Study Guide

Book of Numbers Summary

Book of Numbers Summary

Our story begins in the desert. In the Sinai Peninsula to be exact. This is the exact same place where the Israelites have been hanging out since God freed them from slavery back in Exodus. They've been in this same spot for about a year and now they're getting ready to start out on their journey to this land flowing with milk and honey that God keeps talking about. Tents packed? Then let's go.

Oh, not so fast. We're gonna need to do some housekeeping first. God tells Moses and his brother, Aaron, to take a census. Count up all the guys from the twelve tribes of Israel who are twenty and older. Then, all the men over one month old, but just from the tribe of Levi. Then, all the firstborn sons. Then, all the Levites between thirty and fifty years old. The point is there's a lot of counting involved. Who knew the Bible loved math so much?

These numbers (hey, that's a pretty good title for this book) are gonna come in handy later. The Israelite men over twenty will be expected to go to war. No use burning your ancient draft cards, gents, you've already been counted. The Levites, on the other hand, will be in charge of the tabernacle, which is a tent that serves as God's dwelling place while everyone is en route to the Promised Land. And, boy, is the Lord finicky about how this place is handled. Only priests can go inside and only Levites can carry it from place to place. The penalty for disobedience is death. God's a real stickler.

But God doesn't just have guidelines for his tent. He's got something to say about every aspect of the community. Got a skin disease? You're out of here! Want to make a vow? Then give up grapes! Committed some sins? There's an offering for that. Touched a dead body lately? Unclean! Unclean!

Once all this is settled, the Israelites set on out the road with the help of a floating cloud which tells them where to go. Nice touch, God. But things pretty quickly go to heck when the people start kvetching about the trip. There's no food! It's too hot! My feet hurt! Nahshon pushed me! Wah! Needless to say, God is not amused and he occasionally rains down plagues just to show everyone who's in charge. That'll learn 'em.

When the group finally gets to the Promised Land, Moses sends twelve spies to check out exactly how amazing this new home of theirs is gonna be. Even though two of the spies, Joshua and Caleb, are psyched to take over their new home, the rest of the spies and the community aren't so tickled. It seems that they're gonna have to go to war against some pretty burly dudes to get a hold of this new real estate. The people aren't sure they can pull this one off.

God is pretty offended that the Israelites don't think he can help them win the war. So, he comes up with the punishment of all punishments. Because they've been such doubters, God won't allow any of the people counted in the first census to set foot in the Promised Land. That means they're gonna wander in the wilderness for forty years until everyone dies off. Total downer.

So, the group mills around for an entire generation. More Israelites rebel against God. He smites them. They fight in wars and win (yay!). Aaron dies. Moses appoints Joshua as his successor. And then there're more laws. Lots and lots of laws.

And just as we're about to venture into the Promised Land, the curtain closes. Just like that. Better luck next book? Nope, we're all gonna have to wait until the Book of Joshua to taste some of that sweet milk and honey. Oh, well.

  • Chapter 1

    Let's Get Counting

    • The story opens with a spotlight on Moses. He's still hanging with the Israelites in Sinai, where they've been since Exodus. At this point, it's been a year and two months since they made a run for it from Egypt. It's not exactly paradise, but hey, pretty much anything beats slavery.
    • Anyway, Moses is sitting in the "tent of meeting" (a.k.a. the tabernacle) when God tells Moses that he needs to take a census of all the people. Every man who's over twenty years old should have his name recorded. This will give Moses a good idea of who's gonna be able to go to war should the need arise. Plus, God is just kind of a fan of record-keeping.
    • God lists out twelve specific men to help with the census (one from each of the tribes of Israel). That's handy. God really has a future in HR.
    • So, Moses and Aaron get these guys together and they go ahead and register everyone in the community. We're guessing it takes awhile.
    • Yup. Once all the names of the over twentysomething males are written down, it ends up being exactly 603,550 battle-ready bros.
    • (Quick historical side note: There's no way this number is actually an accurate count. Think about it. When you add in women and children and the guys from the tribe of Levi (who haven't been counted yet) you're talking nearly two million people. That means there were as almost many people living in the wilderness in Sinai as there are in Boston today. See? Insanity. [Source 114.])

    Levi's Tabernacle Chores

    • The Levites (the guys who descended from Jacob's son Levi from back in Genesis) aren't included in this number. Hmm… we wonder why?
    • Good question. See, they're not expected to take up arms in battle. These guys are gonna be responsible for babysitting the tabernacle.
    • Sounds like a sweet gig? Not quite.
    • These guys will live around the tabernacle (which is basically a big tent that sits in the middle of the Israelite's camp and stands in for the presence of God).
    • They protect it (no touching!), perform basic upkeep, carry it from place to place (it was pretty bulky), and take it down and set it back up wherever the Israelites camp. Oh, and they have to kill anyone who sets foot near it. It's a pretty intense job.
    • Anyway, the Israelites go ahead and do everything that God says. Things are looking up for these guys. What could go wrong?
  • Chapter 2

    Setting Up Camp

    • God then gets really specific about the sleeping arrangements.
    • He tells the people they need to set up camp so that the tabernacle is in the center of everyone and people from each of the twelve tribes are living around it.
    • On each of the four sides, there will be three tribes. Check out this chart for details on the camping arrangements. God runs a really tight ship.
    • The Big Guy also names the order that the Israelites will set out on their journey in. First, the tribes to the east, then the ones to the south, next the Levites who will be schlepping the tabernacle to the Promised Land, then the tribes on the west, and finally, the guys living on the north side.
    • Everyone is in "regiments" and "companies," which implies that they are battle-ready. So, bring it bad guys. God's got this war thing down to a science.
    • Again, the Israelites follow all God's commands. Wow, this is all going along so smoothly. Promised Land here we come!
  • Chapter 3

    Priestly Duties

    • Okay, now it's time for some nitty gritty about the Levites—those descendants of Levi who are responsible for maintaining the tabernacle. Why a whole chapter? They're kind of a big deal.
    • But let's start at the beginning. Moses's brother Aaron had four sons—Nadab, Abihu, Eleazar, and Ithamar. If you remember, Nadab and Abihu died back in Leviticus when they royally screwed up some stuff in the tabernacle. Come on guys, it's not like God didn't give you super specific instructions.
    • So, now, only Eleazar and Ithamar are left to serve as priests. And they manage to get the job done without mishandling sacred stuff and getting struck down by the Almighty. Nice going, gents.
    • Basically, God says the descendants of Aaron will serve as priests and the Levites will work as their priestly assistants. So far so good.

    Fillin' In For The Firstborn

    • Okay, a little more backstory. Remember in Exodus, when God didn't kill all the firstborn sons of Israel? That was pretty swell, right?
    • Well, God also decided that, in payment for his über niceness, all the firstborn sons of Israel would belong to him.
    • Now, being the super laid back deity he is, God has generously decided to let the Levites stand in for the firstborn sons of Israel.
    • They'll be devoting their lives to the service of God, while everyone else goes about their daily routines. Sounds like a square deal.
    • So God decides to do a little census of the Levites. He counts all the males over one month old. Since Levi had three sons, his descendants are broken into three groups and given special places to live and specific tabernacle duties.

