from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
תּוֹרָה Torah ; Five Books of Moses; Pentateuch
  • Hebrew בְּרֵאשִׁית Bereshit "In the Beginning"; genesis
  • שְׁמוֹת Schemot "names"; Exodus
  • וַיִּקְרָא Wajikra “And he called”; Leviticus
  • בְּמִדְבַּר Bemidbar "In the desert"; Numbers
  • דְּבָרִים Devarim "words"; Deuteronomy
The 24 books of the Tanach ( T a N a K h )
T ora (instruction, teaching)
N evi'im (prophets)
K etuvim (writings)
Indented: the five megillots .
Order according to BHS ; may differ depending on the edition.
Old Testament books
History books


"Little" ( Book of the Twelve Prophets )

The 4th book of Moses , in Hebrew בְּמִדְבַּר b e midbar , Bemidbar orבַּמִּדְבָּר bamidbar , Bamidbar , in ancient Greek Ἀριθμοί Arithmoí, German 'numbers', is the fourth book of both the Tanach and the Old Testament and thus the fourth book of the two versions of the biblical canon . The Latin term often used in citations is numbers . It is about the people of Israel in the desert and has been divided into 36 chapters, as it has been established since the Middle Ages . At the beginning the Twelve Tribes of Israel are also given in their numbers according to male adults and in their order.


The book is called in Hebrew after the first words of the book בַּמִּדְבָּר Bamidbar or Bemidbar ("in the desert"). The naming after direct or most significant initial words is linked to their use as Parascha or Sidra (“week segment”) for reading the Torah (“instruction, teaching”) in the synagogue in Judaism . In Latin it is called numbers , after the Greek Αριθμοί , "numbers". The name is due to the fact that the first part contains a lot of numerical information.

The German name of 4th Book of Mose goes back primarily to Martin Luther's translation of the Bible and follows the other traditional Jewish and ecclesiastical usage, which names Moses as the author.

The original book of Moses is written in the Hebrew language and is part of the Torah , which is also called Chumash in Hebrew , or the Pentateuch in Greek . In German one speaks of the "five books of Moses". They form the first part of the Tanach and the Old Testament.


The Luther Bible offers the following overview of contents:

  • Counting and marching order of the Israelites
  • different laws
  • from Sinai to the border of Canaan
  • in Moab before crossing the Jordan
  • Way stations from Egypt to Moab
  • before the invasion of Israel


In the 4th book of Moses and in the rest of the Pentateuch no author is named. The German designation as the "five books of Mose" refers to Mose as the author of the entire Pentateuch. This view is still held by Orthodox Judaism and some of the Christians.

Important information and topics

Content summary

Preparing for the Trek (Chapters 1-4)

At the beginning of the book, the tribes of the Israelites are listed and a census is described in which all men over the age of 20 are listed - there are 603,550 men. The Levites are not included because they are not available as porters and keepers of the sacred tent and the ark for defense and warfare. Their task is described in detail in Chapter 3. The camp and march regulations are also laid down.

Other laws (Chapters 5-6)

In the further course of the book various laws are described: It is described what leprosy is and that lepers have to leave the camp. It describes how to deal with theft and suspected adultery . Rules on how priests and other people can dedicate themselves to the service of God are described, as is priestly blessing.

The Consecration of the Sacred Tent (Chapters 7-9)

Now the book returns from the legal prescriptions to the story about Moses and the people of Israel. The inauguration of the sanctuary and the gifts for the inauguration (gold, silver, sacrificial animals) are described. The light in the sanctuary is described and the dedication of the Levites to the service, as well as other regulations for the festival of Passover .

The Train Through the Desert (Chapters 10-12)

God has signal trumpets made and dictates their use, the marching order is described, and the people set off. After a while it starts to complain that it is not getting meat. God sends them quail , but many Israelites die of them. The people move on. Mirjam , Moses' sister, revolted against her brother because he married an Egyptian. For this she is punished with leprosy, which however heals after a week. Only then do the people move on.

Forty Years in the Wilderness (Chapters 13-15)

Scouts are sent to Canaan . They tell of a rich country that is, however, inhabited by a strong people. The people of Israel refuse to move on, and God wants to punish them for it. Only through Moses' intervention will the people be spared, but the people of the people will not see the Promised Land , only their descendants. So the people wandered through the desert for forty years, and those who wanted to go to Canaan beforehand were driven out by the inhabitants there.

