Raymond B. Dillard and Tremper Longman III
AN INTRODUCTION to the OLD TESTAMENT
The descriptive, yet prosaic title Numbers (derived from the Septuagint [ Arithmoi , Ariqmoi ]) has contributed to a general lack of interest in the book by the Christian community at large. The title conjures up thoughts of censuses and other lists. Indeed, there are many such in the book (Num. 1; 3:15-31; 7:10-83; 26:5-51; 28-29; 31:32-52), but even these are not devoid of theological interest (see below). Furthermore, there is much of immediate interest in the narratives (Balaam—Num. 22-24) and laws of Numbers. In Jewish circles the book goes by the name “In the wilderness” ( rBà'd“miB] , b emidbar , H4497, the fifth word in the text). This title names the setting of the entire book as the Israelites move from Sinai (Num. 1:12) to the wilderness of Paran (10:12) and finally to the plains of Moab (22:1; 36:13). Like Exodus and Leviticus, Numbers begins with the conjunction “and,” showing the continuity that exists between the books of the Pentateuch.
Numbers serves an important role as it narrates the transition from the old generation that left Egypt and sinned in the desert to the new generation that stands on the brink of the Promised Land. The book thus presents the reader with a vision of new beginnings and hope.