    The Sons Of Levi

    • The descendants of Gershon live on the west side of the tabernacle and take care of various fabrics associated with this divine site.
    • The offspring of Kohath live on the south side and they take care of all the super special holy goodies inside the tabernacle, like the Ark of the Covenant, the altar, the candlesticks, and all that good stuff.
    • Merari's boys sleep on the north side and take charge of all the structural components of the tabernacle. Tent poles, pillars, and all that jazz.
    • On the east side of the tabernacle, where the entrance is (and the best spot in the whole camp), Moses, Aaron, and Aaron's sons stay.
    • Basically, they're in charge of the whole kit and caboodle.
    • When God's done doing his count, the male Levites total up to 22,000.
    • Then God tells Moses to count the firstborn sons of Israel—he gets 22,273. Yikes. We never knew the Bible used so much math.
    • Again, God repeats his order to go ahead and do the swap—the Levites will stand in for the firstborns, who, by rights, are God's. He'll also take their livestock, too, so that the Israelites don't have to give up their firstborn oxen all the time.
    • However, since they are getting off on a divine debt, each firstborn Israelite male has to pay five shekels for the Levites's service. Hey, it really is the least they could do.
    • This money goes directly to Aaron and sons.
    • Again, everyone goes along with this, even though it means parting with hard-earned shekels, and God is pleased as punch. Seriously, the Israelites are killing it when it comes to obeying God in this book.
  • Chapter 4

    Workin' In A Tabernacle

    • Okay, this time, God wants the census to get even more micro. He tells Moses and Aaron to just count up the number of Levites from thirty to fifty years old because these are the guys who are able to work in the tabernacle.
    • The descendants of Kohath, Gershon, and Merari are all gonna get assigned some specific jobs around the movement of the tabernacle.
    • And, boy, believe us when we say things are about to get really nit-picky here.
    • First, Aaron and his sons will go inside the tabernacle and basically prepare the super holy things for travel. Only they get to see and touch them and everything has to be wrapped and packaged in a certain way. After all, you can't just take sacred objects that contain the very presence of God himself and toss them all into a flimsy cardboard box for easy moving.
    • After Aaron and his boys have gone through this whole long drawn out process, the Kohathites will be responsible for carrying these things through the wilderness. But whatever you do, Kohathites, don't touch these items! Don't even look at them or you will die!
    • Uh-huh. This is serious business.
    • The Gershonites will be responsible for carrying the tent covering, the curtains, screens, and any other fabrics that make up the tabernacle. Ithamar will be their direct boss in all this. Hopefully, he won't make them do any TPS reports.
    • As for the Merarites, they get to carry tent poles, pillars, and all kinds of structural doodads that make up the tabernacle. Again, they'll be reporting to Ithamar.
    • So Moses and Aaron count everyone up and get 8,580 strapping men ready for some heavy lifting duty.
    • With every tent pole and candlestick accounted for, the Israelites are ready to set off on their journey to the Promised Land. Yay, road trip!
  • Chapter 5

    Getting Rid Of The Sickies

    • But before they hit the road, God tells Moses that they need to kick anyone out of camp who "is leprous" (i.e. has a skin disease), suffers from a discharge, or anyone who's unclean because they've touched a dead body (because who doesn't love touching dead bodies?).
    • Obviously, this makes total sense to the people (after all, God is dwelling in their camp and they can't have these sickies grossing him out), so they do it.
    • Next, God lays out the penalties for someone who does wrong. Not only has this person upset the community, but he or she has also lost faith in God. And trust us, you do not want to do that.
    • First, he or she has to confess their sins to everyone. Then, that wrongdoer's got to make it financially right by paying the person they've jerked around what they lost plus 20% more.
    • If there's no wronged party or next of kin, the money goes to the priests. Along with a nice juicy ram of atonement. Score!

    All The Adulterous Ladies

    • Finally, God lays out a whole ritual for figuring out if your wife has been unfaithful. It's a doozy, but let's go step by step.
    • Let's say, one day, a husband suspects that his wife has been sleeping around. He doesn't have any proof though. Today, we would say he's out of luck. But Numbers has a ritual for these jealous dudes.
    • What the man does is bring his wife to the priest along with an offering of barley (without oil or frankincense added to spice it up). The priest takes a cup of holy water, mixes it with some dust from the floor of the tabernacle (gross) and then messes up the woman's hair.
    • Can't a girl even look good when she's on trial?
    • The priest tells the woman that the water carries a curse. If she's been a good little wifey, when she drinks it, nothing will happen. But if she's been naughty, God will make "her womb discharge [and] her uterus drop." Um, ouch.
    • Then, the priest writes the curse on the cup, makes the woman drink the water and everyone sits back to see what happens. Is she a sinful harlot who will be cast out of the community forever? Or will her uterus stay in one place? The water will reveal all.
    • (Side note: No, actually it probably won't.)
    • Note that this ritual doesn't apply to adulterous men. (Who care about them? Boys will be boys, right?) But ladies better watch out.
  • Chapter 6

    Sacred Vows

    • This next section is all about God's rules for nazirites. These are men or women who set themselves apart from the community to become closer to God. Sort of like ancient Hebrew monks and nuns, but their vows weren't necessarily permanent.
    • So, you want to be a nazirite? Here's what you've gotta do:
    • No drinking wine, booze, vinegar, or grape juice. So much for weekends.
    • No eating anything made from grapes. Looks like you're switching to strawberry for those PB&Js.
    • No more hair cuts. God likes long, unkempt locks.
    • No going near dead bodies. Not even if your mom dies? Nope, not even then.
    • Okay, so that's hardcore. But what if you mess up and accidentally touch a dead body? Who can resist doing that?
    • No worries. Just shave your head, then bring the priest two pigeons and two turtledoves (leave the three French hens at home. It's overkill). Once the priest sacrifices them—ba-da-boom-ba-da-bing—you're back in holy business.
    • When you're done with your vow and ready to return to secular life, bring a male lamb, a female lamb, a ram, a basket of unleavened breads, cakes, and unleavened wafers to the tabernacle for the priest to sacrifice. Then, shave your head and burn the hair and you're back to getting tipsy on Friday nights. Easy peesy lemon squeezey.

    God Bless You (Did Someone Sneeze?)

    • After all this, God tells Moses that he needs to tell Aaron to bless the people. They've been doing so well, so they really deserve it.
    • It's sort of a famous blessing (because God gets pretty poetic and sappy here): "The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace." Awww. Told you it was sweet.
  • Chapter 7

    It's Tabernacle Ribbon-Cutting Day

    • Okay, it's time for a flashback! About a month ago, on the day that Moses finished the tabernacle (which was actually way back in Exodus 40), the leaders of the twelve tribes brought all kinds of goodies for it. Mainly wagons and oxen. Right. Just what the tabernacle always wanted. Not.
    • Wait! Don't break out the gift receipts just yet. These offerings will be handy when it comes time to move this huge holy tent. Ah, smart thinking, twelve tribes of Israel!
    • So, Moses divides up the wagons and oxen among the Levites. Except the Kohathites. They don't get any. Apparently, all the special holy things from inside the tabernacle just have to be carried by hand, so no oxen for you. And if you touch or look at one, you die, remember? That job is looking worse and worse.
    • Then, one by one, each of the leaders of each of the twelve tribes present their own offerings for the dedication of the tabernacle. Each of the tribes gets its own offering day.
    • On the first day, Judah brings a silver plate and silver basin filled with flour, a golden dish of incense, a young bull, a young ram, a male lamb, a male goat, two oxen, five rams, five male goats, and five male lambs. What a haul.
    • On the second day, the leader of Issachar brings… the same exact thing. Whoa, how embarrassing.
    • On the third day… same thing. This goes on for each of the tribes, until on the twelfth day of dedication, the leader of the Naphtalites gives to the Lord… the exact same thing as every other Israelite.
    • But far from being a gifting nightmare, these identical offerings show the oneness and unity of Israel. You go, ancient Hebrews!
    • After all this, Moses goes inside the tabernacle and hears God's voice speaking to him from the seat above the Ark of the Covenant.
    • Oh, do tell, Moses…
  • Chapter 8

