In chronological order within the Old Testament, the book of Numbers is the fourth book after Genesis, Exodus, and Leviticus. This historic 36-chapter work is attributed to Moses. Why is it called “Numbers?” Read on to learn what the book of Numbers in the Bible is about and 7 key Bible passages.

What is the Story of Numbers?

In the desert: Rebellion and Repentance

After they left Egypt, the people of Israel were sent into the desert by the Lord, with Moses and Aaron leading them. However, this crossing proved very difficult, and people couldn't stop complaining about the heat, thirst, hunger, and did not respect either Moses or God. Faced with many rebellions, God punished them with snakes, unusual deaths, and defeats by their enemies. At the same time, God took care of his people and listened to their concerns, making manna and quails fall from the sky, making water erupt from rocks, and leading them with a pillar of clouds during the day and a pillar or fire during the night.

What is Manna?

“The manna was like coriander seed and looked like resin. The people went around gathering it, and then ground it in a hand mill or crushed it in a mortar. They cooked it in a pot or made it into loaves. And it tasted like something made with olive oil.”  (Numbers 11:7-8)

The counting

The book of Numbers is so entitled due to the many statistics found within. God asks Moses to count the people. “These are the Israelites, counted according to their families. All the men in the camps, by their divisions, number 603,550.” (Numbers 2:32) In chapter 26, Moses makes a second count, but this time none of those counted before were still living, because none except for Joshua and Caleb had been obedient to God.

Moses’s Law

Despite the people’s disobedience, God continued to give them his laws and rules. For example, God told them:  The Lord said to Moses, “Command the Israelites to send away from the camp anyone who has a defiling skin disease or a discharge of any kind, or who is ceremonially unclean because of a dead body.” (Numbers 5:1-2) The book shows that God honors his promises despite His people’s infidelity.

7 Key Bible Passages from the Book of Numbers

Numbers 6

“The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.” (Numbers 6:24-26)

Numbers 10

Whenever the ark set out, Moses said, “Rise up, Lord! May your enemies be scattered; may your foes flee before you.” (Numbers 10:35)

Numbers 11

“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!” (Numbers 11:5-6)

Numbers 20

“Then Moses raised his arm and struck the rock twice with his staff. Water gushed out, and the community and their livestock drank.” (Numbers 2:11)

Numbers 14

“Joshua son of Nun and Caleb son of Jephunneh, who were among those who had explored the land, tore their clothes and said to the entire Israelite assembly, ‘The land we passed through and explored is exceedingly good.    If the Lord is pleased with us, he will lead us into that land, a land flowing with milk and honey, and will give it to us.” (Numbers 14:6-8)

Numbers 21

The people came to Moses and said, ‘We sinned when we spoke against the Lord and against you. Pray that the Lord will take the snakes away from us.’ So Moses prayed for the people. The Lord said to Moses, ‘Make a snake and put it up on a pole; anyone who is bitten can look at it and live.” (Numbers 21:7-8)

Learn more about the Bible passage about the bronze snake.

Numbers 26

Not one of them was among those counted by Moses and Aaron the priest when they counted the Israelites in the Desert of Sinai. For the Lord had told those Israelites they would surely die in the wilderness, and not one of them was left except Caleb son of Jephunneh and Joshua son of Nun. (Numbers 26:64-65)