV takes this to mean flying "above" the ground. Can Archaeology Prove the Old Testament? p.30 says that today at times swarms of quail fly a few feet above the ground and are caught in nets.
 

Q: In Num 11:31-34, why did God punish the Israelites for eating the quail He had just provided for them?
A: Almost all the people were more concerned about eating meat than following God, who could give them meat. So God gave them all the meat they wanted, and God killed some of them as an example to others. While the death could have been from food poisoning, we do not know for sure.
As a side-note, Hard Sayings of the Bible p.164 mentions that every spring there was a quail migration from Africa across the Red Sea. If a strong wind drove them east, the quail would be over the Sinai Peninsula.
See Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties p.135-136 and When Critics Ask p.101-102 for more info.
 

Q: In Num 11:31-34, why did God punish the Israelites for grumbling, since God did not punish them when they grumbled the year before in Ex 16:11-18?
A: While Scripture does not say, we can see a combination of four reasons.
1. Repeated and continued disobedience is more serious than first-time disobedience.
2. The second time was likely more than just grumbling. It was also challenging God's goodness and provision.
3. Some see significance in that this happened after the covenant at Mt. Sinai, while Exodus 16:11-18 was before they had the Law of Mosaic Covenant. See 735 Baffling Bible Questions Answered p.73 for more on this.
3. The grumbling was not just from a lack of faith, for God had provided for them last year. The place was named "Kibroth Hattaavah, for "graves of craving", because the central issue was craving to be satisfied apart from God. Today, people can go astray, even to their death, by craving contentment, peace, or thrills that are not from God and in effect telling God they despise what He has provided.
See Hard Sayings of the Bible p.164-165 and 735 Baffling Bible Questions Answered p.73 for more info.
 

Q: In Num 12:1-6, why did Moses [allegedly] marry an Egyptian woman, when Ex 34:16; 1 Ki 11:2 says they were not to marry from other nations? (A Muslim asserted this.)
A: She was not from Egypt (Mizraim) but a Cushite. 1 Kings 11:2 mentions a prohibition of marrying from certain nations, but not Cush, and the Law was given after Moses married the Cushite. Anyway, Exodus 34:11,16 mentions not inter-marrying with the Canaanite peoples, again not Cushites. In Numbers 12:1-6, when Miriam and Aaron opposed Moses marrying a Cushite (not an Egyptian or Mizraimite, but a Cushite), I am somewhat mystified as to how this Muslim thought this shows that God's rules do not apply to God's favorites, males.
 

Q: In Num 12:1, was Moses right to marry a non-Israelite Ethiopian (Cushite)?
A: While the Law to marry only a believer was not given yet, we can assume she believed, because why else would she want to spend her life wandering in the wilderness? That being the case, it is only man, not God who restricts marriage among people because of their race.
 

Q: In Num 12:1, if a white and black Christian wanted to get married, and they lived in South Africa in the 1970's, should they defy the government or not?
A: Before answering this question, we must remember that it is more important to obey God than to either obey unjust government laws, or marry the one you want. To answer this question, three things the couple could do would be:
1. Pray to know that it was really God's will
2. If so, then consider moving to a less repressive country to get married.
3. Until then, wait for God to make a way.
 

Q: In Num 12:1, could the "Ethiopian" woman, actually have been an Arabian, since the Hebrew word is Cushi?
A: Asimov's Guide to the Bible p.167-168 mentions this as a possibility. I had not found any Arab tribe of that time with that name. However, there was a Mesopotamian tribe with that name, and perhaps that is to what Isaac Asimov was referring.
While it is remotely possible that the woman might have been from that rather distant tribe (east of Babylon), it is more likely the woman was from Ethiopia, and "Cushite" would be the term to tell us that.
 

Q: In Num 12:1, could this "Cushite" woman have been Zipporah, as Asimov's Guide to the Bible p.168 suggests?
A: Most likely not, as Zipporah was from the Midianite tribe, and not from the Cushites. However, if some blacks were accepted as part of the Midianites, it is possible that Zipporah could have been black, and thus called a Cushite.
Even if Zipporah was dark-skinned, she was most probably not the woman mentioned in Numbers 12:1, as Moses had been married to Zipporah prior to leading the Israelites out of Egypt.
 

Q: In Num 12:3, why would Moses write that he was a humble man?
A: This verse was written (by someone) to explain why Moses made no effort to defend himself here. Haley's Alleged Discrepancies of the Bible (p.248) believes this verse was written down by Moses to objectively say why he did not defend himself. Other examples in ancient literature of people who have written about themselves in third person are Julius Caesar (The Alexandrian War 75), Paul of Tarsus (2 Corinthians 11:5; 12:11-12), probably John, and most likely Mark.
However, many other Christians believe it is much more probable that this was written down in Moses' time, by a scribe under Moses' supervision. See When Critics Ask p.102-103, Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties p.136-137, Hard Sayings of the Bible p.165-166, and the discussion on Exodus 11:3 for more info.
 

Q: In Num 12:8 (KJV), what does it mean that God spoke to Moses "mouth to mouth"?
A: This King James expression is better translated today as "face to face".
 

Q: In Num 12:8 (KJV), what are "not in dark speeches"?
A: This King James Version expression means God does not speak to Moses in riddles, like He did to other prophets, such as Miriam and Aaron.
 

Q: In Num 12:14, why would a father ever spit in his daughter's face?
A: This neither commands nor encourages that. In the Middle East especially, spitting on somebody is a way of showing contempt. This verse is saying that a father spitting in his daughter's face would show how contemptible the father viewed his daughter's actions. God is not telling fathers to do that, but rather telling Moses that in His viewpoint Miriam's criticism of Moses as just as bad. See 735 Baffling Bible Questions Answered p.74 for more info.
 

Q: In Num 13:3, did the twelve spies come from Paran, or from Kadesh Barnea as Num 20:1 says?
A: This question is similar to the following: does the governor of California live in California, or in Sacramento (the capital of California)? In the same way, Kadesh Barnea was a site in the wilderness of Paran.
See the discussion on Numbers 20:1, Hard Sayings of the Bible p.166, and Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties p.137 for more info.
 

Q: In Num 13:16, how could Moses rename Hoshea to Joshua, since Joshua was already referred to as Joshua in Ex 17:9; 24:13?
A: The events of Exodus 17 preceded Joshua's new name. However, Moses or his scribes obviously wrote down Exodus 17 after Joshua received his new name. It was better to use the new name in Number 13:16, as the readers then and now would be more familiar with the new name than with the old. For a similar example in the New Testament, Matthew refers to Simon as Simon Peter three times, and Peter three times prior to Jesus calling him Peter. See Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties p.137 and When Critics Ask p.103-104 for more info.
 

Q: In Num 13:32, how could Canaan "devour its inhabitants", since it was such as good land as in Num 13:27?
A: This paradox caused no problem for the Israelites, and it should cause no problems for anyone else. The land was fertile, however, the people living on the land were warlike and violent. See When Critics Ask p.103 and Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties p.137-138 for more info.
 

Q: In Num 13:32, how could the Israelite spies say they saw the Nephilim, since the Nephilim were killed in the flood in Gen 6?
A: They only said they saw the Nephilim, and what people say is not always true. Either:
1. They meant this as a metaphor.
2. They mistook large men for Nephilim.
3. The spies who spoke were not telling the truth but exaggerating.
 

Q: In Num 14:15, why was God considering killing all the Israelites?
A: The all-wise God knew He was not going to kill all of the Israelites. God threatened to kill the Israelites because God wanted them to tell them how dangerously they were living. Obedience to God is not something to take lightly. At this point God would have been just to pour His wrath on them, and He wanted them to be aware that at this point they were alive because of His mercy, not because they deserved to be.
 

Q: In Num 14:18, does God punish children for the sins of their parents?
A: Children do not have the guilt for the sins of their parents (Ezekiel 18:4,17-20). However, the Bible from the time of Abel onwards shows that people suffer consequences in this life for sins for which they are not guilty. In addition, as children grow up they can chose whether or not to participate in the sins they saw their parents do since they were little. See The Complete Book of Bible Answers p.168-169 for more info.
 

Q: In Num 14:20-23,29, since God pardoned the people, why wouldn't He let them go into the Promised Land?
A: God can forgive people for their sins, but still discipline them, both for their sake and as an example to others.
 

Q: In Num 14:34, why did God count one day of spying equal to one year of discipline?
A: Scripture does not say. However, a forty-day delay for forty days of unified disobedience would seem very mild. Sometimes if people commit to keeping in the same state and reject advancing to serve God, it seems fitting that they should stay that way.
 

Q: In Num 14:34-35, since all but two of the adults died in the wilderness during this forty year period, where are all their bones today?
A: If they did not give the bodies a deep burial, the corpses would have decomposed or taken by wild animals. See Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties p.138 and When Critics Ask p.105 for more info.
 

Q: In Num 15:5,10, since drinking wine is [allegedly] bad, why was wine offered to God?
A: No verse in the Old or New Testament says that drinking wine is wrong. Many verses teach that getting drunk is wrong, though. See the discussion on 1 Timothy 5:22 for more info.
 

Q: In Num 15:16, why is there one law for both the Israelites and non-Israelites in the land?
A: There was no discrimination in the law courts. The laws for murder, stealing, false witness, and so forth were the same for the Israelite as the non-Israelite. A testimony of a non-Israelite was counted the same as an Israelite, and a woman's testimony was equal to a man's, unlike what is true in many Muslim countries. However, it is true that the non-Israelites that lived in Israel had to respect some of the religious laws, but they did not have to bring sacrifices.
 