In the 15th chapter, the sacrifice regulations for the land of Canaan are added and the people are once again exhorted to obey God's commandments. Accidental non-compliance with the victim regulations can be excused by making further victims for the mistake ( Num 15.22  EU ). In the case of willful non-compliance, however, the person should be exterminated ( Num 15.30  EU ). As an example, Num 15,32–36  EU tells of a man who gathered wood on the Sabbath. The Israelites asked Moses what action should be taken about violating the Sabbath law. God ordered Moses to stoning the man, which the Israelites then carried out.

Korach revolt (chapters 16-17)

Korach , one of the Levites, brings the people to his side and asks Moses why only he and not all are holy. Other men also question Moses' position as ruler. Moses asked them to make a sacrifice. God intends to kill the Israelites for their uprising, but again Moses intervenes. So God only opens a crack in the ground, and Korach and his followers fall into it.

The rest of the people sacrifice for fear of this punishment, but then they accuse Aaron and Moses of killing the punished. Aaron and Moses reconcile the people with a smoke offering, but 250 men ( Num 16.35  EU ) die in God's wrath. God confirms Aaron's priesthood with a sign.

Additional Regulations for the Priests (Chapters 18-19)

Once again God emphasizes the importance of his priesthood to Aaron and explains once again the wages that the priests and Levites receive for each sacrifice and that ensures their survival. The production of cleansing water is explained, which is used to make people clean again who have become unclean through touching a dead person.

Aaron's death, some battles in the desert trek (chapters 20-22)

Aaron and Moses complain because the Lord has led them into a desert where they cannot even find water. God disappointed in Moses and Aaron but made water gush out of a stone. But God punishes Aaron for his doubts and lets him die, and Eleazar becomes his successor .

The Israelites are denied access to the land of the Edomites . The king of Arad even attacks them when they enter his territory, but his army and cities are destroyed by the Israelites. As they continue their journey through the desert, the people complain again and are punished by snakes that God sends them.

Even the Amorite King does not let the Israelites wander through his country, but attacks them. The Israelites defeat them in a battle and take the cities. Og, the king of Bashan , also confronts them with his army and is defeated.

The story of Balaam (chapters 22-24)

The Moabites and Midianites ally under Balak to stop the Israelites. But God orders Balaam , who is to curse Israel on behalf of the two peoples, not to curse it, and stops his donkey. Balaam sacrifices to God, but his allies continue to demand that he curse the Israelites, but instead he blesses them three times.

Moabite cult of gods, second census (chapters 25-26)

Many of the Israelites were invited by the Moabites to the sacrificial feasts of their gods. The people fell down before their gods, u. a. before Baal-Peor . It is said that this excited the wrath of the God of Israel and that he called for the killing of the leaders of the people. Moses ordered all Baal-peor worshipers to be killed. When an Israelite brought a Midianite woman and the priest Pinchas killed both of them, he is said to have averted the wrath of the God of Israel. Only then did the plague end, from which 24,000 Israelites died. The God of Israel is said to have made a special covenant with Pinchas and called for the killing of the Midianites.

God commands a second census in which 601,730 men aged 20 and over are counted. There are also 23,000 male Levites . During the census it is noticeable that besides Moses only Caleb and Joshua live, who were also found in the first census.

Order of succession, succession to Moses, sacrifice regulations (Chapters 27–30)

After the daughters of Zelofhad came to Moses, God established a sequence of inheritance: If there are no sons, the daughters inherit, otherwise the uncles or other biological relatives. Since Moses is not allowed to go to Canaan either, Joshua is appointed and consecrated as his successor. The victim regulations are described again. The vows of women are just as valid as those of men if their father or husband does not object.

The War of Extermination Against the Midianites (Chapter 31)

God instructed Moses to take vengeance on the Midianites . The Midianites are attacked and defeated. After that, Moses orders all to be killed, only virgins are captured. The booty of the battle is divided among the tribes, and the military leaders sacrifice to thank God for this victory in which no Israelite was killed. It then contains ritual regulations on the cleaning of weapons and equipment after genocide.

