The Book of Numbers/Bamidbar. Themes in Numbers/Bamidbar: The Odyssey to the Promised Land and the Odyssey Disruptive Murmurings

The lecture first of all examines the final form of the book, as it is found in the canon of the Old Testament/Hebrew Bible, focusing on such aspects as authorship, title, date, structure and literary features. Second of all it endeavours to accentuate briefly two prominent themes in Numbers/Bamidbar.

The first theme, the odyssey to the Promised Land, treats the following components, specifically the preparations for the odyssey, the role of the Levites and further preparations to enter the land of Canaan. The encounter of the Israelites with God at Sinai is undoubtedly at the core of the Torah/Pentateuch. Nevertheless, Sinai is not the ultimate destination of the Israelites. As a result, the first chapters of Numbers/Bamidbar relate to the preparations before leaving Sinai for the land of Canaan. These preparations imply that the Israelites will be coerced to conquer the land in question and vanquish the nations dwelling in it. The centre of the book is a witness to the fact that the Israelites’ trust seesaws in the face of opposition, thus they are unsuccessful in seizing what God has promised them. In spite of this initial overthrow, the final chapters express that the promise of the land is reaffirmed with the next generation of adults. The promises of God to Abraham will not be foiled by human disobedience.

The second theme strives to cast light on the roots of the murmurings against God, the challenges against those in authority, religious apostasy and the destination that is the Promised Land. The first and concluding chapters of Numbers/Bamidbar address the issues arising as regard to the preparations that had to be effected by the Israelites prior entering the Promised Land. The middle section of the book offers a diversion from this, with the grumblings of the Israelites constituting a recurring pattern.