    Care And Feeding Of Tabernacles

    • Remember, we're still in flashback mode here (everything is still taking place after the completion of the tabernacle in Exodus 40). Let's continue…
    • So, Moses is inside the tabernacle and God explains to him exactly how Aaron needs to set up the lamps in the tabernacle. 
    • As usual, God is pretty specific about the design and number of these lamps. The Big Guy really has an eye for detail.
    • God also tells Moses to perform a purification ritual on all the Levite males so that they will be fit for service to the tabernacle.
    • Naturally, the ritual involves a bath and a full body shave. Because cleanliness is next to… well, you know.
    • Next, the whole community is told to gather around the Levites and lay their hands on them. Again, this is because God wanted these guys to stand in for everyone. No firstborn sons of Israel needed to worry about a lifetime of religious service. The Levites would do it for them.
    • This also has a practical purpose—it will protect the people from the plagues that God will rain down on them if they all started bumbling around the tabernacle. Honestly, it's probably best they don't go near the thing. Leave this to the professionals, Israelites.
    • Once the Levites are all cleansed and ready to go, God gives them to Aaron's sons so that they can assist the priests with all kinds of fancy tabernacle duties.
    • But there are some restrictions—only men twenty-five to fifty years old can serve the tabernacle. At fifty, every Levite is required to throw himself a crazy retirement party. (Okay, not really, but he does have to hang up his holy hat.)
    • Naturally, this is all done exactly as God commands. Another point for the Israelites!
  • Chapter 9

    A Few Simple Rules For Celebrating Passover

    • Okay, we're still in this crazy long flashback from Exodus 40. Just double checking that you knew.
    • Anyway, when the tabernacle finally comes together, God goes ahead and explains to Moses when and how everyone is supposed to celebrate Passover. Easy, right? Not quite.
    • Some of the people are "unclean." Seems they have been touching some dead bodies. Seriously, there are, apparently, tons of dead bodies laying around in Sinai for the touching.
    • These people come to Moses wondering if they can celebrate Passover, too. All they did was poke a few corpses—is that so wrong?
    • Moses checks with God and finds out that they can celebrate Passover—they just have to do it one month later than everyone else.
    • Sounds great, but one quick warning. Unless you're unclean or away on some long journey—you need to be celebrating Passover with everyone else at the correct time. Obviously, anyone who tries to delay Passover will be kicked out of the community. Or killed. Seems fair, right?
    • Also, if non-Israelites who are living in the community want to celebrate Passover too, go ahead and invite them over. The more the merrier! Bitter herbs for all!

    Partly Cloudy Travel Plans

    • Anyway, back to the tabernacle. See, on the day it was set up, a cloud covered the opening to the tabernacle. At night, the cloud would look like fire. Oh, nice special effects, God.
    • This cloud is pretty important though. Whenever the Israelites would move the tabernacle in the future (they're about to set out on the journey in the next chapter), the cloud would tell them where to go. Clever cloud.
    • When the cloud would leave the tabernacle, they would know it was time to pack up and go. When the cloud would come to rest somewhere, they would know that this was the place they needed to make camp. It's kind of like GPS, except with 100% more clouds.
    • Basically, by following the cloud they were following God. And following the Big Guy is always a good idea in this story.
  • Chapter 10

    Blow, Israel, Blow

    • Again, we're still in this flashback to events that happened one month ago. Don't worry. It's almost over.
    • God tells Moses to make two silver trumpets. Moses, who's obviously really good with his hands, does this right away.
    • Moses is to use these trumpets as a way to signal all kinds of different things to the community. Blow both to summon everyone to the tabernacle. Blow just one to call just the leaders in the community. Sound an alarm to tell everyone it's time to leave camp. Or when you go to war. Or when there's some kind of celebration.
    • Whew. Did you get all that? We bet the ancient Israelites felt a bit like Maria on her first day of work with the Von Trapp family.
    • Basically, all this horn blowing is supposed to alert God that something major is going on. It's sort of his bat signal.

    Let's Hit The Road

    • Time for a road trip!
    • Finally, after all the plans and preparations (and really long flashbacks to stuff we sort of already covered in Exodus), the Israelites are ready to set out for the Promised Land. Got your bags packed, everyone?
    • When everyone sees the cloud lift off the tabernacle they know that's their signal to head out. Eventually, the cloud lands somewhere in the Wilderness of Paran. That does not sound like a cozy resting place.
    • But because they planned so nicely, everyone sets out in the same detailed and orderly fashion that God has previously laid out. First the tribes to the east, then the ones to the south… and so on, until everyone is on the road. Planning really is the key to a successful trip.

    We Don't Need No Stinkin' Maps

    • Moses approaches a guy named Hobab and explains where they're going. To the land flowing with milk and honey—woo-hoo!
    • But Hobab is less thrilled. He knows that this journey is gonna be no fun and he's actually been thinking about heading back to Egypt. What?
    • Moses says they're gonna miss him when he's gone. For real. After all, Hobab knows the wilderness pretty well, so he'll be able to help the Israelites figure out where to camp. Sure, the cloud is helping, but a little human guidance would be good, too.
    • When Moses mentions that God is sure to bless him for his trouble, Hobab decides to stay and give it a go.
    • So, Hobab is great, but the cloud is still leading the way. The community keeps travelling around with the Lord in their midst helping to make sure they don't take a wrong turn anywhere.
    • Basically, so far so good. Walley World, here we come!
  • Chapter 11

    Welcome To Complainerville

    • Not quite. Things aren't good for long.
    • See, right away the people start moaning and complaining about this trip.
    • God hears and is a bit ticked off. So he sets fire to the camp. The people freak out, and ask Moses for help. So, Moses prays to God and he puts out the fire. Okay, point taken, Lord. Right?
    • Nope. No one learns their lesson.
    • Lots of people keep whining about how hungry they are. Even though God has given them delicious manna, which they're able to collect every morning and make into some tasty cakes, the people want meat.
    • They keep reminiscing about how good the food was back in Egypt. They had fish and leeks and melons. So delicious.
    • Of course, they were slaves back then, too, but oh, the food was good.
    • Moses hears them complaining and is super annoyed.
    • He goes to God and gives him a piece of his mind. Why did God give him such a bunch of whiners to lead? After all, God is the one who created them, he should be feeding them. Moses can't take it anymore. If God has any sense of decency, he'll just kill Moses right now.
    • Dramatic much? Okay, Moses, God hears your complaints and they will be addressed.
    • God tells Moses to gather up seventy elders in the community so he can share his spirit with them and they can help Moses manage the people. Ah, at last, some middle management.
    • God also tells Moses that he's gonna give the people meat. Lots of meat. In fact, they'll get so much meat that they're gonna end up hating it. This is also known in the biz as the Radish Cure.
    • Moses wonders just how God is gonna get enough meat to feed all these people. And God tells him, Dude, I'm God. I can do whatever I want. It's kind of in the job description. Point taken.

