Where Did Numbers Get Its Name?
The book of Numbers received its name primarily due to the fact that its 1st and 26th chapters record censuses (numberings) of Israel taken at two different times. The book also lists other statistics like the number of priests and Levites which also contributed to this designation.
The first census in Numbers was taken in the spring of 1444 B.C. which was roughly a year after the Israelites left Egyptian slavery under Moses. The second census was carried out just before Moses died and the children of Israel crossed the Jordan to secure their inheritance.
Numbers is the fourth book in the King James Bible and in almost all other translations. It was written during Israel's forty years of wandering the wilderness (1445 to 1405 B.C.).
Numbers covers a unique period in Israel's history. It starts with a census that began "the first day of the second month, in the second year after they (Israel) had come out of the land of Egypt" (Num. 1:1 - 3). This day corresponds to Tuesday, April 21 in 1444 B.C. The book ends a short time after Israel defeated the Midianites (Num. 31) in early 1405 but before Moses' death which occurred roughly forty days before Passover (see Num. 36:13, Deuteronomy 34:1 - 5, 8, Joshua 3:2, 4:19).
Numbers, in the King James translation, has 36 chapters (eighth highest) which hold a total of 1,288 verses (the fifth highest). It contains seven chapters with 50 or more verses compared to the Psalms' 150 chapters which have only four.
Numbers 7, with its 89 verses, is second only to Psalm 119's 176 verses for the biggest chapter in God's word.
This book is referred to 73 times in four New Testament books, making it the tenth most reference writing in Scripture.
According to the Believer's Study Bible, this book mentions that the Lord spoke to or through Moses more than 150 times. This testifies to the undeniable fact that its words were, without a doubt, inspired by the Eternal!
The numeric words "one" (193 times), "five" (68), "fourteen(th)" (15), "thirty" (37), "forty" (19), "fifty" (33), "seventy" (17), "hundred" (92), "thousand" (93) and "threescore" (17) are found more in the KJV version of Numbers than any other Biblical book.
The words "two" (77 times), "three" (33), "six" (24), "seven" (46), "ten" (18), "fifteen" (4), "twenty" (31) and "sixty" (3) occur the second most frequently in Numbers.
The book of Numbers opens with Moses being commanded to take a census of all Israelite males 20 years old or older (those who could go to war, Num. 1:3). This census took place when Israel was camping near Mount Sinai after it had received and concluded the covenant offered by God. The total of all males in all the tribes, excluding Levi (who were dedicated to serving God), is 603,550.
A second census was taken just prior to Israel completing its 40 years of wandering the desert. In this numbering it was found that 601,730 males over the age of 20, a decrease of 1,820 from the first census, existed in Israel. The tribes of Reuben, Simeon, Gad, Ephraim, and Naphtali experienced a decrease in population. The tribes of Manasseh, Judah, Issachar, Zebulun, Benjamin, Dan and Asher, however, gained in population.
Interestingly, during the second census, males in the tribe of Levi were also counted. The tribe consisted of three major clans (Gershonites, Kohathites and Merarites, Num. 26:57) and five subclans. In this case, unlike the counting of Israel's other tribes, all males one month old or older were counted. The Bible reports at this time that 23,000 males were Levites (Num. 26:62).
The second census also confirmed that God fulfilled his promise to punish the generation of Israelites who came out of Egypt and rebelled against him (Num. 14:26 - 31). Out of 603,550 males only two, Caleb and Joshua, a mere .00033%, survived to enter the Promised Land.
But among these (those counted in the second census) there was not a man of them whom Moses and Aaron the priest had numbered when they numbered the children of Israel in the wilderness of Sinai (the first census).
For the Lord had said of them, "They shall surely die in the wilderness. And there will not be a man left of them, except Caleb the son of Jephunneh and Joshua the son of Nun." (Numbers 26:64 - 65, HBFV).
More Info on Meaning of Numbers
Numbers 25 discusses the time when Israelite men were enticed by Moabite women to not only commit sexual sins but also to indulge in open idolatry. God's wrath was kindled against the sinners and he commanded those guilty of such sinful acts be put to death. God then caused a plague (sickness) to spread among the people. The plague was stopped only when Aaron's grandson killed a man and woman who sinned but not before 24,000 Israelites had perished (Num. 25:1 - 8).
Most of the individuals named in Numbers 1, as well as chapters 2, 7 and 10, do not occur elsewhere in God's word (New Oxford Annotated Bible).
Two of the Psalms directly address issues and problems brought up in the Book of Numbers. Psalm 90, written by Moses, discusses Israel's disobedience in the wilderness and God's wrath against their sins. It contains the often quoted and somewhat sad commentary on man's brief life on the earth.
For all our days pass away in Your wrath; we finish our years as with a sigh. The days of our years are threescore years and ten (70); and if by reason of strength they are fourscore years (80), yet their span is but trouble and sorrow, for it is soon cut off and we fly away (Psalm 90:9 - 10, HBFV).
Psalm 106 also discusses Israel's sins delineated in Numbers as they wandered the desert and God's subsequent punishments. It does, however, bear record of the Eternal's mercy and compassion even in the face of rejection.
Many times He (God) delivered them, but they were rebellious in their counsel and sank low through their iniquities. Nevertheless, He looked upon their affliction when He heard their cry . . . (Psalm 106:43 - 44, HBFV).