Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy
Old Testament Survey, Lesson 4 of 18
The last three books of the Pentateuch are Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. Moses
was the human author of these books also. Twenty of the chapters of Leviticus begin with
the statement: And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying. The Lord spoke to
Moses appears forty times in the book of Numbers. Deuteronomy clearly claims Moses
as its author (Deuteronomy 1:1,5; 4:44,45; 31:24-26). Jesus said the Law (the first five
books of the Old Testament) was written by Moses (John 5:45-47). However, the last chapter
of Deuteronomy may have been written by Joshua for it tells of Moses death.
Leviticus was written at Mt. Sinai. Numbers probably was written near the end of the wandering in the desert. Deuteronomy would have been written shortly before Moses death (Deuteronomy 1:5; Numbers 36:13).
Leviticus: The Way of Holiness
Leviticus served as a guide for the priests and Levites. It contains instructions about sacrifices, offerings and tabernacle worship. It also shows that sinful men can approach a sinless God by means of sacrifice (Isaiah 59:1,2; Romans 6:23; Hebrews 9:22;10:4). Leviticus emphasizes that blood is essential to atonement for sins (Leviticus 17:11). The two key words in Leviticus are: (1) holiness and; (2) atonement. The book is named for the Levites, the tribe from which the priests came.
There are five major offerings by which Israel could maintain holiness before God. They are: (1) Burnt offerings which showed complete dedication to God; (2) Meal offerings which showed gratitude to God for His blessings; (3) Peace offerings which showed communion or fellowship with God; (4) Sin offerings which atoned for sins. Sin offerings were a type of Christs sin offering for us; (5) Trespass offerings for specific acts of wrongdoing.
Numbers: Wandering in the Wilderness
This book is called Numbers because all the males who were old enough to serve in the army were numbered. This was done at Mt. Sinai and later as they prepared to enter Canaan. Numbers covers the time of Israels wandering in the desert from Mt. Sinai to the Plains of Moab. This was about 38 years. The book can be divided into five sections.
The first section records the preparation to begin the journey from Mt Sinai (Numbers 1:10 - 10:10). A count was taken which showed there were 603,550 men old enough to serve in the army. The Levites were not included. Instructions for the health of the camp, for tabernacle worship, and for moving the camp were also given.
The second section tells of the journey from Sinai to Kadesh-Barnea (Numbers 10:11-14:45). On this journey, several things happened. The people longed for the food in Egypt. They were sent quail by God, but were punished for their sins of murmuring and complaining. Also Aaron and Miriam rebelled against Moses authority. Miriam was stricken with leprosy as punishment. Perhaps this was because she was the leader of the rebellion; and being a woman, it was not proper for her to claim such authority. Also twelve spies were sent out from Kadesh-Barnea. They were gone for 40 days. They brought back a report that Canaan was a land flowing with milk and honey. However, ten of the twelve spies feared the people of the land. They lacked faith in God to give them the land. Only Joshua and Caleb disagreed. The people followed the faithless spies. Because the people lacked faith, they were sentenced to wander in the desert for forty years. Of that generation, only Joshua and Caleb were allowed to enter the Promised Land.
The third section covers about 37 years (Numbers 15:1-21:35). It tells the events of the journey from Kadesh to the Plains of Moab. The accounts of Korahs rebellion, Moses striking the rock instead of speaking to it, and the fiery serpents being sent among the people are among the events recorded. This section ends with the defeat of Og, king of Bashan, and Sihon, king of the Amorites, and the possession of their land east of Jordan.
The fourth section is the account of Balaam and Balak (Numbers 22:1-25:18). Balak, king of Moab, hired Balaam to curse Israel. Every time he tried to curse them, Balaam blessed them instead. Even though God spoke to Balaam through his donkey, he persisted in wrong-doing. When he failed to curse Israel, he taught the Moabite women to seduce the men of Israel to engage in idolatry and fornication. He knew this would bring Gods anger upon Israel (cf. 2 Peter 2:15,16; Jude 11; Revelation 2:14).
The last section tells of the final preparation to enter the Promised Land (Numbers 26:1-36:13). Males of military age were again counted. The number was 601,730. The cities of the Levites were set aside. Cities of refuge were also chosen. One who killed another person accidentally could seek safety in such a city until his case was heard by the elders of Israel.
Deuteronomy: Moses Farewell Address
When this book began, Israel was camped in the Plains of Moab, east of Jordan. Moses had served God for forty years. Joshua was selected to be the new leader. Moses gave his final speech to Israel. He stated again the Law God gave to Israel at Mt. Sinai. He added warnings of what would happen if the Law is disobeyed. He told of the blessings that will come if it is obeyed.
The book of Deuteronomy gets its name from two words: (1) deuteros - two or second; (2) nomos - law. Deuteronomy is a second giving of the law. It is a repeat of the Law given at Mt. Sinai. The purpose of Deuteronomy was to prepare Israel for entering Canaan to be Gods chosen nation.
The ten commandments are repeated in Deuteronomy, chapter five. Moses made it very clear that they were given only to the nation of Israel. The Great Commandment in the Law is stated in chapter 6:4,5: Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD: And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might. (cf. Matthew 22:35-40). Many warnings are given that Gods Law must not be changed in any way ( Deuteronomy 4:2; 12:32). In chapter eighteen, Moses gave the test of a prophet. If ones prophecy does not come to pass, he is a false prophet. He also speaks of a Prophet who would one day be sent by God. This is a reference to the coming of Christ ( Acts 3:22, 23).
The death of Moses is recorded in chapter 34. Moses was not permitted to enter the Promised Land because of his sin when he struck the rock (Numbers 20). God permitted him, however, to climb Mt. Nebo to the top of a peak called Pisgah where he could see the whole land. Then Moses died in the land of Moab. He was buried by God. No man knows the place. Moses was 120 years old at his death, but he was still a strong, able man. His eye was not dim, nor his natural force abated. He had served well in bringing Gods people to the Promised Land. Now, Joshua, a younger man, who had been his assistant, would lead the nation in taking Canaan.
An important teaching found in Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy is that of obedience. Gods blessings are only given as a result of obedience. He always punishes disobedience if it is not repented of.
We have completed our study of the first section of the Old Testament. We have traveled through the major events of the Books of Law. We have now come to the Jordan River and are ready to enter the Promised Land.
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