    God Follows Through On The Whole Meat Thing

    • Sure enough, God delivers. He shares the spirit that Moses has with seventy other dudes and they all prophesy. Sadly, this is a one-time-only deal. So, don't get out your lottery tickets yet, ancient Israel.
    • But two guys manage to keep the divine gifts going. When Joshua (Moses's assistant) sees them prophesying around camp, he tries to stop them.
    • But Moses isn't worried. He wishes everyone had these super special gifts from God. It would make his whole job a lot easier.
    • After this, God sends some meat in the form of quails. Tons of quails. The birds blow in and fall all over the camp. For miles and miles around them, there are just quails everywhere. Like three feet deep. It's kind of like a quail flood.
    • The people gather up loads of quails and start to eat them up when God decides to lay a little wrath on them. They get hit with a plague and tons of people die. Yikes.
    • Guess they won't be eating quail again anytime soon.
  • Chapter 12

    Time For Some Sibling Rivalry

    • Moses's sister, Miriam, and his brother, Aaron, get a little jealous that God always seems to be chatting it up with Moses. Plus, Moses married a Midianite woman, so everyone knows he's not the cat's pajamas.
    • But God knows that Moses is humbler and more awesome than anyone, so he calls Miriam and Aaron into the tabernacle for a pow-wow.
    • God appears in front of the tabernacle as a pillar of cloud. He explains that he usually communicates with humans through dreams and visions and all that good stuff. But with Moses, the two of them just talk face to face. Miriam and Aaron know this, right? So, why are they bad-mouthing Moses?
    • God is ticked, so when they leave Miriam gets struck with a creepy skin disease. Aaron freaks out and begs Moses not to punish them for being so stupid or worse… kill them.
    • Moses asks God to heal Miriam, but he tells Moses that they should just throw her out of camp for seven days so she can be ashamed in peace. Afterwards, everything will be copacetic.
    • So, they toss Miriam to the curb for a week. Luckily, the people wait for her before moving onto their next stop. Otherwise, that would be quite a punishment.
  • Chapter 13

    Spies Like Them

    • Moses decides to send some spies ahead to check out this awesome little piece of land that God has promised them. What's it like there? And how many people are they gonna have to fight to take control of it?
    • Moses sends twelve guys (one from each tribe)—including two standouts, Joshua and Caleb—to see what the deal is with this land of plenty.
    • After forty days, the spies return and report that the land is indeed all that and a bag of chips. And milk and honey.
    • But it's also occupied by a whole bunch of other people who seem pretty happy to be living there. And also really strong and numerous. Things are not looking good.
    • For his part, Caleb thinks they can take these guys out pretty easily.
    • The other spies don't agree and they tell everyone that this land is overrun with giant burly dudes who could totally take them down in a fight. Oh no.
  • Chapter 14

    Everybody Panic!

    • When the people hear that they might not be able to waltz into the Promised Land like God assured them, there's a major group freak out.
    • Everyone starts to panic and say that it would have been better to stay slaves and die in Egypt. Or to die here in the wilderness. But now God is trying to get them stabbed to death by crazed giants with swords.
    • Maybe it's time to pack up and go home to Egypt? We're sure Pharaoh would be glad to see them. We're guessing he's still got some pyramids he'd like built.
    • Moses, Aaron, Joshua, and Caleb tear their clothes and beg the people not to test God. They promise that the land is just as good as God said it would be and they can totally beat down the folks that live there. They do have God on their side, don't they? Please, guys, do not do anything stupid.

    They Are So Grounded

    • Too late. God has heard everything and he is none too pleased.
    • Why does everyone hate me? he asks Moses. Poor God. He's a little sad, so he threatens to kill everyone right then and there. Are you Israelites happy? Now no one gets the Promised Land.
    • Moses reminds God that the Egyptians will be waiting for the Israelites to set foot in this new country. If God doesn't follow through with his plan, he's totally gonna lose face with all the other nations on the earth. People are gonna say, That Yahweh is a real jerk. First, he promises his people land, then he kills them all. Who wants to believe in him? Lame.
    • Remember, Moses tells God, you're all about loving and forgiving. That's kind of your deal. So, why not once more? For old time's sake?
    • Oh, fine, God says. But the Israelites are not gonna get off that easy.
    • God decides that, because they didn't trust in him, no one over twenty years old is gonna set foot in the Promised Land. (Except for Caleb and Joshua and their families. Those guys are cool.)
    • He's gonna make all the over-twenties wander around in the desert for forty years until every single person who was counted in the census is dead. Their kids will get to head into the land after they're gone.
    • Remember, this is God's way nicer consolation punishment.
    • The ten men who wimped out after Moses sent them to spy—they're the first to die. Plague. Nasty business.
    • So, Moses tells the people what God has in store for them and they're pretty annoyed. They decide to try to take the Promised Land anyway without God's help.
    • Oh, no, Moses tells them. You do not want to do that. After all, God decided that they're not gonna set foot on that land and, as you know, God is never wrong.
    • Sure enough, the people head to the Promised Land, but get beaten back by the Amalekites and Canaanites who live there. Sigh. Will they ever learn?
  • Chapter 15

    Make God An Offering He Can't Refuse

    • So, forty years from now, some of these folks are going to live in the land God promised. Yay?
    • When they do, there will be some rules. Oh, go on…
    • God says that grain and drink offerings are supposed to be paired with animal offerings. More side dishes for bigger animals.
    • All Israelites are supposed to do this and, if non-Israelites living among them want to, that's cool with God, too. He treats everyone the same.
    • God would also like the people to donate a loaf of bread to the priests every time they bake a batch. Sounds delicious.
    • If the people accidentally break one of these laws that God has told them about, they can present an offering and things will be good again. Individual sinners can do the same.
    • But if you purposely break a law and don't really care, then you're cut off from the community. So, sorry. Better luck next time, sinner.

    Everybody Sinners Must Get Stoned

    • Quick story—while the Israelites are wandering around in the wilderness, they catch a guy collecting sticks on the Sabbath. That's considered doing work on the Sabbath and it's a no-no.
    • The people aren't sure what to do with him, but then God tells Moses to go ahead and have the people stone him to death. And so they do.
    • Um, let that be a reminder to you. Collect your sticks on a Thursday.
    • God also tells Moses that the Israelites should put cool blue fringe cords on their clothes. God hopes this will remind them to follow his law instead of sinning their little hearts out. Fingers crossed.
  • Chapter 16