Q: In Num 15:32-36, why was a man killed for gathering sticks on the Sabbath?
A: Gathering sticks was fine on other days. However, his actions at this time showed utter contempt for God's law. It was the display of an attitude of contempt, not the gathering of sticks, for which the man was stoned.
 

Q: In Num 15:34 (KJV), what does "put him in ward" mean?
A: This King James Version word means to confine him or put him in a jail, awaiting his sentence.
 

Q: In Num 15:35-36, what is unusual about this passage?
A: This is organized as a Hebrew chiasm. (The English translation is NRSV)
- The Lord said to Moses
- - The man shall be put to death
- - - All the congregation shall stone him outside the camp
- - - The whole congregation brought him outside the camp and
- - stoned him to death
- Just as the LORD had commanded Moses.
 

Q: In Num 15:38 (KJV), what is a "ribband"?
A: This King James Version word means ribbon.
 

Q: In Num 16:5, why did Moses tell them to put fire in their censors, since Moses knew what happened to Nadab and Abihu?
A: They knew what happened to Nadab and Abihu as well as Moses did. They did so anyway because they were so intent on opposing Moses. Perhaps Moses was not being kind or unkind to them, but if they wanted to worship God in their own separate way, Moses said to go ahead, and we will see what God will do.
 

Q: In Num 16:13-14, what about the complaint of Dathan and Abiram? God promised them they would go into the land of milk and honey, but Num 14:29-34 made it clear God would never lead them there after all, only their children.
A: The people certainly understood the promise to mean that the Israelites would go to the Promised Land, and not necessarily every individual present would live to enter. God did not say He was going to force individuals into the Promised Land. When they refused to go in, God punished their open revolt by permanently honoring the decision of the people who rebelled.
If you willingly choose to rebel against God, God may later perhaps grant you a repentant heart to come to Him later. On the other hand, God may not, and God is not required to do so.
 

Q: In Num 16:31 were Korah and his 250 followers swallowed by the earth, or were the 250 followers burned to death in Num 16:35?
A: Numbers 16:31 shows that the earth swallowed Korah, Dathan, Abiram and their families. Numbers 16:35 shows that fire burned up the other 250 men who were not related to Korah. See When Critics Ask p.105-106 for more info.
 

Q: In Num 16:31-35, how was it just for the earth to swallow up the even the little ones (Num 16:27) of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram, too?
A: It was just because God has the right to allocate to every individual whatever lifespan He chooses, and He has not obligated Himself to give everyone the same lifespan. This is very similar to the question of why God had even the infant Canaanites killed. See the discussion on Joshua 6:21 for the answer.
 

Q: In Num 16:32, were all the men of Korah killed, or only some as in Num 26:11?
A: All the men of Korah who followed Korah were killed, but the ones who did not follow Korah were not killed. Numbers 26:11 clearly shows that some of the descendants of Korah were not among those who did not rebel and were not killed. Actually, the prophet of Samuel was descended from Korah (1 Chronicles 6:22-28). See When Critics Ask p.106 for more info.
 

Q: In Num 16:37-38, how did the censors of the rebellious men become holy?
A: Numbers 16:39-40 answers why God chose to designate them to be remembered as holy.
Origin: It was offered to God.
Use: The bronze was used to overlay the altar.
Reminder: It was to be a sign, that the Israelites would not try to come to God on their own.
There is no indication the 250 men had done any more bad things than anyone else. However, they thought they could come to God their own way, not God's way, on their own righteousness instead of through the sacrifices God required. People still try similar things today.
 

Q: In Num 16:45-47, why did God start to kill all the Israelites?
A: The entire community was grumbling against Moses and Aaron. While God's action protected Moses and Aaron, God could have protected them in other ways, too. The main purpose for God sending the supernaturally rapid plague appears to be discipline to teach the Israelites not to harden their hearts in rebellion against God.
 

Q: Since Num 17:5 says God used Aaron's rod to stop the Israelite murmuring, how come they still murmured in Num 20:2-5?
A: The miracle of Aaron's rod had the short-term effect of stopping their murmuring in Numbers 17. In fact, the Israelites almost went to the opposite extreme in Numbers 17:12-13.
When the Israelites later murmured in Numbers 20, the same rod was used (Deuteronomy 20:8) to stop the murmuring then.
Unfortunately, the external miracle of Aaron's rod did not change people's hearts inside, and could not permanently stop the grumbling.
 

Q: In Num 17:8-10, how could a cut branch blossom and yield almonds, since almond wood does not have this property?
A: God, who made the plants able to grow and produce seed, miraculously made this happen.
 

Q: In Num 18:1-2, why did God make these people, and their sons, responsible for their things?
A: Aaron's ancestral house is the tribe of Levi, so this means the Levites, including Aaron and his sons, were responsible for offenses committed against the tabernacle. Aaron, his sons, and their descendants alone were responsible for offenses committed against the priesthood.
These people were not only held accountable for what they personally did, but they were responsible for offenses against the sanctuary and the priesthood. People could not approach the Tabernacle without their permission, so if they were negligent in their watch over the Tabernacle and others desecrated it, they would be responsible for their own negligence too.
 

Q: In Num 18:2, what is unusual about this verse?
A: Numbers 18:2 is a wordplay, where "to join you" weyillawu is a play on words for "Levite" lewi. So a super-literal reading is "the tribe of Levi ... will 'levi' with you. See The Expositor's Bible Commentary vol.2 p.851 for more info.
 

Q: In Num 19:8, why was the priest unclean until evening, since he was obeying God regarding the red heifer sacrifice?
A: Here is an interesting situation of a priest, obediently doing God's will, becoming unclean. It did not say the priest sinned, or that God was unhappy with the priest, only that He was unclean and could not come around the sacred things for a time. Thus, there is a marked distinction between ceremonial uncleanness and personal guilt.
When Jesus died on the cross, He became unclean for a time in the sight of God the Father. This was done obediently to take upon Himself the punishment for our sins. Jesus was not sinful, and Satan did not "enter into Jesus" as some cultists teach; rather Jesus simply became unclean.
 

Q: In Num 20:1, was Kadesh in the wilderness of Zin, or was Kadesh in the wilderness of Paran as Num 13:26 says?
A: The Sinai Peninsula had four wilderness regions:
The Wilderness of Shur on the northwest, bordered by Egypt on the west and the River of Egypt on the east, and Elim on the south. Genesis 16:7; 20:1; 25:18; Exodus 15:22; 1 Samuel 15:7; 27:8
The Wilderness of Sin on the southwest. It was between Elim [on the north] and Sinai [on the east] according to Exodus 16:1. Exodus 17:1 and Numbers 33:11,12 also mention the Wilderness of Sin.
The Wilderness of Paran on the southeast. It was bordered by the Wilderness of Sin on the northeast and Kadesh on the west. Genesis 21:21; Numbers 10:12; 12:16; 13:3,26; Deuteronomy 1:1; 33:2; 1 Samuel 25:1; 1 Kings 11:18.
The Wilderness of Zin on the northeast extending to the Dead Sea and the Arabah on the east and the town of Kadesh on the west. Numbers 13:21; 20:1; 27:14; 33:36; 34:3,4 Deuteronomy 32:51; Joshua 15:1,3
Kadesh was on the border of the Wilderness of Paran and the Wilderness of Zin.
 

Q: In Num 20:8, should the pronoun be translated as "his" as the KJV says, or "its" as other translations?
A: Grammatically, the Hebrew pronoun can be properly translated as either "its" or "his". But in this context it should probably be "its" because Moses is told to speak to the rock. It is translated "its" in the NET Bible, NIV, NKJV, Green's translation, Updated NASB, NRSV, and the Jewish Tanakh.
 

Q: In Num 20:10-13, why was God was angry with Moses, since Moses did what God told him to do?
A: Moses did the right thing, but he had the wrong attitude, and he displayed the wrong attitude to others. Instead of hitting the rock being a miracle that brought attention to God's mercy provision, Moses apparently struck the rock as if in anger, saying "Listen you rebels..."
There is a lesson for us to learn here. If we do the things God wants, but with the wrong attitude, God is not pleased with what we do either. See Now That's A Good Question p.566-568 for more info.
 

Q: In Num 20:12, was Moses forbidden to go into Canaan because of unbelief, or rebellion (Num 27:12-14), trespassing (Dt 32:51-52), or rash words (Ps 106:32-33). (An atheist asked this)
A: There was only one incident, at the waters of Meribah, and all four verses are a description of the same reason.
Number 20:12 says because Moses did not believe God, to revere God in the eyes of the Israelites.
Numbers 27:12-14 says Moses rebelled against God's command to revere Him.
Deuteronomy 32:51 says that Moses trespassed [sinned] against God, because Moses did not revere God among the Israelites.
Psalm 106:32-33 says that they (the Israelites) rebelled against God's Spirit at the waters of strife (Meribah), and so Moses spoke rashly.
All the verses give a consistent message. The Israelites contended against Moses (Numbers 20:2-5, Psalm 106:33), Moses was not believing in God's provision (Numbers 20:12). His speaking rashly (Numbers 20:10; Psalm 106:33), was not revering God among the Israelites (Numbers 20:12; 27:12-14; Deuteronomy 32:51).
There is no question about what happened, and the last three passages are simply reminders of what people could read for themselves in Numbers 20.
 

