OLD TESTAMENT - LESSON 15
- The Lord answers the Israelites' desire for meat by sending them quail
and smiting them with a plague.
- The Lord chastens Miriam and Aaron for speaking against Moses.
- Moses instructs 12 men to search the land of Canaan.
- Moses makes a serpent of brass and tells the people that if they look
at it they will be healed.
A study of this lesson should encourage us to overcome worldly desires
and fears and look to the Savior and his prophets for guidance.
The Book Of Numbers
- A previous Gospel Doctrine teacher's manual makes the following statement:
Source of the name Numbers:
- "The book of Numbers recounts a great national tragedy. Within
just a few months of their deliverance from Egypt, the children of Israel
had an opportunity to inherit the promised land. But this inheritance was
delayed for forty years because of their contentions, divisions, and lack
of faith. By the time Israel finally showed enough faith to be able to
enter the promised land, most of this faltering generation had died."
(1989 & 1993 Old Testament Gospel Doctrine Teacher's Manual, p13)
Contents of the book:
- Semitic custom - use the first word of a book as its title.
- Example: Bereshith = "in the beginning", Hebrew title
- Wayedabber = "and he spoke", Hebrew for 1st words
in Numbers, similar to opening of Deuteronomy.
- Bamidbar = "in the desert", additional Hebrew title
- The translators of the Greek version of the scriptures wanted the title
to be even descriptive of the content of the book.
- Arithmoi = "Numbers", because of the repeated use
of census figures and counting of Israelites.
- Numeri = "numbers", Latin title.
- a) The census.
- b) Majority of book includes:
- Israel's encounter with God and his prophet.
- Lessons painfully learned in the desert.
- Records the 38 year period from the time Israel left Mt. Sinai until
they arrived at Mt. Pisgah on the east side of the Jordan River.
- The route by way of the Gulf of Aqaba takes 11 days.
- A more direct route would take even less time.
The Camp of Israel begins it's migration following the census and various
instructions including the organization of the camp.
- In Chapter 1 the Lord commanded Moses to number all males in all the
tribes of Israel over 20 years of age, "all that are able to go
for to war".
- Total numbered from all tribes = 603,550.
- Levites not numbered in census.
- Based on above number, total population of Israel = 2 to 3 million.
- There is some question to the validity of the above census figures.
- As we know, not all has been translated correctly.
- We know the difficulties of moving modern Israel west to Utah in companies
of hundreds to a few thousand (although a further distance).
- Other scholars have problems with these numbers and indicate that the
total number was closer to 500,000.
- Whatever the number, what Moses faced was a monumental task. It must
have been one of the largest single migrations in the history of the world.
Moses, The Spirit of Prophecy, & Israel Tires of Manna
- READ NUMBERS 11:4-10. Israel tires of manna &
READ NUMBERS 11:11,14. Moses unable to carry the
- One can understand the situation of these people. Imagine eating the
same thing day after day. Even your favorite meal. Although, I did know
a man on my mission that insisted on brown beans everyday.
- WHAT SINS WERE THE ISRAELITES GUILTY OF WHEN THEY TIRED OF MANNA AND
DESIRED MEAT INSTEAD?
- WHY IS GRATITUDE IMPORTANT?
- D&C 59:7: "Thou shalt thank the Lord thy God in all things
. . . ."
- Lorenzo Snow: "I have thought sometimes that one of the greatest
virtues the Latter-day Saints could possess is gratitude to our Heavenly
Father for that which he has bestowed upon us and the path over which he
has led us. It may be that walking along in that path has not always been
of the most pleasant character; but we have afterwards discovered that
those circumstances which have been very unpleasant have often proved of
the highest advantage to us." (CR, Apr. 1899)
- Neal A. Maxwell: "Bearing one's testimony and expressing gratitude
are like periodic inventories; counting our blessings is both healthy and
invigorating. Counting is better than commiserating." (Deposition
of a Disciple, p74)
- IF WE ARE UNGRATEFUL, HOW DOES IT AFFECT:
- OUR ATTITUDES?
- Gordon B. Hinckley: "Absence of gratitude is the mark of the
narrow, uneducated mind. It bespeaks a lack of knowledge and the ignorance
of self-sufficiency. It expresses itself in ugly egotism and frequently
in wanton mischief." (CR, Oct. 1964)
- "Where there is gratitude, there is humility, as opposed to
pride." (CR, Oct. 1964)
- OUR RELATIONSHIPS WITH OTHERS?
- OUR RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD?
- HOW CAN WE BECOME MORE GRATEFUL?