    Rebels With A Pretty Good Cause

    • Time for some more rebellions. Of course.
    • Korah (a Levite), Dathan and Abiram (guys from Reuben's tribe), and 250 other men from the community confront Moses and Aaron one day.
    • They want to know what makes Moses and Aaron so special. After all, aren't all the Israelites God's holy, chosen people? Why do only Moses and Aaron get to be in charge? Wah!
    • Moses tells Korah that God will sort all this out for them. Oh, this sounds good.
    • He tells Korah and his fellow complainers to take incense and offer it to God tomorrow. If God thinks they're worthy to approach the tabernacle, then he'll let everyone know. If not, then he'll probably strike them dead on the spot. Hey—you win some, you lose some.
    • Moses tells Korah and the Levites that they should just be glad they're able to help out with the tabernacle. They shouldn't be trying to get their grubby hands on the priesthood, too.
    • But when Moses tries to talk it out with Dathan and Abiram, they won't even come see him. Hey, they were promised a land flowing with milk and honey and they're pretty ticked about not getting it.
    • The next day, all the naysayers take their incense and stand at the entrance to the tabernacle. Suddenly, "the glory of the Lord" appears to everyone. Oh!
    • God tells Moses and Aaron to stand aside. He's gonna smite these evildoers once and for all. Oh, no!
    • Moses and Aaron realize that God plans to kill off everyone in the community, so they beg him not to hold everyone responsible for a few bad apples.
    • Okay, fine, God says. But I'm seriously gonna bring down my wrath on Korah, Dathan, and Abiram, so everyone else better back up.
    • Just then, the ground splits open and those three guys, their wives, children, and homes all sink down into Sheol (where dead people live. It's not a nice spot to visit).
    • Naturally, everyone else starts freaking out and running around when they see this.
    • Meanwhile, God burns up the 250 men with their little incense offerings. But all is not lost. God tells Moses to get Eleazar to take their bronze censers (the small trays that held the incense) and pound them into plates to cover the altar. This should serve as a little reminder to the people that only Aaron and sons can approach the altar. Waste not, want not.
    • The next day, everyone is still in chaos. And they blame Moses and Aaron for killing these 253 rebels (plus innocent women and children).
    • God is annoyed, so he starts a plague.
    • Moses thinks quick and tells Aaron to perform a ritual with incense to atone for the sins of the people. Hurry!
    • The plague stops, but not before 14,700 people had died. It is not shaping up to be a good couple of days for Israel.
  • Chapter 17

    Fully Staffed

    • One day, God has an idea about how to settle all this squabbling. This should be good…
    • He tells Moses to have one man from each of the twelve tribes bring a staff to the tabernacle (make sure that Aaron is the one who goes from the tribe of Levi). The man whose staff "sprouts" will be the one that God chooses as leader. Sounds simple enough.
    • Everyone follows God's orders and sure, enough, the next day, Aaron's staff is all blossoming with flowers and delicious almonds. Tasty.
    • Moses brings the staffs out and shows them to the other men.
    • See, he says. This is a warning. Now respect my authority or else God is gonna smite you something awful.
    • God tells Moses to put the staff inside the tabernacle as a sign of Aaron's authority.
    • Naturally, the people start freaking out and worrying that God's gonna destroy them. Well, that is his plan… eventually.
  • Chapter 18

    More Priestly Duties

    • God reiterates to Aaron that he, his sons, and the Levites are in charge of the tabernacle. Which basically means that if anything goes wrong, they'll be the ones paying the price. Yikes.
    • Again, God explains that the Levites are to help with the tabernacle, but never to touch or look at anything inside it. It's priests only inside the tent. Otherwise, it's death for everyone involved.
    • God also details which offerings the priests get to take a cut of. Priests and their families can eat any grain, sin, or guilt offerings. Let's hope there's lots of sinning going on, or those priests are gonna get pretty hungry.
    • Again, God mentions that the Levites are entitled to five shekels for every firstborn male among the Israelites, as well as every firstborn animal. Score!
    • Sounds good so far, right? Well, God also tells Aaron that he and his family don't get to own any land. God will provide for them (by generously letting them share in his offerings). Okay, but nothing really beats a room of one's own.
    • God also mentions that the Levites are to get a tithe from the Israelites as payment for their service to the tabernacle. Basically, this just means that the people of Israel are supposed to fork over a tenth of whatever goods they produce (grain, wine, etc.).
    • The Levites, in turn, will offer Aaron and sons a tenth of their wages. It's kind of like tipping your server, except God doesn't want you to be as generous.
  • Chapter 19

    Who You Callin' Heifer?

    • God tells Moses and Aaron another one of his awesome ideas. Get a red heifer, have Eleazar slaughter it, sprinkle its blood towards the entrance to the tabernacle, and then burn it. Good times!
    • Of course, this whole ritual will make Eleazar unclean for a few hours. And whoever burns up the cow. And whoever sweeps up its ashes. Um, why are we doing this again?
    • Oh, right, to help other unclean people.
    • Remember, God thinks it's kind of gross for anyone to touch dead bodies. Yet, he just killed 14,000 people a couple chapters ago. It's gonna be pretty tough to avoid getting near a dead person in this camp.
    • No worries. God has a ritual for that.
    • If you touch a dead body, you're unclean for seven days. But you can purify yourself again by mixing the ashes from the heifer with some water and having someone sprinkle you with them on the third and seventh day. It's magic!
    • It sure is. And if you don't do this, then you'll stay unclean and that means you're kicked out of the community. Goodbye! Don't let the tent flap hit you on the way out.
    • Same thing if someone dies in your tent. Or if you come across a dead body in a field. Use the water and ash mixture on the third and seventh day and you'll be back to cleanliness in no time.
  • Chapter 20

    Time For Some More Whining

    • Meanwhile, the Israelites are still wandering in the wilderness. In fact, they've probably been doing this for about forty years at this point, so they're getting kind of exhausted.
    • Naturally, the complainers start to come out. We wish we were dead! Why did God free us from slavery so we could die out here? There's no food or water! Wah-waaah!
    • This time, God hears their complaints and has some compassion. He tells Moses and Aaron to take Aaron's staff (the flowery one from a few chapters ago) and use it to bring water out of a rock for the people. Cool trick, bro.
    • So, Moses and Aaron tells everyone that they're being jerks but that they're gonna give them water. Moses hits the rock with his hand and water comes flowing out. Yay, liquid refreshment!
    • But it turns out, God is annoyed by this and accuses Moses and Aaron of not trusting him. (Guess they weren't supposed to get the water from the rock by hitting it.) Their punishment? They're not gonna make it to the Promised Land either. Harsh, God. Way harsh.

    When In Edom

    • Meanwhile, Moses figures that the Israelites need to travel through Edom, so he asks the King of Edom if this is okay. But the king turns him down.
    • Seriously? Moses asks. We won't mess up your stuff if that's what you're worried about.
    • No, his royal grumpiness replies. Get off our lawn!
    • For reals? Because if we eat or drink anything we'll pay for it, Moses tells him.
    • No means no, Moses, the king replies and threatens to attack them if they set foot in Edom. The Israelites are forced to go around. This would be way easier if they were travelling by map.
    • Eventually, the people come to Mount Hor, which is on the border of Edom.
    • God is still really ticked about the whole water out of a rock thing, so he tells Moses to strip Aaron of his priestly attire and pass it along to his son, Eleazar. He also tells him that Aaron is gonna die. Bummer.
    • Sure, enough, that's what happens. Everyone mourns for thirty days because it's just so super sad. Tissues anyone?
  • Chapter 21

    Arad Is Going Down

    • So, Israel is making its way through the wilderness when the King of Arad hears they'll be close by him and sends his army to attack.
    • How rude.
    • The Israelites tell God that if he'll be on their side they can take down the king and his army and then "utterly destroy" their attackers. Cheery. So, that's exactly what they do.