Q: In Num 20:16, did an angel lead the Israelites out of Egypt, or was it God Himself in Ex 3:8?
A: Many verses say it was God who brought them out of Egypt. Numbers 20:16 says in Hebrew that God sent an angel and [*] brought us out of Egypt. The [*] is unspoken in the verse, and could refer to the angel or refer to God Himself.
The [*] does not really need to be specified, because it is true both ways. God could have had His angels create the cloud and pillar of fire, and send the strong wind that parted the Red Sea. God Himself was involved in at least two ways.
1. The angels were acting in complete obedience to God's orders
2. God Himself also had a localized presence there, which may account for the severity of punishment for their sinning.
 

Q: In Num 20-24, what is the extra-Biblical evidence that Balaam was a real person?
A: In 1967, in the Jordan Valley at Beir Allah, archaeologists found a schoolboy's writing practice mentioning Balaam son of Beor three times. This was radiocarbon dated to 800/760 B.C. This was first published in 1976. Listen to the John Ankerberg tape on Exploding the J.E.P.D Theory by Walter Kaiser, Jr., or read The NIV Study Bible p.223 for more info.
 

Q: In Num 21:6,8 how were these serpents "fiery"?
A: This does not necessarily mean they were glowing or a bright red color. Rather, it means their bite felt like fire.
 

Q: In Num 21:9, why did the Israelites have to look to a bronze serpent after being bitten, since this seems like idolatry.
A: God commanded them to look at the bronze serpent on a pole so that they would recover from the snakebite. However, in later times, people did turn this into an idol, calling the bronze snake by the name Nehushtan. Because of this idolatry, Hezekiah ordered the snake destroyed in 2 Kings 18:4.
The first writer known to have answered this objection was Tertullian in Five Books Against Marcion book 2 ch.22 p.314 (207/208 A.D.). Prior to that, The Epistle of Barnabas (100-150 A.D.) ch.12 p.145 and the First Apology of Justin Martyr (150 A.D.) ch.50 p.183 also wrote on this, but they apparently did not see any difficulty to discuss. See When Critics Ask p.107 for more info.
 

Q: In Num 21:9, what is "The Book of the Wars of the Lord"?
A: We only know of this book from its mention in the Bible. This book was apparently a factual historical detail of these events. There is no mention that it was God's word or that it should have been in the Scriptures.
 

Q: In Num 21:29 and Jer 48:46, who is Chemosh?
A: Chemosh was the idol of Moab. 2 Kings 3:27 says that infants were sacrificed to Chemosh.
 

Q: In Num 22:1; 26:3; 31:12; 33:48; 34:15; 35:1; and 36:13 what is unusual about this phrase?
A: The phrase "The Jordan of Jericho" is an unusual way of describing this river. It might just be a description of where the Jordan River was, but the NIV footnotes say it might be a very ancient name for that river.
 

Q: In Num 22:5, do we have any extra-Biblical evidence of Balaam's hometown of Pethor?
A: Possibly so. An inscription of Shalmaneser II mentions a town on the Euphrates and Sagur rivers just west of Carchemish called Pitru, and this might be Pethor. Asimov's Guide to the Bible p.183 also adds the Egyptians called this Pedru. See The New International Dictionary of the Bible p.775 and the Wycliffe Bible Dictionary p.1322 for more info.
 

Q: In Num 22:5-7, was Balaam primarily a true prophet of God, who was led astray by greed, or was he primarily a pagan diviner, through whom the True God spoke in this situation?
A: Scripture does not say. However, because of the evil advice he later gave, Balaam's heart was certainly not for God and His people. If a schoolboy exercise of 800/760 B.C. was unearthed can be relied upon, it would seem that Balaam was a pagan diviner through whom the True God spoke at this time.
 

Q: In Num 22:7, how could God give a prophecy to someone who practiced divination?
A: God can give prophecy to whoever he wants to do so. Scripture does not say whether Balaam first practiced divination, or if he was first given the prophecy, and it could have been either way.
If Balaam first attempted to practice divination to the true God, God permitted what he did in ignorance and did not correct it at that time.
If Balaam first was given the gift of prophecy, and later sinned in trying to "excite and augment" his prophetic gift through divination, this would be an example of God not taking away our gifts when we sin. For a somewhat similar example, when Jesus healed ten lepers in Luke 17:12-17 and only one returned to thank him, Jesus asked where the other nine were, but Jesus did not specifically "unheal" them.
 

Q: In Num 22:7, when Balaam used divination to curse other people besides the Israelites, did his curses ever work?
A: While the people who paid Balaam thought the curses might work, Scripture does not say if they really worked or not. At least as far as Israel was concerned, Balaam knew that his curses were useless.
See Astrology & Psychic Phenomena for more on the view that any of Balaam's curses were never effective except as a placebo effect.
 

Q: In Num 22:12-17, why was God very angry with Balaam when he allowed Balaam to go?
A: For the sake for money Balaam wanted to get as close to disobeying God as possible. As 735 Baffling Bible Questions Answered p.74-75 says, God gave him permission but not direction. Though Balaam obeyed God's directive not to curse Israel, he advised Balak how to morally corrupt the Israelites and have them incur God's displeasure in Numbers 31:16; 25.
 

Q: In Num 22:22-33, why was God angry with Balaam, since Balaam apparently obeyed God?
A: Reading the entire chapter is instructive on the kind of obedience God desires. Balaam never did a single action that directly disobeyed God. However, when the messengers came, Balaam did not tell them to go away, and that he did not desire to go with them, because it would not please God. Instead, even though Balaam knew what God wanted, Balaam said he wanted to go with them, but God refused Balaam. Balaam tried to stay as far away from obeying what God wanted as he could, without directly disobeying God. That is why God was angry with him.
See Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties p.140 and especially Hard Sayings of the Bible p.166-168 for an extensive discussion.
 

Q: In Num 22:27-28, is a talking donkey absurd? (a Muslims says this)
A: If a person truly believed that God is Almighty, God can do anything.
The Muslim might not be aware of what is in his own hadiths. "The prophet used to stand by a stem of a date-palm tree (while delivering a sermon). When the pulpit was placed for him we heard that stem crying like a pregnant she-camel till the Prophet got down from the pulpit and placed his hand over it." (Bukhari vol.2 book 13 ch.24 no.41 p.19). Now I do not believe that happened, but I do not reject that that God Almighty had the power to make that (or anything else) happen.
 

Q: In Num 22:34, did Balaam obey God in speaking only what God told Balaam to say?
A: According to Numbers 22:38, Balaam did obey at that time. However, sometime later he gave evil (but correct) advice of how to turn the Israelites away from God.
 

Q: In Num 22:41, is it true that Baal, meaning "Lord", was never the name of any specific god as the skeptical Asimov's Guide to the Bible p.185 claims?
A: Isaac Asimov is giving out false information here. Apart from the Bible, Ugaritic literature mentions a specific idol named Baal, as the Wycliffe Dictionary of Biblical Archaeology p.121 mentions. On p.593, one specific writing is called "The Baal Epic".
 

Q: In Num 23:10, how come Balaam's prophecy of dying the death of the righteous was definitely not fulfilled?
A: Balaam counseled the Moabites and Midianites to turn the Israelites away from God by sending their women to have sex with them (Numbers 31:16). The Israelites executed Balaam according to Numbers 31:8 and Joshua 13:22.
Balaam was not stating a prophetic fact, but only his desire that he die the death of the righteous. His desire was not fulfilled due to his own sin. Likewise, people today can sincerely have good desires, which do not come about due to their own fault.
 

Q: In Num 23:14, why did Balaam prophecy the Israelites would be like a lion that drank the blood of its prey, since drinking blood is forbidden?
A: Lions killed unclean animals as well as drank blood. Both were forbidden to people, though not to lions. The point was not to live like a lion, but that the Israelites would be as strong and fierce in battle as a lion.
 

Q: What does Num 23:19 say about the concept of God at the core of Mormonism (LDS), that "as man is God once was, as God is man may become"?
A: Contrary to Mormon theology, it says that
a) The True God is not a human.
(A Mormon might say that God is not a man anymore, but used to be a man and is now a glorified man. I have never heard a Mormon use this line, though.)
b) The True God is not a son or descendant of a man, either of which rules out part a).
See also 1 Samuel 15:29 and the next question.
 

Q: For Num 23:19, what are Mormon responses?
A: One Mormon man I talked seemed to have a high respect for the Bible. However, when I had him read this verse, and I did not give him any explanation, he said, "Well, well, that's just wrong." We did not talk much more, but I felt I did my job. I showed him a difference between the Bible and what Mormonism taught him, and now he had a choice to make.
I have talked with more Mormons than I can remember about this verse as well as 1 Samuel 15:29, and with one exception, they all had no answer.
However, one Mormon missionary I talked with did have an answer. He said that verse meant "God is not the kind of man that He should lie, nor the kind of son of man that He should repent."
A couple of points here:
1. The words "kind of" are not in the Hebrew.
2. The novel interpretation "kind of" was unknown to every single Jewish, Christian, and even heretic writer until Mormonism had started in the 19th century.
3. Since no Hebrew or Greek-speaking believer would understand the verse this way, then if this were the correct interpretation, it was a "secret-code" understandable only to Mormons.
Beware if in order to have your theology survive, you have to interpret a sentence in a foreign language in a such a way that no native speaker of that language can be found who would recognize it that way.
 

Q: In Num 23:19, why should we pay attention to something said by a man who practiced divination?
A: While Balaam sinned greatly later, at this time, while Balaam was speaking this, Balaam was speaking the words God put in His mouth (Numbers 23:16), and only the word God put into His mouth (Numbers 22:34).
 