When Joshua saw these men speaking the words of prophecy he said, "My
lord Moses, forbid them" (Numbers 11:28:).
- Moses is struggling to deal with these Israelites, these children.
It is more than he can bear. In verse 15 he plead with the Lord, "And
if thou deal thus with me, kill me, I pray thee, out of hand, if I have
found favour in thy sight".
- Moses' calling was more than he could handle. To him, there seemed
to be no way out and he asked the Lord for an out.
- HOW DID THE LORD RESPOND?
- READ NUMBERS 11:16-17. The Lord calls seventy
to assist Moses in the work.
- The Lord also assured Moses that he would provide meat (v18).
- In v25 we read that the Lord gave the spirit to the seventy and they
READ NUMBERS 11:31-34. The Lord sends quail and
- READ NUMBERS 11:29. Moses' reply to Joshua.
- Robert L. Millet: "Indeed, 'would God that all the Lord's people
were prophets, and that the Lord would put his spirit upon them!' When
every man or woman--whether ancient or modern Israelite--has the testimony
of Jesus, the spirit of prophecy burning within his or her soul, then the
work of the Lord moves forward by leaps and bounds. The strength of the
kingdom of God at any time is not to be found alone in the power and strength
of its leaders, but more important in the individual testimonies of the
members. Members who gain the witness and enjoy the gifts lift heavy burdens
from the shoulders of the leaders, for they now perform their labors in
the Church with intelligent obedience." (Studies In Scripture,
- Brigham Young: "I am like Moses when a messenger came to him
saying, 'The people are prophesying in their tents.' Said Moses, Well,
what of that? I would to God that the Lord's people were all prophets!
I would to God that they all had revelation! When they receive revelation
from heaven the story is told, they know for themselves." (JD
- The Israelite's growing tired of manna and wanting meat, and other
foods they had in Egypt, might symbolize their constant turning from the
things of heaven to the things of the world.
- HOW MIGHT SOME OF US BE DOING THIS TODAY?
- Paul cautions us in his epistle to the Galatians: "And let
us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint
not" (Gal. 6:9)
- Do we grow weary of attending our meetings, doing home teaching, reading
the scriptures, or saying our daily prayers? Do we every find ourselves
longing for the things of the world?
- Consider a favorite piece of music. I think we have all had the experience
of purchasing a CD containing music that we enjoy. When we first obtain
that CD, we may play it frequently, even repeatedly. But over time, we
seem to grow "weary" of the music. We play it less often and
the CD seems to work its way down the pile. Did the nature of the music
change? No. It is constant, but our desire to hear it has diminished.
- We must strive to not let this happen with the works of righteousness.
Like a fitness program, if we "faint not", in time we
will "reap" the rewards which may be reduced weight, feeling
better, or increased discipline. The reward for eternal vigilence is much
The Complaint of Miriam and Aaron
- READ NUMBERS 12:1-2. Miriam & Aaron speak
The Lord's response (see Numbers 12:5-14):
- According to Josephus, Moses had married Tharbis, the daughter of the
king of the Ethiopians at a time when Moses was a commander of the Egyptian
Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses as their presiding authority,
pointing out that they too had received revelation (11:2).
- The Lord descended in a cloud & summoned Miriam & Aaron before
- The Lord explained that Moses was his Prophet (v8) "With him
will I speak mouth to mouth, even apparently, and not in dark speeches;
and the similitude of the Lord shall he behold: wherefore then were ye
not afraid to speak against my servant Moses?" (11:8).
- Miriam was stricken with leprosy.
- Aaron pleads with Moses to intercede in Miriam's behalf.
- Moses pleads with the Lord. The Lord says: "let her be shut
out from the camp seven days, and after that let her be received in again"
WHAT HAPPENS WHEN CHURCH MEMBERS THINK OR SPEAK NEGATIVELY, AS DID
MIRIAM AND AARON, ABOUT THE LORD'S PROPHET AND OTHER LEADERS THE LORD HAS
CALLED TO SERVE IN HIS KINGDOM?
- WHAT ARE THE LIMITS TO OUR RIGHT TO RECEIVE REVELATION?
- James E. Faust: "The prophets, seers, and revelators have had
and still have the responsibility and privilege of receiving and declaring
the word of God for the world. Individual members, parents, and leaders
have the right to receive revelation for their own responsibility but have
no duty nor right to declare the word of God beyond the limits of their
own reponsibility." (Ensign, Nov. 1989, p8)
Hopefully, we can assume, that Miriam and Aaron came to appreciate
in dramatic way that which President Lee stated: "One is not truly
converted until he sees the power of God resting upon the leaders of this
Church, and until it goes down into his heart like fire." (Stand
Ye In Holy Places, p63)
- Among other things, a spiritual leprosy.
