Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Numbers: Location and Date

Numbers: Location & Date: (1461-1422 BC)

Numbers covers 39 years in the Wilderness. Accordingly, the Hebrew name of Numbers is B’midbar (Numbers 1:1), meaning “In the Wilderness” (Numbers 33:1-49). The Septuagint (Greek OT) calls this book Arithmoi, (“Arithmetic”) from its focus on the accounting of the people (Numbers 1-4 & 26). Numbers is sometimes called the “Book of the March and Roll Call” (Numbers 33:1-2) or the “Book of Murmurings” because it is filled with rebellion (Psalm 95:10). Numbers was completed before Moses died (Deuteronomy 31:24).

Mt. Sinai to Mt. Nebo: After spending a year camping from Egypt to Mount Sinai (Exodus 12 - Numbers 10:11) Israel spends 39 years in the Wilderness in the book of Numbers (1461 - 1422 BC). Of that, they wandered 38 years, 10 months because of disobedience. A trip of a few weeks from Kadesh in Paran to Moab became a 40 year ordeal.

Leviticus covers about a month. Numbers covers the last 20 days at Mount Sinai and the wanderings twice around Kadesh-barnea to the final arrival on the plains of Moab across from Jericho in the fortieth year.

LOOK WHAT THEY DUG UP! For those rationalists who cannot handle prophecy and miracles, it is noteworthy that an extra-biblical witness to Balaam was discovered in 1976 by two Dutch archaeologists (J. Hoftijizer and G. van der Kooij) at Tell Deir ‘Alla, known Biblically as the Valley of Succoth. At an Iron Age II temple site, not far from where the Jabbok empties into the Jordan River north Mt. Nebo, they found inscribed plaster fragments referring to Bl’m br B’r (“Balaam son of Beor”), a ḥōzēh ‘elōhīm (“seer of the gods”). This intriguing character was previously known only from the Biblical record. His existence had been dismissed by liberal scholars of the last few centuries, but he was in fact famous in the Jordan Valley among pagans in biblical times before the Exile.