Q: In Num 23:19, why does it says God does not repent / change His mind, when 1 Sam 15:35 and Ex 32:14 says that He does? (a Muslim said this)
A: God's revealed will is often timely and conditional, and it is sometimes explained as an anthropomorphic expression.
Timely: God told the rebellious generation he would not go with them. They all died, and God went with the following generation.
Conditional: Many of God's threats or promises have an explicit or implicit condition with them. For some examples of implicit conditional threats, see Jonah 3 and Genesis 20:3. See When Critics Ask p.87 for more info.
Anthropomorphic: God, who is beyond time, already knew what they would do, and He already knew what He would do. However, it is sometimes difficult for people to see that and simultaneously see that the people still had a real choice. Certainly if God had just told them what they would do for certain and what He would do for certain, that would limit their choosing.
A person does not have to agree with or even understand the concept that God is beyond time. They do not need to ponder timelessness before God will even communicate with them in a meaningful way. God communicates with people in terms people can all understand. See Now That's A Good Question p.202-205 for more on God communicating anthropomorphically.
 

Q: In Num 24:7, how could Agag be alive at this time, since Agag lived in the time of King Saul in 1 Sam 15:8?
A: There are two possible answers.
Two kings with the same name: Kings having the name of a previous king are not uncommon. Examples are many British kings named Henry, two northern Israelites kings named Jeroboam, two Phoenician kings named Hiram, and many Egyptian pharaohs named Thutmose and Rameses. Thus the Agag in Saul's time was a successor of the Agag mentioned here. Thus this question is like asking, "How could Henry [the Eighth] of England have executed his wives when Henry [the First] died centuries before they were born."
Agag a title, like Pharaoh: The Phoenician Corpus Inscriptionum Semiticarum I 3196 mentions an Agag at a different time and location than these two Agags. We do not know much about the Amalekites, and "Agag" could have been a title for the ruler of the Amalekites, like Pharaoh was a title for the ruler of Egypt. The Keil-Delitsch Commentary on the Old Testament vol.1 p.189 advocates this view.
 

Q: In Num 24:8 (KJV), how could the Israelites be as strong as a unicorn, when unicorns are an imaginary fable?
A: The King James Version translates this incorrectly. The correct translation is "wild ox". Unicorn in Isaiah 34:7 (KJV) should also be wild ox. As an example, in Deuteronomy 33:17 the same Hebrew word is used, and the animal has more than one horn.
 

Q: In Num 24:17, who is prophesied here?
A: There are two applications.
Immediate: For the immediate destruction of Moab and Edom, King David, or the tribe of Judah, is prophesied.
Messianic: This probably is also a foreshadowing of Jesus, also of Judah, who would come and destroy all the armies gathered against Him. The Essenes and others also believed this to be a Messianic prophecy. Bar Cochba, who led a revolt against the Romans in 135 A.D., was called "Bar Kochba", or "son of the star" because of this verse.
Writers who viewed this as messianic include Justin Martyr (wrote c.138-165 A.D.), Athanasius (296-373 A.D.), and the Jewish writings Targum Onkelos, Targum Jonathan, and the Almud in Jerusalem Taanith 68:4; Debarim Rabba (section 1), Pesikta Sotarta 58:1. Among the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Damascus Document CD:7:9-20) and the War Scroll (1 QM:7). See The Expositor's Bible Commentary vol.2 p.911 for more info.
 

Q: In Num 24:24, how can ships come and afflict Asshur, since Asshur was an inland city?
A: Numbers 24:24 says "Asshur", not the immediate vicinity of the city of "Asshur". Both the Phoenicians and the Greeks were a constant thorn in the side of the Empire of Assyria. To give you an idea of the influence of Phoenicia, The New Bible Dictionary (1978) p.1194 says that the Phoenicians even traded with India. For more on the Phoenicians, see the National Geographic Magazine August 1974 p.149-189.
 

Q: In Num 25:1, what is unusual about the choice of words here?
A: This might be a wordplay or double entendre here. While wayyahel means "began", the root halal means "to pollute, defile, or profane. See The Expositor's Bible Commentary vol.2 p.916 for more info.
 

Q: In Num 25:7-13, what did God praise Phinehas for killing Cozbi and Zimri?
A: Five points to consider in the answer.
1. The people were about to embark on a serious undertaking, the invasion of the Promised Land. Phinehas showed that he understood the seriousness of God's holiness. In an underhanded way, Balaam understood the importance of holiness. That is why Balaam gave effective advice for harming the Israelites. However Balaam was killed along with Cozbi and Zimri in Numbers 31:8.
2. Guilty of a capital crime for sexual immorality.
3. It is possible (but not proved) that this immorality could be connected with religious practices.
4. The crime was all that more serious for being brazenly and defiantly in front of the whole assembly.
5. Phinehas was not a vigilante. Since the crime was a capital punishment, and Phinehas was in a position of authority as a priest, Phinehas was carrying out God's law for the Israelites.
See Hard Sayings of the Bible p.168-170 for more info.
 

Q: In Num 26 and Num 1, how come the tribe of Simeon lost about 60% of it members?
A: Most tribes lost a few members, as the total went from 603,550 to 601,730. However, Simeon went from 59,300 to 22,200 as Asimov's Guide to the Bible p.166 points out. The Wycliffe Bible Dictionary p.1592 also mentions this and says a probable reason is that many of them might have been executed along with their leader, Zimri, during the Baal of Peor occurrence in Numbers 25:1-15.
 

Q: In Num 26:5-50; 57-62, should we study these genealogies, since 1 Tim 1:4 and Tt 3:9 says not to devote ourselves to genealogies?
A: These genealogies can be studied for historical purposes. However, we do not get the same of wisdom, correction, and encouragement we get from other kinds of Bible verses.
 

Q: In Num 26:33; Num 27, and Num 36, how do you pronounce "Zelophehad"?
A: Cruden's Concordance says "zel-O-fe-had" with all the vowels are long except the "a", and the accent is on the second syllable. The Wycliffe Bible Dictionary also has the accent on the second syllable, but only the first two vowels are long.
 

Q: In Num 26:51, how come this number, 601,730 is almost the same (0.1% less) than the 603,550 mean in the census taken over forty years earlier in Num 2:32?
A: Scripture does not say why these numbers are so close, but one can see two concurrent reasons:
Human: Wandering in the wilderness, battles, and plagues took their toll on the Israelites, and thus their population did not grow.
Divine: If the number had been greater, they might think the forty years extra wandering was a good thing, because they had more warriors. If the number had been much less, then either God had more soldiers than was needed the first time, or they had too few soldiers to fight. The numbers being almost the same depicts the fact that their disobedience and their punishment did not help or hurt them as regards to the number of warriors.
 

Q: In Num 27:5, why did Moses have to inquire of the Lord instead of just settling their claim reasonably?
A: While we do not know this specific case, there are at least four reasons in general why it is good to pray and go to the Lord.
1. Perhaps Moses already felt they should have an inheritance, but Moses still prayed because he realized that he was fallible, and he could be wrong.
2. Other people have different ideas of inheritance for women. For example, in Islam daughters only have half the inheritance of sons in Sura 4:11. In some cultures, women could not even inherit at all.
3. Sometimes someone like Moses can already have the right idea, but still need God's guidance for some details. For example, while Zelophehad's daughters and their descendants inherited the land forever, they had to marry within the tribe according to Numbers 36:6-9.
4. Even if Moses had already known exactly what to do, knew exactly all the details, and knew He knew this information, going to the Lord in prayer, and waiting for an answer, was not only honoring God, and acknowledging that God knew better than he did, but also showed others who might have different views that Moses did not just make a snap decision.
 

Q: In Num 28, what is a summary of the sacrifices God commanded?
A: There were sacrifices due to events and circumstances, and sacrifices at a given time. Numbers 28 covers the sacrifices at a given time. They are:
Daily: (Exodus 29:28-32; Numbers 28:3-8)
Weekly: (Leviticus 23:3; Numbers 28:9-10)
Monthly New moon: (Numbers 28:11-15)
Unleavened Bread and Passover (Leviticus 23:4-14; Numbers 28:16-25; Deuteronomy 16:1-8)
Feast of Weeks (Pentecost) (Leviticus 23:15-21; Numbers 28:26-31; Deuteronomy 16:9-12)
Feat of Trumpets (Leviticus 23:22-25; Numbers 29:1-6)
Day of Atonement (Leviticus 16:1-28; 23:26-32; Numbers 29:7-11)
Feast of Booths (Leviticus 23:33-39, 43: Numbers 29:12-38; Deuteronomy 16:13-17)
See The Bible Knowledge Commentary : Old Testament p.248 for a chart with very good detail of the Calendrical offerings.
 

Q: In Num 29:16-34, why is this not-so-exciting passage in the Bible?
A: We should respect God's word even if we did not see the reason why God wanted us to read it. These genealogies probably meant a lot to the Old Testament Jews who read it. However, 1 Timothy 1:4 says we are not to devote ourselves to endless genealogies.
 

Q: In Num 30:1-15, why did God gives these rules concerning vows, when centuries later Jms 5:13 says not to swear at all?
A: James 5:13 refers to swearing an oath, not to all making promises. Numbers 30:1-15 is more general, which refers to making a promise, whether it be by swearing or not.
 