Preparing for the Expulsion of the Canaanites and Their Eventual Extermination (Chapters 32-36)

The Ruben and Gad tribes want to stay in the newly conquered East Bank, but they promise to join forces with the people of Israel to fight for more territory.

The people move on through the desert. On this trip, Aaron dies on Mount Hor . God commands the Israelites to drive out the Canaanite people and destroy their statues of gods. The extent of the country is described in detail, and the areas are to be divided up by lot. Some of the cities given the Levites are said to have sheltered people who have accidentally killed someone until their case is decided. Any other murder should be punished with the death sentence. At the end of the 4th book of Moses it is specified that properties can only be inherited within a tribe.

See also



  • Hanna Liss : Tanach - Textbook of the Jewish Bible (= writings of the University for Jewish Studies Heidelberg. Volume 8), Universitätsverlag Winter, Heidelberg 3rd edition 2011, ISBN 978-3-8253-5904-1 .

Research reports

  • Ludwig Schmidt: Literature for the book Numbers. In: Theologische Rundschau. 63, 1998, pp. 241-266.
  • Ludwig Schmidt: Newer literature on the book Numbers (1996-2003). In: Theologische Rundschau. 70, 2005, pp. 389-407.


  • Baruch A. Levine: Numbers 1-20. A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary. The Anchor Bible 4A. Doubleday, New York 1993. (528 pp.) ISBN 0-385-15651-0 Numbers 21-36. The Anchor Bible 4B. Doubleday, New York 2000. (614 pp.)
  • Thomas Staubli: The books Leviticus, Numbers. New Stuttgart Commentary.AT 3. Verl. Kath. Bibelwerk, Stuttgart 1996, ISBN 3-460-07031-5 .
  • Dennis Cole: Numbers . The New American Commentary 3B. Broadman & Holman, Nashville TN 2000. (590 pages), ISBN 0-8054-9503-7 .
  • WH Bellinger, Jr .: Leviticus and Numbers. New International Biblical Commentary, Old Testament Series 3. Hendrickson Publishers, Peabody, Mass. / Paternoster Press, Carlisle 2001, ISBN 1-56563-213-3 .
  • Raymond Brown: The Message of Numbers. Journey to the Promised Land. The Bible Speaks Today, Old Testament Series. Inter-Varsity Press, Leicester 2002, ISBN 0-85111-491-1 (generally understandable , application-oriented).
  • Daniel Krohabennik : Scripture interpretation. The books of Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy in Judaism. New Stuttgart commentary AT 33/5. Verl. Katholisches Bibelwerk, Stuttgart 2003, ISBN 3-460-07335-7 .
  • Horst Seebass: Numbers . Biblical Commentary - Old Testament 4th Vol. 2: Numbers 10.11-22.1. 2003, (374 pages) ISBN 3-7887-1475-1 .
  • Ludwig Schmidt: The fourth book of Moses - Numbers, 10.11 - 36.13. The Old Testament German 7/2. Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen 2004, ISBN 3-525-51128-0 .

Individual studies

  • Olivier Artus: Etudes sur le livre des nombres. Récit, histoire et loi en Nb 13.1-20.13. Orbis biblicus et orientalis 157. Vandenhoeck and Ruprecht, Göttingen a. a. 1997, ISBN 3-525-53793-X .
  • Hanna Liss : The problem of the zealous man: The zeal ordal in the biblical tradition and in the Jewish tradition , in: Sylke Lubs - Louis Jonker - Andreas Ruwe u. a. (Ed.), Read carefully. Old Testament exegesis in an interdisciplinary method discourse. Christof Hardmeier on his 65th birthday, ABG 28, Evangelische Verlagsanstalt, Leipzig 2007, 197-215, ISBN 978-3-374-02524-4 .
  • John William Wevers: Notes on the Greek Text of Numbers. Society of Biblical Literature Septuagint and Cognate Studies Series 46. Scholars Press, Atlanta GA 1998, ISBN 0-7885-0504-1 .
  • Reinhard Achenbach : The completion of the Torah. Studies on the editorial history of the number book in the context of Hexateuch and Pentateuch. Supplements to the journal for ancient oriental and biblical legal history 3. Harrassowitz, Wiesbaden 2003, ISBN 3-447-04602-3 .

Web links

Commons : Book of Numbers  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files