Relief of Israelite Scouts Returning from Canaan, parish church in Marazhofen, Germany
In Hebrew, the book of Numbers is called Bemidbar (בְּמִדְבַּ֖ר), which means “In the Wilderness.” It tells the story of the children of Israel from the time they left Mount Sinai until they were ready to enter the promised land. Here are some of the events that appear in the book:
- The children of Israel are counted and organized for the journey (Numbers 1 and 2). Moses counts them again years later, as they prepare to enter the promised land (Numbers 26). Note that the Hebrew word paqad (פְקַד) means not only to count but also “to visit” or “to attend to.” God “numbered” His people because He cared about each one of them, individually: “I Know My Sheep, and They Are Numbered” – 3 Nephi 18:31.
- God sends quail when the people complain about manna. They eat and become ill (Numbers 11).
- Moses sends twelve scouts into the land of Canaan. They return with grapes and other fruit, demonstrating that the land is prosperous. But ten of them discourage the people from entering the land, reporting that the current inhabitants are too powerful (Numbers 13 and 14).
- Moses brings water from a rock (Numbers 20).
- The people are healed from poisonous snakebites by looking at a brass serpent on a pole (Numbers 21).
- The prophet Balaam prophesies that Israel will prevail (Numbers 22-24).
Here are some principles from the book of Numbers which can help us as we journey through our own wildernesses:
1. Seek for God’s light, and gather to His ensign.
- Aaron and his sons blessed the people that God’s face would shine upon them and give them peace (Numbers 6:24-26): “Shine Forth” – Alma 5:50. This blessing was literally fulfilled for a group of people on the American continent many years later: “His Countenance Did Smile upon Them” – 3 Nephi 19:25.
- Balaam prophesied that one of the descendants of Israel would be a Star, symbolizing the light the Savior would bring: A New Star Did Appear – 3 Nephi 1:21.
- An ensign is a flag or standard which shows us where to gather (Numbers 2): An Ensign to the Nations – 2 Nephi 15:26, 2 Nephi 21:12. God has established ensigns for us: A Standard for My People.
2. Be diligent in doing the little things.
- Even the smallest of objects in the tabernacle were to be handled with care (Numbers 4:1-15): What Are the “Vessels of the Lord?”
- Obedience to apparently small and simple commandments can be the key to our happiness and success (Numbers 21:8): Because of the Simpleness of the Way – 1 Nephi 17:41.
3. We receive God’s blessings as we move forward with faith.
- We need to be grateful for God’s gifts, even the ones we don’t fully understand (Numbers 11:4-9) – What Is It?
- Sometimes God’s blessings require some action on our part (Numbers 21:6-9): The Brass Serpent and COVID-19.