Q: In Num 30:3-16, why does it say that woman's vow can be cancelled by her father or husband? (A Muslim asked this.)
A: Married women, and women not yet married (and presumably living in their parents' home), could have their vows canceled by their husband or father, respectively. In the ancient world, the husband or father was the one primarily responsible for earning money, and a vow could be financially costly. However, as 735 Baffling Bible Questions Answered p.75 says, "It is important to note that a widow or divorced woman, who was responsible for herself, had no such restriction imposed on her. This rule concerning vows thus was in no way a slight on women. It instead simply reflected economic realities of the time and God's caring involvement in every detail of His people's lives."
This does show the headship of a father in the family, and a husband over the wife. Muslims in general (this one excepted) would have no problem with this. Since he wanted to bring this up, he is welcome to explain the following in Islam.
A wife cannot fast (superogatory) or allow someone to enter their home without her husband's permission. Abu Dawud vol.2 no.2452, 2453 p.677-678. (superogatory means beyond what is required)
Outside of Ramadan, a wife can only fast with her husband's permission. Ibn-i-Majah vol.3 no.1761-1762 p.62
Mohammed did not rebuke a husband who beat his wife for praying and fasting extra. Abu Dawud vol.2 no.2453 p.677-678
Men tell their wives when to take a bath. "If anyone makes (his wife) wash and he washes himself on Friday, goes out early (for Friday prayer), attends the sermon from the beginning, walking, not riding, takes his seat near the Imam, listens attentively, and does not indulge in idle talk, he will get the reward of a year's fasting and praying at night for every step he takes." Abu Dawud vol.1 no.345 p.91. No reward for the wife is explicitly mentioned.
A woman should not give a gift from the joint property with her husband. Abu Dawud vol.2 no.3539 p.1006. This is generally because a woman lacks wisdom and intelligence. Abu Dawud vol.2 footnote 2991 p.1006.
A wife cannot give a gift without her husband's consent. Ibn-i-Majah vol.3 no.2388 p.423
 

Q: In Num 31:1-24, was the war with the Midianites an unhistorical story to mask an inconclusive war with the Moabites, as Asimov's Guide to the Bible p.190 asserts?
A: The Israelites fought the Midianites because of the incidents in Numbers 22:4 and 25:14-18. Asimov characteristically provides no evidence for his assertion. However, common sense suggests that if an ancient people lived close by another nation for many years, either they would become friends or they would have some battles between them. The Israelites and Midianites never became friends.
 

Q: In Num 31:1-24, why did a righteous and good God command the Israelites to wipe out the Midianites?
A: The Israelites fought the Midianites because of the incidents in Numbers 22:4 and 25:14-18.
God is Holy and it is consistent with both His righteousness, goodness and holiness to destroy evil. The Midianites were descended from Abraham according to Genesis 25:1-4. Not only did their ancestors know of the God of Abraham and cease to follow God, but they deliberately tempted the Israelite men to sin.
Other peoples in other parts of the world might have been just as bad as the Midianites and they did not get wiped out right away. However, the Midianites knew more since they came from Abraham, and with more knowledge comes more accountability. (See Romans 4:15; 5:12; ~John 9:41) Also, God is just, but He is not necessarily equitable in this life. God will set everything aright on judgment day, but until then some people get wiped out when they should have been spared, and others who should have been wiped out escape, for a time. See Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties p.142-143 for more info.
 

Q: In Num 31:16, did the memory of the incident at Peor strengthen the position of later Yahvists against foreign intermarriage, as Asimov's Guide to the Bible p.190 claims?
A: Asimov assumes the Old Testament did not come from God. He is trying to read in to it a political battle between those who were against intermarriage and those who were for it.
While there were struggles in the Old Testament between Israelites who were serious about following God's Law and those who were not, the early date of composition of Genesis was prior to the alleged political groups Asimov is trying to create.
 

Q: In Num 31:17, why kill the baby Midianite boys?
A: This is very similar to the question of why God had even the infant Canaanites killed. See the discussion on Joshua 6:21 for the answer as well as the next question.
 

Q: In Num 31:17-18, why kill all the Midianite boys and not the virgin women and little girls?
A: Scripture does not say. Perhaps because Israelite family lineage was traced through males, the boys would not fit into society as well, since they were not from the twelve tribes, and adoption was not their custom.
Scripture here is only honestly reporting what Moses commanded. There is no indication that God either approved or disapproved. See also the next question.
 

Q: In Num 31:17-18, why did Moses order the keeping of young female prisoners for several reasons? (An atheist asked this)
A: First of all, "for several reasons" is an insinuation that is not found in scripture. These soldiers were Israelites, not Muslims (whom some American atheists apparently do not mind so much).
The women would be slaves, and the men could marry them if they wished. However, for men who had sex with women, even women captives, without becoming their husbands, the Bible says they were to be punished with death.
 

Q: In Num 31:18, why could men, even married men, keep captured women for themselves, since Ex 20:1-4 and Dt 5:18 command people not to commit adultery?
A: Marriage is not adultery. This question confuses legitimately marrying a captive woman with adultery. With marrying a woman, whether captive or free, the children were legitimate, called by the father's name and a part of his ancestral tribe. As regards to inheritance, suspicion of adultery, and other matters, the wife who was formerly a captive had all the rights of the wife who was never a captive. See Bible Difficulties and Seeming Contradictions p.147 for more info.
 

Q: In Num 31:18 and other passages, why were the Israelites permitted to marry women they captured?
A: Clement of Alexandria Stromata (193-202 A.D.) book 2 ch.18 p.367 explains this custom well. "Further, it forbids intercourse with a female captive so as to dishonour her. 'But allow her,' it says, 'thirty days to mourn according to her wish, and changing her clothes, associate with here as your lawful wife.' ... Do you see humanity combined with continence? The master who has fallen in love with his captive maid it does not allow to gratify his pleasure, but puts a check on his lust by specifying an interval of time; and further it cuts off the captive's hair, in order to shame disgraceful love: for it is reason that induces him to marry, he will cleave to her even after she has become disfigured [shorn]."
 

Q: In Num 31:28,30,38 (KJV), what are the "beeves"?
A: This King James word means "cattle". In Old English this is the plural form of beef.
 

Q: In Num 32:1-2, why did Reuben and Gad settle outside the Promised land?
A: The boundaries of Numbers 34:12 make it clear this was outside of the Promised Land. The pragmatic reasons they settled on the east side of the Jordan river are:
1. This land was already conquered,
2. They saw that the land was good for cattle
3. Moses and they agreed that they could have it if they helped the other tribes fight for the Promised Land.
As to whether they should have occupied this land, see the next question.
 

Q: In Num 32:1-2, should any of the Israelites have settled on the east side of the Jordan River?
A: Bible says they were to settle in the Promised Land. The other tribes mentioned that the land might be defiled and to come over to the promised Land in Joshua 22:19. In the future, the tribes in the promised land needed more manpower to defeat the rest of the Canaanites and Philistines. Looking at the future destiny of the two and a half tribes, they were constantly attacked by the Edomites, Ammonites, and Moabites, until all their descendants that were not killed were assimilated into the other nations, and they completely forgot the Lord their God. Near the end of Joshua's conquest, the two and a half tribes saw that the other tribes might neglect them in Joshua 22:24-28.
There is a lesson here for Christians today. 1 Corinthians 12:21-27 says all the parts of the body of Christ need each other. When we are not where God wants us to be, there is not one problem but two. One problem is that we miss out on aspects of fellowship with God by our disobedience. A second problem is that others that need our help and God-given gifts miss out, too.
 

Q: In Num 32:8, how do you pronounce "Kadesh Barnea"?
A: Cruden's Concordance and the Wycliffe Bible Dictionary both say the first "a" and the last "e" are long. The accents are on the syllables "ka" and "bar" as in KA desh BAR nea.
 

Q: In Num 32:13 did God's anger against the Israelites last 40 years, or does it abide only for a minute as Ps 30:5 says? (A Muslim asked this)
A: There can be a difference between how long in God's time He is angry, versus how long in our time the consequences last. Regardless though, Psalm 30:5 does not say "60 seconds" but a moment. God's anger and discipline towards His people is only momentary compared to His favor being with Him forever.
For the Israelites in the Wilderness, as well as others who rejected following Him, God sends those individuals to Hell forever. However, God was angry with the Israelite people in that He did not let them enter the Promised Land for forty years. But discipline on earth, even if it forty years, is just a moment compared to eternity.
 

Q: In Num 33:4, how did God execute judgment on the Egyptian idols?
A: The idols themselves were lifeless, but God apparently "executed judgment" to demonstrate to the worshippers of those idols how powerless the idols were, in a very specific way.
Most of the ten plagues of Exodus were the symbol of a specific Egyptian deity.
1. Bloody Nile: Apis, Isis, and Khnum were gods of the Nile.
2. Frogs: The goddess Heqet, who assisted women at childbirth, had a frog head.
3. Gnats: Set was the god of the desert. He was considered good in early Egyptian mythology but was considered evil, as the dismemberer of Osiris in later Egyptian mythology.
4. Flies: Possibly relating to Re the sun god.
5. Dead animals: The god Hathor had a cow head, and the god Apis had a bull's head.
6. Boils: Sekhmet was the goddess to cure disease; Sunu was the god of plague, and Isis was the goddess of healing
7. Hail: Nut was the sky goddess.
8. Locusts: Osiris was the god of crops and fertility.
9. Darkness: Re was the sun god.
10. Passover: The goddess Isis, was supposed to protect kids. Of course, the Pharaoh's son, the next Pharaoh, was considered a god.
See The Bible Knowledge Commentary : Old Testament p.118-126 and The Expositor's Bible Commentary volume 2 p.352-353,354 for more info.
After this period, the Egyptians had less respect for their idols than most cultures. When they prayed to an idol and the prayer was not answered, they were known to take a whip and beat the idol. (Everyday Life in ANCIENT EGYPT by Jon Manchip White (Dorset Press 1963) p.131.
 