    Once Bitten, Twice Die

    • Despite their victory, the people are whining again.
    • They wonder why God took them away from Egypt (and slavery) just to have them starve to death in this Yahweh-forsaken wasteland.
    • In other words, there's no food.
    • This time, God is not so forgiving of their gripes. He sends a whole bunch of poisonous snakes to bite them. Think snakes on a plane are bad? Try snakes on a plain… in the middle of the desert.
    • The people pretty quickly realize they've been naughty and sinful and ask Moses for help. Moses goes to God, who tells Moses to make a "serpent of bronze" and put it on a pole. If anyone gets bitten by a snake, they can look at the bronze serpent and they won't die. Wait, so there's still snakes all around and they're still biting, but at least no one's gonna die. Gee, thanks, God.

    At War With The Amorites

    • The Israelites keep on travelling through the wilderness (and get some more divine water delivered to them) when finally they come to the place where the Amorites live. Again, Moses asks the king if they can pass through. He gets a big fat, "No!" for his trouble.
    • But this time, when the Amorites attack, the Israelites get the better of them… and all their lands. Hooray for the spoils of war!
    • Same thing happens when they run up against the King of Bashan. Israel kills "him, his sons, and all his people, until there was no survivor left." Yikes, guys.
  • Chapter 22

    Balak's Big Mistake

    • The Israelites are hanging in Moab when they manage to catch the attention of the Moabite king, Balak.
    • See, the Moabites are worried that the Israelites are going to destroy their land, so Balak plans to drive them out of Moab using military force. He knows they've got a pretty mighty army going though, so first he needs a little help.
    • He sends a message to Balaam, a non-Israelite who specializes in cursing people, predicting the future, and communicating with the divine. Basically, if Balaam worked at Hogwarts, he'd be teaching Divination.
    • King Balak sends messengers to Balaam who offer to pay him handsomely if he'll dish out a curse on Israel.
    • Balaam is interested in this offer, but needs to consult with God first. Wonder what he'll say?
    • News flash—God is not in favor of Balaam cursing his most favorite people on the planet. Big shocker.
    • So, Balaam sends the messengers back. When King Balak sees them, he decides to try again. This time he sends more people and offers to pretty much write him a blank check if Balaam will just come to Moab and curse Israel. Is that so hard?
    • Dudes, Balaam says, you're not getting it. No matter how much you offer me, I can't go against God. But just in case he's changed his mind, Balaam decides to consult with God one more time.
    • This time, God tells him that, if the men come to get him, it's fine to go with him. But he still hasn't given him leeway to curse Israel yet.

    Balaam And Donkey On Another Whirlwind Adventure

    • The next morning, Balaam saddles up his donkey and goes to meet the Moabite men.
    • God is ticked. He clearly told Balaam to wait until the Moabites came to him. Ugh. Does no one listen to instructions? So, he sends the Angel of the Lord to stand in the roadway and block him.
    • Now, Balaam can't see the angel, but the donkey can. The donkey spots him standing there with a huge sword in his hand and decides to take another path.
    • Balaam hits the donkey to get him back on the road. Poor donkey!
    • When the donkey gets to a narrow strip of road with walls on either side, the angel pops up again. And he's still holding that sword.
    • The donkey is so freaked out that he just lays down in the road.
    • Balaam hits the donkey again, but this time the donkey starts to talk. Go ahead and imagine that he sounds like Eddie Murphy. We know we are.
    • Dude, the donkey says, why're you hitting me?
    • Balaam (who doesn't panic about this talking donkey) says, Um, maybe because you can't walk straight. Seriously, if I had my sword right now I'd kill you.
    • Honestly, the donkey says, you humans are so thick. Obviously there's something wrong because I'm acting really weird.
    • Just then, Balaam sees the angel in the road. With the sword. Oh, so that's what the donkey was talking about.
    • The angel explains that it's trying to stop Balaam from going to the Moabite men. That donkey actually saved his life, because if Balaam had kept going, the angel would have killed him dead. Hey, can a donkey get waffle for his trouble?
    • My bad, Balaam tells him.
    • No worries, the angel replies. Go ahead on your way. I'll let you know what to say to King Balak. Huh? We thought God was opposed to this trip.
    • Anyway, King Balak is pretty excited when Balaam arrives, but Balaam tells him that he's not at liberty to curse anyone yet. So, he sacrifices some oxen and sheep and takes Balak to a place where he can see the Israelites in their camp. Interesting move, Balaam.
  • Chapter 23

    Mixed Blessings

    • Balaam tells King Balak to build him seven altars and then he sacrifices seven bulls and seven rams. Looks like Balaam has a lucky number.
    • Afterwards, God gives Balaam a message. He's to tell King Balak that the Israelites are God's people and can't be cursed. In fact they're blessed. So take that.
    • King Balak is totally annoyed. Seriously, Balaam! I brought you here to curse people and now you're doling out blessings. I want a refund.
    • But Balaam explains that he only said what God told him to.
    • King Balak tries again. He asks Balaam to move to a different place and then has altars built and animals sacrificed in that spot.
    • Again, Balaam blesses the Israelites instead of cursing them on God's command. Hey, he's gotta listen to God, Balak.
    • Naturally, King Balak is even more annoyed this time. But because he's not the sharpest knife in the royal drawer, he decides to try one more time. They move to a different place and build seven more altars and slaughter even more animals. Seriously? Is King Balak ever gonna learn?
  • Chapter 24

    Top It All Off With A Curse

    • So, what does Balaam do at this new place? Surprise, surprise—he blesses Israel… and curses King Balak. Snap!
    • By this point, King Balak is fuming. What the schmoop, Balaam?! You just blessed my enemies three times! Are you some kind of moron?! Just think—you coulda been rich if you weren't so busy following God and all that junk.
    • In my defense, Balaam tells him, I did tell you I couldn't go against God. Plus, you're the dummy who kept running around building altars.
    • So, Balaam offers Balak one last prediction. He tells him that Israel is going to utterly crush him and anyone else who opposes them.
    • Why? Because they've got God on their side.
    • Balaam also sees a fierce military leader rising up out of Israel. Who could this mystery man be?
    • After all this Balaam decides to head home. King Balak "also went on his way." Better luck next time, Balak.
  • Chapter 25

    What Part Of "You Shall Have No Other Gods Before Me" Didn't You Understand?

