The book of Numbers begins at Mt. Sinai, 1 year after leaving Egypt. It begins 1 month after the close of the book of Exodus (Leviticus contains the content of the Law and the instructions for the Tabernacle that God gave to Moses during that 1 month between the end of the book of Exodus and the beginning of the book of Numbers)...and concludes with the arrival at the Promised Land after 39 years of wandering.
For additional information on the Septuagint see:
For an interesting overview of the life of Moses see:
Time covered in history:
The Biblical Timeline Book by Book:
Genesis (In Genesis we see man ruined)…history from Creation through entry into Egypt
Exodus (In Exodus we see man redeemed)…history from the Exodus from Egypt through the arrival at Sinai one year later.
Where is Mt. Sinai located?
The general route that Israel took, according to the majority view up to recent times, ran south generally along Yam Sûph, the Red Sea, for approximately one hundred miles and then diagonally inland about fifty miles toward modern Jebel Musa (Mt. Sinai). There Israel remained for nearly one year. From that point, their journey led north to Kadesh-barnea (Tell el-Qudeirat) at the southern extremity of Canaan, a trip that should have taken no more than eleven days (Deut. 1:2) but stretched out into thirty-nine years!
The most important issue in determining the route of the Exodus is the location and identity of Mt. Sinai. Several mountains have been associated with Sinai besides the traditional one of Gebel Musa: Jebel Halal, Ras es-safsah, Gebel Serbal, and a mountain near Al-Hrob.
Some have tried to locate Sinai in the north of the Sinai Peninsula at Jebel Halal. Jebel Halal is about twenty-five miles to the west of Kadesh, but this would have required the Israelites to take a middle route across the Sinai. Also, Kadesh was never associated with Sinai but with the Wilderness of Paran (Num. 13:26). Moreover, Kadesh was three stages in the journey away from Sinai (Num. 11–13), a fact that also disqualifies it from being the Mt. Sinai meant in the text.
An extinct volcano called Hala el-Bedr, the “crater of the full moon,” is near Al-Hrob; this volcanic mountain east of the Gulf of Aqabah has also been advocated as the site for Sinai. But this suggestion as the location for Mt. Sinai would not make sense out of the route of the Exodus. Even though there are a number of references to thick smoke and a blazing fire in connection with the theophany on top of Mt. Sinai (Exod. 19:18; Deut. 4:11b–12a; 5:23–24; 9:15), the critical element missing in all these descriptions that are alleged to be elements of a volcanic eruption is the flow of lava.
An even less-attested suggestion for the location of Sinai is Gebel Serbal, near the oasis of Feiran, about thirty miles northwest of Jebel Musa. However, it does not have a wilderness at its base. This site is about six miles from Pharan, which some have connected to the ancient name of Rephidim, a location based on a gloss of Exodus 17:6, which says that the water at Rephidim was situated “at Horeb,” the other name for Sinai.
Thus the choice seems to be between three peaks located in the southern end of the Sinai Peninsula: Gebel Musa (7,362 foot elevation at the southern end of plain er-Raha), Ras es-safseh (6,738 feet at the northern edge of the plain) and a third peak, Jebel Katherina, which is the highest of all—8,550 feet. But Jebel Musa seems to be the preferred site because of the imposing granite formations of this massif and the presence of the extensive plain at its base. Furthermore, when Justinian had the monastery and basilica of St. Catherine erected at the foot of Jebel Musa, the “mountains of Moses,” in the middle of the sixth century, this seemed to formalize a tradition that can be traced back to at least the fourth century.
Kaiser, W. C., Jr. (1998). A history of Israel: from the bronze age through the Jewish Wars (pp. 113–115). Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, Logos Bible Software
For additional information on the possible location of Mt. Sinai see:
Leviticus (In Leviticus we see man worshipping)…it is one year after the Exodus…these are the Laws for living and instructions for the use of the Tabernacle…given during the month and 20 days between the setting up of the Tabernacle (Exodus 40:17) and the departure of the people from Sinai (Numbers 10:11).
Numbers (In Numbers we see man wandering)…history starting one month after the close of the book of Exodus and continuing through 39 years of wandering in the wilderness…concluding with their arrival at the Jordan River, the eastern border to the Promised Land (Canaan).
Deuteronomy (In Deuteronomy we see man governing)…the addresses given by Moses during the final months of his life while Israel was camped across the Jordan River from the Promised Land.
The Hebrew title comes from the first verse of the book and means “in the wilderness”. The Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Old Testament) titles it “Arithmoi”, which means “numbers” because of the prominence of census figures (cf. chapters 1-3, 26). This is where we get the English title, Numbers.
Because of their disobedience at Kadesh-barnea, God said that all that were there and over 20 years of age would never enter the promised land…with the exceptions of Joshua and Caleb.
Numbers gives a very honest and open account of both the people’s faith and failure. 1 Corinthians 10:6 says that this happened as an example for us. And, Hebrews 3:7-19 uses their experience as an example of having a heart of faith.
6:24-26 is a beautiful blessing for God’s people.
God’s people must walk by faith…trusting Him…if they are to move forward.
5 names to remember: Moses, Aaron, Miriam, Joshua and Caleb.
A Time of Preparation…the People Numbered Numbers 1-10:10
A March of Faith…the People Moving Numbers 10:11-12:16
An Act of Disobedience…the People Deciding Numbers 13:1-20:13
A Time of Discipline…the People Wandering Numbers 20:14-31
A Second Chance Provided…the People Settling Numbers 32-36
A Time of Preparation…the People Numbered Numbers 1-10:10
Numbers 1 The Population of the People
Numbers 1:1-46-God now instructs Moses to take a census of all the men who could go to war
They were to be men who were 20 years old and upward. He was to number each tribe by their armies. The phrase “whoever is able to go out to war” occurs 14 times in the book, telling us that obviously it had a military purpose. Those counted totaled 603,550 (not including the tribe of Levi). Estimates are that the total population of the people (men, women and children) was between 2 and 3 million.
- Joseph (Ephraim)-40,500
1:47-54-The Levites were not to be numbered among those who would go out to war. Also, they were to set up camp around the Tabernacle in the middle of the other tribes.
Numbers 2 The Placement of the Tribes
For a visual display of the placement of the 12 Tribes see:
Numbers 2:1-34-The camping arrangement
East Side...the camp of “Judah”…total in this camp-186,400 (they set out first when camp is broken)
- Judah, Issachar, Zebulun
South Side…the camp of “Reuben”...total in this camp-151,450 (they set out second when camp is broken)
- Reuben, Simeon, Gad
Levites are camped in the middle...not numbered (they set out third when camp is broken)
West Side...the camp of “Ephraim”…total in this camp-108,100 (they set out fourth when camp is broken)
- Ephraim, Manasseh, Benjamin
North Side...the camp of “Dan”…total in this camp-157,600 (they set out fifth when camp is broken)
- Dan, Asher, Naphtali
Prayer: Lord, how magnificent it must have been to see this massive crowd of people camped around the Tabernacle. Even their encampment reminds us that You are to be the center of life. Help my life to be centered and focused on You.