Q: In Num 34:5, how could the southeastern border of the Promised Land [allegedly] be the Nile, the river of Egypt?
A: The phrase "River of Egypt" does not refer to the great Nile River. Rather it refers to a small stream separating Egypt from Canaan. Many maps show this river, in the northeast part of the Sinai Peninsula, where it empties into the Mediterranean Sea.
 

Q: In Num 34:11, Dt 3:17; and Josh 12:3; and Josh 13:27, where is the Sea of Kinnereth?
A: The Sea of Kinnereth is an ancient name for the Sea of Galilee. According to The NIV Study Bible, Kinnereth means "harp", and the Sea of Galilee is shaped like an ancient harp.
 

Q: In Num 34:13-15, since Moses passed away before he entered Canaan, how come he told the Jews that the tribes Reuben, Gad, and the Manasseh (half) already had the land east of the Jordan?
A: The Jordan River is the boundary of Canaan, so the land of Reuben, Gad and half of Manasseh, east of the Jordan River, is outside of Canaan. Moses himself could be in the land already given to the 1 1/2 tribes, and he could see Canaan from a mountain east of Jordan, but Moses was forbidden to cross the Jordan River.
Theologically there are some interesting points here. God promised the Israelites the land of Canaan. But these 2 1/2 Israelite tribes looked around and thought this land was pretty good, so they chose not to live in God's Promised Land. The land looked OK, except that it was more susceptible to attack, and after David's time you do not hear much of these tribes anymore. Some of them were killed, and some assimilated, losing the knowledge of who they were. Today God may promise us something, and we can look around and living someplace else might look more inviting than living under God's promise. However, God knows the future, and it is always safer to live under God's promise, remembering who you are.
 

Q: In Num 34:14; 1:18-44; and Lev 24:10, Jewish tribal ancestry was allegedly only through the birth father. If Jesus had no human father, then how would he have tribal affiliation with Judah?
A: Before answering this question, let's first clear up what the verses do NOT say. Numbers 34:14 does NOT say that tribal affiliation is only through the biological father. It says, "because of the families of the tribe of Reuben, the tribe of Gad and the half-tribe of Manasseh." Numbers 1:18-44 merely lists the tribes and the census of men. Leviticus 24:10 does not directly address the question either, but since the son had an Israelite mother and Egyptian father, and the son was a part of the group, that would tend to indicate that he was considered an Israelite. Furthermore, it does actual mention the tribal affiliation of Dan - through the mother.
Two complementary answers: Tribal/clan affiliation was normally through the father; however a few cases it was considered through the mother. Also, it could be from the legal father.
Biological ancestry all from Judah: Jesus had no human ancestry except Jewish ancestry. Since Mary was descended fro David (from the tribe of Judah) biologically Jesus as affiliated with Judah. The Old Testament gives us three examples in the Old Testament where tribal affiliation was through the mother.
Attai: In the tribe of Judah, Sheshan had no sons, only daughters. So he gave his daughter in marriage to his Egyptian servant Jarha, and they had a son named Attai. Attai's genealogy is given with the other Israelites in 1 Chronicles 2:34-41.
Jair was a grandson of Hezron of the tribe of Judah and the daughter of Makir, a Manassite. In 1 Chronicles 2:21-23 Jair controlled 23 towns in Gilead (in the territory of Manasseh). Yet even though Jair's mother was from Judah, Jair is still called a Manassite in Numbers 32:41 and Deuteronomy 3:14.
Sons of a daughter of Barzillai. A third example is Ezra 2:61 and Nehemiah 7:63, where sons of a priest who married a daughter of Barzillai were called the sons of Barzillai. See the Keil-Delitzsch Commentary on the Old Testament vol.1 p.213 for more info.
Legal ancestry form Judah too: It was important that Jesus' adopted/legal father be from Judah too. If Joseph had not been descended from David, Jesus would have no claim to David's throne.
Deuteronomy 25:5-10 shows that ancestral rights were through the legal father and not the biological father. When a married man died childless, his brother was to marry the widow, and the legal father of the son was the dead man, not the biological father. Deuteronomy 25:6 says, "Then the first son she bears will continue the name of the dead brother, thus preventing his name from being blotted out of Israel" (NET) Ruth 4:5-6 shows that it was the legal father, not the biological father, affected the inheritance.
Tribal affiliation was important for land distribution, and that was through the father - normally. However, when there was no father/male, Numbers 27:1-11 shows that they made allowances for special situations.
In summary: Jesus was biologically only from Judah, and in the Old Testament tribal affiliation was sometimes through the mother. Jesus was also from Judah through his adopted father, and the law of Levirate marriage showed it was the legal father, not the biological father that was important for that.
 

Q: In Num 34:24 (NIV) should it say "son of Joseph" before "From the tribe of Ephraim?
A: The Expositor's Bible Commentary vol.2 p.998 says this is not in the Hebrew. English translators added it to make it more parallel and easier to understand, since it was already implied.
 

Q: In Num 35:21, how come there was no ransom for murder, since there presumably was a ransom allowed for other crimes?
A: There were a number of crimes worthy of death in the Torah. However, for most of these crimes, the guilty could pay an agreed upon fine and escape death. Two exceptions were murder and blasphemy against God. See Hard Sayings of the Bible p.160-163 and 170-171 for more info.
 

Q: In Num 35:30, could a person be convicted of murder on circumstantial evidence?
A: Yes if there were multiple witnesses. Numbers 35:30 says that two witnesses are required, but it did not say they had to be eyewitnesses. Leviticus 5:1 shows that a witness is not necessarily an eyewitness, but one who had relevant knowledge regarding something "he has seen or learned about." For example, if a person heard the killer boast of the act, or threaten to commit the act, that person would be a witness to what they heard.
 

Q: In Num 35:33, since the land cannot be cleansed of unjustly spilled blood, is all the earth unclean today?
A: No. The land cannot be cleansed, by man, of unjustly spilled blood. However, God can make holy even the place where Jesus was unjustly killed for our sins.
 

Q: In Num 36, why could women [allegedly] not inherit here? In Islam for example, daughters do have the right to inherit, though it is half as much as sons.
A: Four points to consider in the answer.
Zelophehad's daughters did inherit from their father. This was right and proper as God's will, according to Numbers 27:7-8. Furthermore, Numbers 36:8 also says speaks in the future of every daughter who inherits land, so they could inherit.
Inheritance passing from tribe to tribe in Numbers 36:9 is the issue here, not the prosperity of Zelophehad's daughters.
The resolution was the daughters kept the land, but they had to marry within their own tribe of Manasseh. In the future, all women who inherited land had to marry within their tribe.
In the New Testament, 1 Peter 1:3-4 shows that all who believe have the most important inheritance of all, an inheritance in heaven kept for us.
As a side note, in orthodox Islam daughters only get half the inheritance of their brothers. Sura 4:11 says, "Allah (thus) directs you As regards your children's (inheritance): to the male, A portion equal to that of two females:..." (Yusef Ali's translation p.209).
In summary, since Numbers 36:8 speaks of daughters inheriting land, and Numbers 27:7-8 speaks of daughters inheriting in general, it would be against the Old Testament not to allow daughters to inherit. Galatians 3:28 says that in Christ there is no male nor female, and in the rest of the Bible, old and new, there is nothing restricting a woman's rights of inheritance, or of economic opportunities in general. In contrast to Islam, women in Christianity have just as much to look forward to in heaven than men.
See the Keil-Delitzch Commentary on the Old Testament vol.1 p.212-213,267-268 for more info.
 

Q: In Num, what references do we have in the writings from Philo the Alexandrian Jew?
A: As Christians we trust that the Old Testament that Christ validated the Old Testament we have. For that matter, for Muslims their Qur'an says that Jesus was given the Torah in Sura 5:46. We have early manuscripts from the time of Christ, which the next question addresses. However, there is an additional line of evidence. Philo of Alexandria was a Jewish scholar who lived from 15/20 B.C. to 50 A.D. He wrote in Greek, but it is curious that his Greek quotes of the Old Testament agree more closely with the Hebrew Masoretic text instead of the Greek Septuagint. He went into great detail into what different verses mean. Here are chapter:verses he referred to in Numbers.
3:12; 5:2,14,15,18,27; 6:2,9,14,18; 7:5,14; 8:24; 9:10; 10:29; 11:4,5,7,8,11,16,17,20,23,31; 12:6,7,12-14; 13:18,23,25; 14:1,9,11,20,24,44; 15:19,30; 16:1,15,48; 18:12,20,26,28,31; 19:1,15; 20:17,25; 21:5,6,17,18,27,30; 22:29,31; 23:7,8,19; 24:7,17,20; 25:1,4,7,8,11,12; 26:16; 27:3,4,16,17; 28:2; 29:13; 30:10; 31:8,26,28,40; 35:1,25,30
See The Works of Philo : Complete and Unabridged new updated version for more info.
 