    • While the Israelites are staying in Moab, they start getting down and dirty with the foreign ladies that live there.
    • Sure, maybe inviting some lovely Moabite women into your bed isn't a big deal—but deciding to worship their god, Baal, is. God is not amused.
    • God tells Moses that he needs to impale all the chiefs of Israel. That way he can stop being so angry with everyone. Whoa. God doesn't mess around.
    • But instead, Moses tells the Israelite judges to kill anyone who's worshipping Baal. This is slightly different than what God said.
    • Meanwhile, one of the Israelite men marries a Midianite woman. Moses totally sees what's going down, but he doesn't really do anything about it. Maybe that's because he was also married to a Midianite lady.
    • But Eleazar's son, Phinehas, see this and runs to grab his spear. He rushes into the man's tent and stabs the guy and his wife. Right through the stomach. That's gotta hurt. A lot.
    • Apparently, this makes God happy again, so he stops the plague that he has been pouring down on the people. (About 24,000 died anyway, so it was kind of a big deal.)
    • God tells Moses that Phinehas did the right thing by murdering that dude and his wife. That kid is a real go-getter. God's gonna have his eye out for him in the future.
    • God also tells Moses that they should keep giving trouble to the Midianites because of all the trouble they've given Israel over the years. Vengeance is mine, saith the Lord. Indeed.
  • Chapter 26

    Even More Numbers

    • After all this, God announces that it's a pretty good time to take another census. Lots of people have died, so God's gotta get a better count of who's still left standing.
    • So, Moses tells everyone camping out on the plains of Moab that it's time to start counting again. Gather up all the men over twenty (by tribe, of course). Basically, we're looking for everyone who can go to war.
    • After a really long and detailed list of names, the total number of men counted is 601,730. Remember the first census had only 1,820 more people. That means the Israelites were pretty busy. For almost every single person who died in those crazy plagues and punishments, new babies replaced them.
    • God tells Moses to use this information to make sure that all the tribes get a fair share of the land.
    • Then, Moses goes and counts the Levites. Good news, guys—your ranks have increased in number. There's about 1,000 more Levites than there were forty years ago. Levites for the win!
    • At the end of all this counting, we're told that, aside from Moses, Eleazar, Caleb, and Joshua, no one who was counted in this census was counted in the first one. That whole older, sinful generation has died off (or been killed off). Now the new generation is ready to waltz into the Promised Land just like God, well, promised.
  • Chapter 27

    Five Ancient Feminists

    • So, everyone has been counted and all the land has been passed out. Everyone happy? Okay, then let's go home and make some waffles.
    • Ah, not so fast. The daughters of Zelophehad are not too thrilled with the land arrangement. When their father died, he had five daughters, but no sons. And because they don't have penises, the ladies can't inherit any land through their father's name. Have these girls been reading Pride and Prejudice?
    • So, the daughters take this up with Moses and he consults with God who, surprisingly, agrees with the ladies. It's only fair that they should get some land. God says that they can take a share of what their uncles have.
    • God also says that anytime a man dies and has no son, that his property should pass to his daughter.
    • Feminists everywhere rejoice!

    Joshua Takes The Reins

    • Later, Moses mentions that God should appoint a new leader for the people. Apparently, Moses is getting old. Plus, God already told him he wasn't gonna reach the Promised Land. These Israelites are gonna need someone to help them on the last leg of this wilderness adventure.
    • God suggests Joshua. He tells Moses to have Joshua stand in front of the whole community. Then, Moses can lay his hands on his and give him some (but not all) of his power and authority.
    • All in all, it's a pretty good day for Joshua.
  • Chapter 28

    Celebrate God Times!

    • Now, God decides to lay out some rules for offerings and for how the Israelites can go about celebrating him throughout the year. How kind.
    • God gives a bunch of guidelines for the kinds of offerings you can bring him every day. Lambs? Grain? Drinks? It's all good. As long as it gives off a "pleasing odor." (But really, does burning lamb smell that great?)
    • He also has more details for offerings on the Sabbath. Also, info on monthly offerings, which happen during the New Moon. No word on what offerings God likes most at twilight, during an eclipse, or while breaking dawn.
    • Then, God fills us in on what to do for Passover. Eat unleavened bread for seven days. Don't work on the first and last day. Oh, and offerings. Lots and lots of offerings.
    • How about Shavuot? More days off work (sweet!) and more super smelling burnt offerings. This whole celebrating the Lord thing is turning out pretty great!
  • Chapter 29

    Let's Keep This Party Going

    • And now more rules for how to do offerings during holidays. (Pro-tip: Make sure you include a gift receipt when you present that year-old male lamb without blemish to the Lord.)
    • We're up to Rosh Hashanah now.
    • No work on these days, obviously. You should also blow some trumpets to celebrate. (Hint: God prefers a ram's horn.) Naturally, offerings are expected.
    • On Yom Kippur? Take the day off work. But make sure you're fasting all day. (Hey, this holy stuff isn't all fun and games.) Offerings? You betcha.
    • Last, but not least, is Sukkot. This celebration lasts for eight days and God has very specific details on which offerings you should be stopping by with on which day. (The ancient Israelites' livestock bills must have been through the roof.) On the plus side, there are more days off involved. (No word on whether or not God gives paid holidays.)
  • Chapter 30

    Promise Keepers

    • This chapter is all about keeping your promises. That's right. God is very firm with his "no backsies" policy.
    • When a guy makes a vow (like a vow to be a Nazirite) or pledges to God that he will do something, he has to do it. That's it. End of story.
    • Same thing is true for a woman who makes a promise to God. With a few exceptions…
    • Let's say the lady in question is young and still lives with her dad. If she makes a vow and he doesn't like it, he can veto it. All he has to do is speak up when he first hears that she's made the promise and the whole thing is over with. Hear that, ladies? Father does know best.
    • Same thing with a married woman. If her husband hears that she's vowed to be a Nazirite for the next two months, but he needs her help in the vineyard, he can nix that as well. Doesn't every lady need a big strong man to tell her what she can and can't do?
    • But this only works if the authoritative man in question speaks up right when he first hears about the vow. If the husband decides that this whole Nazirite thing isn't working out after two weeks, he can't force his wife to quit without getting some major stink eye from God.
    • Widows and divorced women? Good news! None of this applies to you. Since, they're not under the control of any man, these ladies can make pledges whenever they want. We just hope their tiny lady brains can handle it.
  • Chapter 31

    War! What Is It Good For? (Getting Lots of Stuff, Apparently)

    • God tells Moses that the Israelites should attack the Midianites. Apparently, God still hasn't stopped hating on these guys.
    • So, Moses gathers up 12,000 men (1,000 from each tribe) and they kick butt pretty thoroughly. They slaughter every single man in the country, as well as all five kings of Midian and Balaam.
    • Wait, Balaam? What did he do wrong? Well, apparently, between his multiple blessings of Israel and now, he advised some of the Midianite women to tempt the Israelite men into worshipping Baal. (Remember all that craziness back in chapter 25?)
    • Okay, so all the men are dead. What about the women and children? They're taken captive. Nice. Along with all the animals and possessions in Midian.
    • When the army comes back with the human and non-human spoils of war, Moses is annoyed. "Have you allowed all the women to live?" Huh?
    • See, Moses is ticked because some of these women were the ones that tried to convince Israelite men to worship Baal. So, why exactly are they here?
    • Moses tells the army to kill every woman who's ever had sex (not sure how they're gonna be able to figure that one out). And for good measure, all the male children are gonna need to die, too. It's getting pretty genocidal up in here.
    • Female virgins, on the other hand, will be allowed to live. Good news, ladies. You will now be forcibly married to your captors or else used as slaves. Welcome to your new home.
    • But onto more important things. Have you touched a dead body during this whole gore fest? You're gonna need to leave camp for seven days and follow that whole purification ritual thing. See you in a week, gents!
    • Then, God tells Moses exactly how they should divide the booty. Keep in mind, by "booty," God means both animals and young women who have just watched the majority of their neighbors be brutally murdered.
    • Half the spoils of war will go to the 12,000 soldiers. The other half to everyone else in the community. Naturally, a small portion will make its way to the priests.
    • So, Moses and Eleazar get this all organized. It's quite a haul. The soldiers alone end up with:
    • 675,000 sheep
    • 72,000 oxen
    • 61,000 donkeys
    • 32,000 virgins
    • And—more good news—not even one Israelite has died in battle. Not one. Even though they just killed an entire race of men and sexually active women. We're thinking this is actually becoming a bit of a fish story.
    • The troops also bring 16,750 shekels worth of gold and silver that they "found" to the tabernacle in order to atone for themselves. Gee, we wonder what they would have to atone for?
  • Chapter 32