- Spencer W. Kimball: "There is the man who, to satisfy his own
egotism, took a stand against the authorities of the Church. He followed
the usual pattern, not apostasy at first, only superiority of knowledge
and mild criticism. He loved the brethren, he said, but they failed to
see and interpret as he would like. He would still love the Church, he
maintained, but his criticism grew and developed into ever-widening circles.
He was right, he assured himself; he could not yield in good conscience;
he had his pride. His children did not accept his philosophy wholly, but
their confidence was shaken. In their frustration, they married out of
the Church, and he lost them. He later realized his folly and returned
to humbleness, but so very late. He had lost his children…. 'The fathers
have eaten sour grapes, and the children's teeth are set on edge.' (Ezekiel
18:2.)" ( Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, p184)
Spies and The Land of Canaan
- Israel approaches the land of Canaan (see Numbers 13-14).
- The Lord commands Moses to send out an intelligence mission to scout
out the land of Canaan.
- One man from each tribe was sent on this mission, including Joshua.
- They were to check on:
- The strength of the inhabitants.
- Quality of the land.
- Check out the cities and the dwellings.
- Lumber and crops.
- The 12 spies returned from searching the land after 40 days. They reported:
- It was a land that flowed with "milk and honey".
- The strength of the people who inhabited the land.
- One of the 12 spies, Caleb of the tribe of Judah, reported, "Let
us go up at once, and possess it; for we are well able to overcome it"
- 10 of the 12 reported the opposite, "We be not able to go up
against the people; for they are stronger than we" (Numbers 13:31).
- Gordon B. Hinckley: "Ten of the spies were victims of their
own doubts and fears. They gave a negative report of the numbers of stature
of the Canaanites.... They compared themselves as grasshoppers to the giants
they had seen in the land.
"We see some around us who are indifferent concerning the future of
this work, who are apathetic, who speak of limitations, who express fears,
who spend their time digging out and writing about what they regard to
be weaknesses which really are of no consequence. With doubt concerning
its past, they have no vision concerning its future." (Ensign,
Nov. 1995, p71)
- READ NUMBERS 14:2-4. The response of the Israelites
to the report of the spies.
- READ NUMBERS 14:6-9. Joshua and Caleb stand up
for the Lord.
- Seventeen years ago, my wife and I named our first son Joshua. We picked
the name because we liked it, not for any Biblical reasons. When we visited
with my father, Joshua's grandfather, he always referred to Joshua as the
"son of Nun". We have often referred to that great prophet in
the Bible and have taught my son that he should be a man like Joshua of
old. A few months ago, my second son was born. When my wife and I discussed
names, I suggested the name Caleb. I referred to this story of Joshua and
Caleb in Numbers and said that this would be a good pair of names for our
sons. These are the kind of men we want to raise our sons to become. Men
who are willing to stand up for the Lord and "go and do the things
which the Lord hath commanded" (1 Nephi 3:7). My wife didn't like
the name Caleb, but I thought it was a good idea.
- HOW DID ISRAEL RESPOND TO THE STAND OF JOSHUA AND CALEB?
- "But all the congregation bade stone them with stones"
- READ 14:11-12. The Lord irritated against Israel.
- READ 14:19-20. Moses pleads for Israel.
- Inspite of Moses' frustration with these people, he pleads for them
before the Lord. It is fascinating to look at the prophets through religious
history and see their love for the people, even when they are weak and
- READ 14:29,33. Israel to wander in the wilderness
- The Lord had given this generation of Israelites the privilege of assuming
their rightful inheritance. By their actions they lost this privilege and
would be left to wander in the desert for 40 years.
- READ 14:36-37. The men of evil report - died of
- It never pays to be negative.
- "The Israelites had been led out of the power of the greatest
empire in the world at that time. They had been personal witnesses to plagues
that afflicted the Egyptians but left Israel untouched. They had with their
own hands smeared blood on the doorways of their homes and then heard the
cries of the Egyptians as their firstborn fell. They had walked between
towering walls of water that divided at the command of Moses, then watches
as those walls collapsed on the armies of the pharaoh. They ate bread that
miraculously appeared each morning, drank water gushing from a rock, felt
Sinai quake, and saw it glow with fire. What people in all history had
greater witness that God was with them and would use his unsurpassable
power in ther behalf? They had so much and were promised so much more.