Q: In Num, what are some of the earliest manuscripts that still exist today?
A: Dead Sea Scrolls of the Bible: (before Christ ) 8 copies. (The Dead Sea Scrolls Today p.30. The Dead Sea Scrolls in English 4th ed., and The Dead Sea Scrolls Translated : The Qumran Texts in English 2nd ed.). The Dead Sea Scrolls have parts of every chapter of Numbers except chapters 6 and 14. The Dead Sea Scroll manuscripts are:
1Q3 150-100 B.C. (paleo-Leviticus, but has 8 words of Numbers 1:48-50 and 36:7-8? in it.
2Q6 (=2QNum(a)) (two separate fragments) 40-60 A.D. (24 words) Numbers 3:38-41,51; 4:1-3
2Q7 30-1 B.C. (19 words)
2Q8 (=2QNum(b)) 20-50 A.D. Numbers 33:47-53
2Q9 (possibly the same manuscript as 2Q7) 30-1 B.C. (3 words) Numbers 7:88
4Q23 (=4QLevNum(a)) 150-100 B.C. (710 words) Of the 40 text variants in these parts of Numbers, 4Q23 agrees with the Masoretic text in 30 of them, the Samaritan Pentateuch in 12, 8 with the Septuagint, and does not agree with any other manuscript in 5. 1:1-5,21-22,36-40; 2:18-20, 31-32; 3:3-19,51; 4:1-2, 40-49; 5:1-9; 8:7-12, 21-22; 9:3-10, 19-28; 10:13-23; 11:4-5,16-22; 12:3-11; 13:21; 26:5-7; 30:3?,7?,9?,13?; 32:8-15,23-42; 33:5-9,22-34,52,54
4Q27 400-20 B.C. (1528 words) This is about 9% of the entire book. It has Numbers 11:31-35; 12:1-6,8-11; 13:7,10-13,15-24; 15:31; 16:1-11,14-16; 17:12-17; 18:25-32; 19:1-6; 20:12-13b,16-17,19-29; 21:1-2,12a-13a,20-21a; 22:5-21,31-34,37-38,41; 23:1-4,6,13-15,21-22,27-30; 24:1-10; 25:4-8,16-18; 26:1-5,7-10,12,14-34,62-65; 27:1-5,7-8,10,18-19,21-23b; 28:13-17,28,30-31; 29:10-13,16-18,26-30; 30:1-3,5-9,12-17; 31:2-6,21b-25,30-33,35-36,38,43-44,46-54; 32:1,4-5,7-10,13-17,19,21-30,35,37-39,41; 33:1-4,23,25,28,31,45,47-48,50-52; 34:4-9,19-21,23; 35:3-5,11-12,14-15,18-25,27-28,33-34; 36:1-2a,4a-7;
4Q121 (4QLXXNum) 25 B.C. to 25 A.D. (134 words) This is a rather curious manuscript in Greek. The Masoretic text and Septuagint are fairly close in Numbers, but 4Q121 is in between them. Scholars debate whether 4Q121 is more like the original version of the Septuagint, and later versions of the Septuagint deviated more, or whether 4Q121 was an attempt to bring the Septuagint even closer to the Masoretic text. Numbers 4:1?,5-9,11-16; 3:3a?,40-43,50-51?
The Wycliffe Bible Dictionary p.436-438 says there are 6 copies. Nathan Jastrum, Dead Sea Scroll researcher, said that one copy of numbers was 30-50 B.C. (Issues etc. Radio program 4/17/99)
The Expositor's Bible Commentary vol.2 p.551 says, "The Hebrew text (the MT) of the Book of Numbers is relatively free of difficulty. Since the Torah was especially revered in ancient times, its transmission seems to be cleaner than most other biblical books."
Parabiblical Dead Sea Scrolls: Non-biblical texts from Qumran that refer to Numbers include 4Q364-366; 4Q423 5.2; 11Q19 49.5-51.6; 4Q251 6.2-6; 4Q276-277; 4Q284 4; 4Q394-399 B 13-17, 72-74; 11Q19 13-14, 17-19, 25-29; 11Q19 52:13-54.5;
Wadi Murabba'at Scroll 1 lines 6-7 (75-125 A.D.) has 31 words from Numbers 34:10; 36:7-11
Nahal Hever in the Cave of Letters (=5/6Hev 1a) (50 B.C. to 50 A.D.) has Numbers 19:2-4; 22:7-8.
Nahal Hever (X Hev/SeNum) has Numbers 27:2-13; 28:11-12)
Overall, preserved in the Dead Sea Scrolls are the following verses from Numbers: 1:1-5,21-22,36-40,48-50; 2:18-20,31-32; 3:3-19,38-43,50-51; 4:1-16,40-49; 5:1-9; 6:none; 7:88; 8:7-12,21-22; 9:3-10,19-20; 10:13-23; 11:4-5,16-22,31-35; 12:1-11; 13:7,10-13,15-24; 14:none; 15:41; 16:1-11,14-16; 17:12-17; 18:8-9(or Lev 23:1-3),25-32; 19:1-6; 20:1-2,7-8,12-13,16-17,19-29; 22:5-24,31-34,37-38,41; 23:1-4,6,13-15,21-22,27-30; 24:1-10; 25:4-8,16-18; 26:1-10,12,14-34,62-65; 27:1-13,18-19,21-23b; 28:11-17,28,30-31; 29:10-13,16-18,26-30; 30:1-3,5-9,13?,15-17; 31:2-6,21b-25,30-33,35-36,38,43-44,46-54; 32:1,4-5,7-17,19,21-42; 33:1-9,22-34,45,47-53; 34:4-10,19-21,23; 35:3-5,11-12,14-15,18-25,27-28,33-34; 36:1-2a,4a-11
See Encyclopedia of the Dead Sea Scrolls vol.2 p.615 and The Meaning of the Dead Sea Scrolls for more info.
Samaritans made their own copy of the Torah in the second century B.C., though the earliest surviving Samaritan copies are from the Middle Ages. See The Dead Sea Scrolls Today p.125-126.
Christian Bible manuscripts, from about 350 A.D., contain the Old Testament, including Numbers. According to The Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge p.746, the Chester Beatty Papyrii (2nd-4th century A.D.) contains Numbers.
Chester Beatty VI (Numbers-Deuteronomy) 2nd century (Kenyon), or 117-138 A.D. (Wilcken) according to The Complete Text of the Earliest New Testament Manuscripts p.17.
Vaticanus (325-350 A.D.) contains all of Numbers.
Sinaiticus (340-350 A.D.) has Numbers 5:26-6:18; 6:22-7:20; 16:7-16:31; 16:31-20:28; 23:22-26:2.
Alexandrinus (c.450 A.D.) contains all of Numbers.
A Syriac translation of the Septuagint was made by Bishop Paul of Tella (616-617 A.D.), which we still have today, according to Manuscripts of the Greek Bible p.35 (footnote).
A silver scroll from the 7th century B.C. was found in a cave near Jerusalem containing Numbers 6:24-26. See Christianity Today 9/7/1998 p.51 for more info.
Early church writers recognized Numbers as a authoritative scripture. See the next question for a complete list prior to Nicea.
 

Q: Which early writers referred to Numbers?
A: Pre-Nicene writers who quoted or alluded to verses in Numbers are:
Clement of Rome (97/98 A.D.) quotes Numbers 12:10. "blessed Moses also, a 'faithful servant in all his house,' noted down in the sacred books all the injunctions which wee given him,..." 1 Clement ch.43 p.16
Epistle of Barnabas (100-150 A.D.) ch.12 p.145 refers to Num 21:8-9 "And Moses spoke unto them, saying, 'when any one of you is bitten, let him come to the serpent placed on the pole; and let him hope and believe that even though dead, it is able to give him life, and immediately he shall be restored." And they did so." Though hast in this also [an indication of] the glory of Jesus;"
Justin Martyr (150 A.D.) also tells of the brass serpent in Numbers 21:6-9. He begins with "for in the writings of Moses it is related how at that time, when the Israelites went out of Egypt and were in the wilderness, they fell in with poisonous beasts, both vipers and asps..." First Apology of Justin Martyr ch.50 p.183.
Shepherd of Hermas (160 A.D.) ch.3 p.12 alludes to Eldad and Modat in Numbers 11:26-27.
Meleto/Melito of Sardis (170-177/180 A.D.) listed Numbers among the books of the Old Testament in his letter to Onesimus. It is unusual that he switches the order of Numbers and Leviticus. On Pascha p.72. Preserved in Eusebius' Ecclesiastical History 4.26.
Irenaeus of Lyons (182-188 A.D.) quotes Numbers 16:15 as by Moses. Irenaeus Against Heresies book 3 ch.26.4 p.497
Clement of Alexandria (193-217/220 A.D.) quotes Numbers 6:9 as by the "Instructor" saying though Moses. The Instructor book 1 ch.2 p.210.
Tertullian (198-220 A.D.) discusses the incident at Baal Peor "as we are told in Numbers" Scorpiace ch.3 p.636. He also discusses Numbers 21 in Five Books Against Marcion book 2 ch.22 p.314 (207/208 A.D.).
Hippolytus (222-235/6 A.D.) wrote a work called Balaam's Blessings. A paragraph has been preserved (81 words in English) and is in The Ante-Nicene Fathers vol. 5 p.160.
Origen (240 A.D.) refers to Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers. Commentary on the Song of Songs prologue p.47
Anonymous Treatise Against Novatian (c.246-258 A.D.) ch.2 p.658 quotes Numbers 5:2 as by Moses.
Anonymous Treatise on Baptism (c.248-256 A.D.) ch.15 p.676 quotes Numbers 11:17 as said by God to Moses in the Old Testament.
Cyprian of Carthage (c.246-258 A.D.) quotes from "Numbers" in Treatise 12 the third book 14.
Archelaus (262-278 A.D.) The Christian Diodorus discusses Moses commanding the stoning of the man who was gathering wood on the Sabbath in Numbers 15:32. Disputation with Manes ch.40 p.214. He also alludes to Numbers 15:32 in Disputation with Manes ch.31 p.204.
Victorinus of Petau (martyred 304 A.D.) alludes to Numbers 23 in discussing Balaam and Balak putting a stumbling block before Israel. Commentary on the Apocalypse From the second chapter 14-16 ANF vol.7 p.346-347.
Methodius of Olympus and Patara (270-311/312 A.D.) quotes the Septuagint of Numbers 6:2 as "That which is laid down in the Book of Numbers" The Banquet of the Ten Virgins Discourse 5 ch.4 p.326.
Lactantius (c.303-c.325 A.D.) "[Moses also says] In Numbers" and paraphrases Numbers 23:19 in Epitome of the Divine Institutes ch.46 p.241
After Nicea, others who refer to the Book of Numbers are (in chronological order), Eusebius of Caesarea, Aphrahat the Syrian, Athanasius, Ephraim the Syrian, Basil of Cappadocia, Cyril of Jerusalem, Ambrose of Milan, Gregory of Nanzianzen (allusion), Gregory of Nyssa, Rufinus, Jerome, Council of Carthage (393-419 A.D.), Epiphanius of Salamis, John Chrysostom, Orosius of Braga (allusion), the heretic Theodore of Mopsuestia (allusion), Augustine of Hippo, John Cassian, and others.
Jerome (373-420 A.D.) discusses the books of the Old Testament. He specifically discusses Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, the Pentateuch, Job, Jesus son of Nave [Joshua], Judges, Ruth, Samuel Kings (2 books), twelve prophets, Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai,, Zechariah, Malachi, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, Esther, Ezra, Nehemiah, Letter 53 ch.7-8 p.99-101.
 