    This Land Looks Moo-velous

    • Okay, so, some of the guys from the tribes of Reuben and Gad have a lot of cows. And they've noticed that some of these newly conquered lands that Israel is acquiring are just perfect for cattle-herding. Coincidence? They think not.
    • So, the Reubenites and the Gadites approach Moses, Eleazar, and some leaders in the community to ask if they can just hang here and set up shop with their families. Who needs this whole Promised Land thing, right?
    • Moses is a little annoyed. So, these guys expect everyone else to head out to war over the Promised Land while they sit there milking cows? Don't they remember what happened last time people didn't want to bother heading to the Promised Land?
    • Let us refresh your memory: God made the whole group wander in the wilderness for forty years until nearly everyone died off.
    • Moses calls them a "brood of sinners" to cap off his whole rant.
    • But the Reubenites and Gadites ain't got time for that. They promise that they will help Israel fight to get to the Promised Land, as long as their wives, children, and livestock can stay behind in these non-promised lands. They also won't take any of this new land, they'll just head back home to the other side of the Jordan River and keep hanging with their cows and families.
    • Oh, well, if they'll fight, then that's a different story.
    • Moses makes the men swear that they'll follow through with their promise or else God will get them. Somehow. God's pretty good at that, so we're sure he'll follow through.
    • So, Moses gives them the land that was formerly the kingdom of the Amorites and they build it up (along with half the guys from the tribe of Manasseh.) Naturally, they give all the towns different (and way cooler) names.
  • Chapter 33

    Travels With Israel

    • Time for another tiny flashback. Now that the Israelites are at the end of the journey and ready to take the Promised Land, God asks Moses to take a little trip down memory lane to record all the places they've been up until now.
    • Basically, this is just a super long forty-year travel itinerary. It starts with the Israelites fleeing Egypt (the Egyptians are too busy burying their dead firstborn sons to notice right away). And it ends with them camping on the plains of Moab on the west side of the Jordan River.
    • Take a peek at a map for some details.
    • Now that that's all written down for posterity, God has another job for Moses.
    • He wants Moses to tell the Israelites that once they venture into the Promised Land in Canaan, they're to kick out all of the current residents. See, God has given it to them, so it's absolutely a-okay for them to drive everyone out and destroy their cities and homes through force.
    • Besides, if you let the Canaanites stay around in the Promised Land, they're just gonna give you trouble. Right?
    • And once they take control of the land? Well, then God tells them to divide it up between the twelve tribes according to size. Big tribes will get lots of land. Small tribes, not as much. Sounds fair.
  • Chapter 34

    Going Over The Borderlines

    • Again, God gives Moses some instructions for just what's gonna happen when they finally set foot in the Promised Land.
    • God lays out the borders for the Promised Land and it's pretty impressive. (A little too impressive. It seems that, historically, Israel never occupied that much space [Source 133]. But hey, God can dream can't he?) Check out a map for the full details.
    • Basically, this land belongs to all the Israelites. Except for the ones from the tribe of Reuben, Gad, and half the guys from Manasseh's tribe. They're gonna get some nice cattle-grazing land east of the Promised Land. As agreed.
    • Then, God chooses Eleazar and Joshua to head the whole dividing-up-the-land project. He also tells them to take one guy from every tribe to help with the task. That sounds pretty fair.
    • Ready to set foot in the Promised Land now? We've been waiting for this forever!
  • Chapter 35

    Your Towns

    • Not quite.
    • There's still some more housekeeping left to do.
    • God tells Moses that they're gonna need to set aside land for the Levites as well.
    • In total, they'll need 48 towns spread all around Israel (six will be cities of refuge… more on that later).
    • Technically the Levites don't own any land there, but they'll be able to live, work, and raise livestock among other non-Levites. It's pretty tough to tend to the tabernacle when you don't have a place to hang your hat.

    Easy There, Killer

    • Now, let's talk about murder.
    • Six of the towns that the Levites will operate out of will be designated as "cities of refuge." This means that anyone who's accidentally murdered someone can run and seek sanctuary there while awaiting trial.
    • If an accidental killer doesn't go hide out in a city of refuge, then a relative of the person they killed—an avenger—will probably hunt them down and kill them right back.
    • Basically, these towns just give the accused a little breathing room to figure out what to do.
    • So, if you kill someone accidentally, then you get some space. But if you do it intentionally, you're pretty much screwed.
    • Let's say you hit someone with a tire iron or a rock or a baseball bat and that other person dies. Or maybe you purposely push a guy or sneakily wait behind a door and then jump out and beat him up and he dies. Well, bad news, but you're "a murderer [and] the murderer shall be put to death."
    • An avenger (sorry, it's not Iron Man) who's related to the dearly departed will get to murder you then. Hey, God is still pretty big on this whole eye for an eye thing.
    • But if you kill someone accidentally then that's a different story. Maybe you're carrying a heavy rock and it slips and lands on someone's skull. Oops. You're entitled to a trial in front of the whole community.
    • If the verdict comes back not guilty, you're saved. Kind of. You just have to go live in one of the cities of refuge.
    • But on the plus side, you can return home when the high priest in your hometown dies. Fingers crossed that some sucker accidentally drops a rock on his head.
    • If you leave before the high priest dies and you just happen to cross paths with an avenger… well… sorry. It was nice knowing you.
    • So, murderers get put to death, right? Well, only if there is more than one witness to the crime. One witness simply won't do.
    • You also can't buy your freedom. A murderer can't pay the community to look the other way after he beat down that other guy in the street. And anyone who's waiting in exile to return from one of the cities of refuge can't buy their way back. Sorry, killers.
    • Basically, God doesn't want murderers in his Promised Land. It dirties the place up and makes house values drop like crazy.
  • Chapter 36

    Of Daughters And Land Deeds

    • Remember the daughters of Zelophehad from chapter 27? Well, now they're back.
    • If you'll recall, these ladies were allowed to inherit in the Promised Land even though their father died. Sounds fair, right?
    • Well, now, apparently, some of the men in the tribe of Manasseh are a little worried that this precious Manasseh land could pass to another tribe if the ladies marry outside the family. The land would become their husband's property when they marry. Bummer… we guess.
    • So, Moses conferences with God and the Lord decides that these guys have a point.
    • As a result, the daughters of Zelophehad can marry anyone they want. But there's a catch—the lucky guy has to be a member of the tribe of Manasseh. How… romantic?
    • This goes for any lady who inherits land in her father's name. She has to marry within the tribe or… well, there is no or. She just has to do it.
    • For their part, Zelophehad's five daughters are totally cool with this. In fact, each one of them marries one of their cousins. Talk about keeping it all in the family.

    Are We There Yet?

    • The chapter and the whole book ends with a reminder that God told Moses all these things as "in the plains of Moab by the Jordan at Jericho."
    • And just like that, it's over.
    • What? No Promised Land?
    • Nope. Sorry, that won't happen for two more books. In Joshua, the Israelites finally step foot in this place we've been talking about for forty years. Total cliffhanger.