Then came the choice. In one foolish, blind, faithless choice this generation
of Israel lost it all." (Old Testament Student Manual, p205)
- The time for modern Israel to possess Zion has been postponed.
- READ D&C 105:5-6, 9, 13. The redemption of
Zion postponed due to the transgressions of the people.
- READ D&C 84:54-59. The children of Zion under
- Ezra Taft Benson: "Watchmen--what of the night. We must respond
by saying that all is not well in Zion. As Moroni counseled, we must cleanse
the inner vessel, beginning first with ourselves, then with our families,
and finally with the Church.... Now we not only need to say more about
the Book of Mormon, but we need to do more with it. Why? The Lord answers:
'That they may bring forth fruit meet for their Father's kingdom; otherwise
there remaineth a scourge and a judgement to be poured out upon the the
children of Zion.' We have felt that scourge and judgement!" (CR,
- It is easy to look at the story of ancient Israel and say that we would
not act as they did when they lost this great opportunity. Each of us must
look into our hearts, and repent of necessary, in order to see that the
tragedy of ancient Israel is not repeated in our lives.
- Gordon B. Hinckley: "There is no place in this work for those
who believe only in the gospel of doom and gloom. The gospel is good news.
It is a message of triumph. It is a cause to be embraced with enthusiasm.
"The Lord never said that there would not be troubles. Our people
have known the afflictions of every sort as those who have opposed this
work have come upon them. but faith has shown through all their sorrows.
This work has consistently moved forward and has never taken a backward
step since its inception....
"This is an age of pessimism. Ours is a mission of faith. To my brethren
and sisters everywhere, I call upon you to reaffirm your faith, to move
this work forward across the world. You can make it stronger by the manner
in which you live." (Ensign, Nov. 1995, pp71-72)
Moses & The Brass Serpent
- READ 21:4-5. The people complain again. [
READ 21:8-9. How the people could save themselves.
READ 1 NE 17:41.
- READ 21:6. The Lord's response, snakes. I would
not like this plague.
Just as the children of Israel needed to look at the brass serpent
to live, we need to look to Jesus Christ to receive eternal life.
- Nephi's commentary: "And he did straiten them in the wilderness
with his rod; for they hardened their hearts, even as ye have; and the
Lord straitened them because of their iniquity. He sent fiery flying serpents
among them; and after they were bitten he prepared a way that they might
be healed; and the labor which they had to perform was to look; and because
of the simpleness of the way, or the easiness of it, there were many
who perished" (1 Nephi 17:41).
- READ JOHN 3:13-15. A type of the crucifixion.
- WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO LOOK TO CHRIST?
- HOW DO MANY PEOPLE TODAY MAKE THE SAME ERROR AS THE ISRAELITES WHO
WOULD NOT LOOK AT THE BRASS SERPENT?
- Boyd K. Packer: "And today many say, 'How silly! How could
accepting Christ save me?' They will not turn their heads to look nor incline
their ears to hear. They ignore the great witness that comes from these
conferences. We ought to, indeed we must, heed the counsel of these men,
for the Lord said, 'What I the Lord have spoken, I have spoken, and I excuse
not myself; and though the heavens and the earth pass away my word shall
not pass away, but shall all be fulfilled, whether by mine own voice or
by the voice of my servants, it is the same'." (CR, Oct. 1968)
- As Elder Packer has stated, we must turn to the Brethren and heed their
counsel. They hold the truth, which for us is like the brass serpent. If
we seek to do the will of the Lord, as espoused by these men, we will be
saved from the unnecessary pain of mortality and find the eternal happiness.
We see in this lesson the consequences of turning away from the will
of the Lord and seeking to do the things of the world. The children of
Israel lacked faith in the Lord and seemed to long for Egypt and the security
it seemed to provide. This group of people had tremendous opportunities
placed before them and yet they didn't have the faith to go forward.
In the midst of this group of negative Israelites, we see the shining
example of Joshua and Caleb. They had vision and faith. They were willing
to plunge ahead and do the will of the Lord. How are we doing? Are we willing
to look to God and his servants and find success during our mortal probation
or are we going to spend our time murmuring and miss the great opportunities
placed in our path.
"And thus they have been called to this holy calling on account
of their faith, while others would reject the Spirit of God on account
of the hardness of their hearts and blindness of their minds, while, if
it had not been for this they might have had as great privilege as their
brethren." (Alma 13:4)
Lesson 16: Number 22-24; 31
Additional Reading: 2 Peter 2:15-16; Jude 1:11; Revelation 2:14
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