Q: In Num, what are some of the translation differences between the Hebrew, the Greek Septuagint, and other translations?
A: Here are a few of translation differences, and a few other manuscript uncertainties in the 1,288 verses of Numbers. This especially focuses on Numbers 21. Except where noted the first phrase is the Masoretic text (MT) and the second the Septuagint (LXX).
Num 2:14 the name "Reuel" vs. "Deuel" in the Samaritan Pentateuch, Vulgate, and many Masoretic manuscripts. The Hebrew letters for "r" and "d" are very similar, and this is similar to "Rodanim vs. Dodanim in Genesis 10:4. The Expositor's Bible Commentary vol.2 p.715 says that Deuel is probably the superior reading.
Num 3:9 "to him" vs. "to me" in the Samaritan Pentateuch, Septuagint and some Masoretic manuscripts.
Num 3:12 "I have taken the Levites ... instead of every firstborn" (MT and 4Q23 vs. "I have taken the Levites ... they will be the ones redeemed instead of every firstborn" (Samaritan Pentateuch
Num 3:28 "89,600" vs. "8,300" in some Septuagint manuscripts
Num 3:39 "and Aaron" with special dots over the word (many Masoretic texts) vs. "and Aaron" (Septuagint) vs. absent in numerous Hebrew manuscripts, Syriac, and the Samaritan Pentateuch. Scribes would do this to express doubt about the verse. See The Expositor's Bible Commentary vol.2 p.728 for more on this.
Num 4:3 "from 30 years old" (MT, 4Q23, Samaritan Pentateuch) vs. "from 25 years old) (Septuagint)
Num 6:2 "shall vow the special vow of a Nazirite" (MT) vs. specially vow a vow to separate himself" (Septuagint, Methodius (270-311/312 A.D.) The Banquet of the Ten Virgins discourse 5 ch.4 p.326)
Num 9:3 "in the evening" (MT, Samaritan Pentateuch, Septuagint) vs. "in the day" (4Q23)
Num 9:16 "it" vs. "it by day" Greek, Syriac, Vulgate)
Num 10:11 is immediately preceded by Dt 1:6-8 in the Samaritan Pentateuch. (The Anchor Bible Dictionary vol.5 p.937)
Num 13:8 Hoshea (Hebrew) vs. "Oshea (Septuagint, Vulgate)
Num 14:33 "shepherds" vs. "wanderers/nomads" (Vulgate)
Num 14:41 is immediately preceded by Dt 1:20-23 in the Samaritan Pentateuch. (The Anchor Bible Dictionary vol.5 p.937)
Num 20:13 is immediately followed by Dt 3:24-28 in the Samaritan Pentateuch. (The Anchor Bible Dictionary vol.5 p.937)
Num 20:13b is immediately followed by Dt 2:2-6 in the Samaritan Pentateuch. (The Anchor Bible Dictionary vol.5 p.937)
Num 21:1 "lived in the south" vs. "dwelt by the wilderness"
Num 21:2 "hand" vs. "power" (same meaning in this context)
Num 21:2 utterly destroy their cities" vs. "devote it and its cities"
Num 21:3 "delivered up the Canaanites" vs. "delivered the Chananite into his power"
Num 21:3 "utterly destroy them and their cities" vs. "devote him and his cities"
Num 21:4 "impatient" vs. "lost courage"
Num 21:5 "Why have you brought" vs. "Why is this? Why have you brought"
Num 21:6 "fiery serpents" vs. "deadly serpents"
Num 21:7 "And Moses prayed on behalf of the people" vs. "And Moses prayed to the Lord for the people"
Num 21:7 "put it on a pole" vs. "put if on a signal-staff"
Num 21:8 "whenever anyone is bitten" vs. "whenever a serpent shall bite a man,"
Num 21:8 "when he sees it he shall live" vs. "everyone so bitten that looks upon it shall live"
Num 21:9 "copper ... pole ... copper" vs. "brass ... signal-staff ... brazen/brass"
Num 21:11 "Ije-abarim, in the wilderness that is before Moab, toward the rising of the sun." vs. "Achalgai, on the farther side in the wilderness, which is opposite Moab, toward the east"
Num 21:11 is immediately followed by Dt 2:9 in the Samaritan Pentateuch. (The Anchor Bible Dictionary vol.5 p.937)
Num 21:12 is immediately followed by Dt 2:17-19 in the Samaritan Pentateuch. (The Anchor Bible Dictionary vol.5 p.937)
Num 21:13 "which is in the wilderness" vs. "in the wilderness"
Num 21:14 "Waheb in Suphah" vs. "What He did in the Red Sea" (Vulgate)
Num 21:20 is immediately followed by Dt 2:24-29,31 in the Samaritan Pentateuch. (The Anchor Bible Dictionary vol.5 p.937)
Num 21:28 "and the lords of the heights" vs. "and swallowed up the heights"
Num 21:30 "we have shot at them; Heshbon has perished" vs. "So their posterity has perished from Heshbon" (Septuagint)
Num 22:20; 23:4,5,16 "God" (MT) vs. "an angel of God" (Samaritan Pentateuch) (The Anchor Bible Dictionary vol.5)
Num 24:6 The tetragrammaton (for LORD) was left out in 4Q27 but was corrected.
Num 24:9 4Q27 accidentally transposed two letters in a word.
Num 24:17 (uncertain) vs. "the skulls" in the Samaritan Pentateuch
Num 26:17 "Arod" vs. "Arodi" in the Samaritan Pentateuch and the Syriac
Num 26:23 "through Puvah/Puwah/Puwwah, the Punite" (many Hebrew manuscripts) vs. "through "Pu'ah, the Puite" in the Septuagint, Samaritan Pentateuch, Vulgate, and Syriac.
Num 26:39 "Shephupham" vs. "Shupham" in the Samaritan Pentateuch, Vulgate, Syriac, Septuagint, and some Masoretic manuscripts
Num 26:40 absent vs. "through Ard" in the Samaritan Pentateuch and Vulgate
Num 27:7 feminine gender for the pronouns vs. masculine gender for Zelophahad's daughters.
Num 27:22 "took Joshua" vs. "took Joshua the son of Num" (Dead Sea Scrolls 4QNumb)
Num 27:23 the Samaritan Pentateuch adds "and said to him and then adds Deuteronomy 3:21-22.) The Expositor's Bible Commentary vol.2 p.94
Num 27:23 "through Moses" vs. "by Moses. [And Mose]s [said] to him, 'Your eyes have seen that which the LORD your God has done to [these] two k[ings; so shall the LORD do to all the kingdoms into which you are going. You shall not fear them; for the LORD your God, he is the one who fights for you.]" (Dead Sea Scroll 4QNumb) The Meaning of the Dead Sea Scrolls p.110 calls 4QNumb (30 B.C.) "The Jewish Living Bible", giving this as just one example of expansions that were added.
Num 31:6 "priest to the war" vs. "priest" (Septuagint)
Num 32:11 "twenty years old and more" vs. "twenty years old and more who know good and evil." (Septuagint)
Num 32:29,31,33 "Gad ... Reuben" 3 times ( Masoretic, 4Q23) vs. "Reuben ... Gad" 3 times (Samaritan Pentateuch, Septuagint)
Num 33:8 "from before Hahiroth" vs. "Pi Hahiroth" in the Samaritan Pentateuch, Vulgate, and many Masoretic manuscripts
Num 33:52 In Dead Sea Scroll 2Q7 the first "all" is absent.
Num 34:6 "and coast" vs. "and its coast" (Syriac)
Bibliography for this question: the Hebrew translation is from Jay P. Green's Literal Translation and the Septuagint rendering is from Sir Lancelot C.L. Brenton's translation of The Septuagint : Greek and English. The Expositor's Bible Commentary, The Anchor Bible Dictionary vol.5, and the footnotes in the NASB, NIV, NKJV, and NRSV Bibles also were used.
 
 

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