Glossary of Terms



Harper’s Bible Dictionary

edited by Paul J. Achtemier (San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1985)

You are strongly recommended to add to your library the excellent revised edition of Harper's Bible Dictionary titled, The Harper Collins Bible Dictionary, Revised Edition [book review], edited by Paul J. Achtemeier, with the Society of Biblical Literature (NY: Harper Collins, 1996). It is currently the best one-volume Bible dictionary in English, and it is available at Border's Books, Christian Science Reading Rooms,, or

Numbers, the Book of, the fourth book in the Pentateuch. The designation ‘Numbers’ comes from the name of the book in the Septuagint (lxx) and is reflected in the name for the book in the Talmud. The title is probably drawn from the account of the census with which the book begins (1:2). The book is unique in the Pentateuch, being composed of diverse literary types such as historical narrative (cf. 10:11-14; 16-17; 20-25; 31-32), statistical information (1, 3, 4, 7, 26), itinerary (33), poetry (20:14-18, 27-30; 23:7-10, 18-24; 24:4-9, 15-24), ritual prescription (5, 6, 8, 9, 15, 18, 19, 28-29), and other legal material (5, 15, 27, 30, 36). The framework of the book is a historical narrative describing preparations in the Wilderness of Sinai for the journey to Canaan (1-10:10), the wilderness journey from Sinai to Transjordan (10:11-21:9), and conquests in Transjordan and preparations for entering into Canaan (21:10-36:13). The various components of the book come from diverse traditions and ages in Israel’s history and several stages of editing are evident. The book in its present form comes from a date much later than the events described and thus cannot be taken at face value as entirely historical. Nevertheless, much of its content is demonstrably quite ancient and preserves early traditions about the wilderness period and information about the early history and culture of Israel in Canaan. See also Hexateuch; Sources of the Pentateuch.


The Book of Numbers

I. Preparations for the journey to Canaan (1:1-9:23)

A. Israelites numbered (1:1-4:49)

1. Census of the Israelites (1:1-54)

2. The arrangement of the wilderness camp (2:1-34)

3. The census of the Levites (3:1-4:49)

B. Final preparations (5:1-9:23)

1. Various laws and offerings (5:1-7:89)

2. Dedication of the Levites (8:1-26)

3. Passover and the fire cloud (9:1-23)

II. The wilderness journey (10:1-21:20)

A. Departure (10:1-14:45)

1. Marching orders (10:1-35)

2. Complaints in the desert (11:1-12:16)

3. Spies sent to Canaan (13:1-33)

4. The people rebel and must wander an additional forty years (14:1-45)

B. Events in the desert (15:1-21:20)

1. Laws for the Promised Land (15:1-41)

2. Rebellion in the desert (16:1-16)

3. Miracle in the desert (17:1-12)

4. More laws for the Promised Land (18:1-19:23)

5. More miracles in the desert (20:1-13)

6. Setbacks in the desert (20:14-21:20)

a. Edom refuses passage (20:14-21)

b. Rebellion and attack by serpents (21:1-20)

III. Conquests and preparations (21:21-36:13)

A. Conquests (21:31-31:53)

1. Sihon and Og defeated (21:21-35)

2. Balaam’s prophecies and Balak’s defeat (22:1-24:25)

3. False worship and punishment (25:1-18)

4. A second numbering (26:1-65)

5. Daughters of Zelophehad (27:1-11)

6. Joshua chosen as Moses’successor (27:12-23)

7. Festivals, offerings, and laws (28:1-30:16)

8. War against Midian (31:1-54)

B. Preparations for life in the Promised Land (32:1-36:13)

1. Reuben, Gad, and half of Manasseh allowed to settle in Transjordan (32:1-42)

2. Summary of travels (33:1-49)

3. Boundaries of Israel’s land (33:50-34:29)

4. Levitical cities and cities of refuge (35:1-34)

5. Marriage of Zelophehad’s daughters (36:1-13)


Topical index of terms
Edited for by Robert Nguyen Cramer
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