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Sabbath School Lessons on Numbers
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About the Author
Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.
is the author of these Sabbath School lesson study outlines. He is the Reed Larson Professor of Labor Law at Regent University School of Law. Professor Cameron has devoted his life to promoting the Gospel and defending believers. In addition to teaching at an overtly Christian law school, he continues his 41 year practice of law which is limited to the litigation of constitutional rights and religious freedom cases for employees. He holds an undergraduate degree from Andrews University and a Doctor of Law from Emory University School of Law.
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Lesson 2: Preparing a People *
Introduction: Readers who are not that familiar with the Old Testament
will cringe when they read the two chapters in Numbers that we are
studying today. Since we are not the people being addressed, are not
in their situation (a huge group traveling through a terrible desert),
and are not part of the sanctuary system, you may ask "Why should we
even study this?" Most Christians believe that what is written in the
Bible contains timeless advice for all generations of God's followers.
There are principles (and, maybe more)in Numbers that continue to
teach us about God's ways and His plans and expectations for us. Let's
jump right into some very interesting stuff!
- Health Reform
- Read Numbers 5:1-3. Is this how you would treat the sick?
- Are all of the people described here sick? (No. Some
are only "ceremonially unclean.")
- If not everyone sent out is ill, how does this make
any sense to us today? (The person who died might not
have died of old age. Since the "unclean" one has
touched the dead body, they may very well have picked
up some dread communicable disease.)
- As you consider these regulations, are they for the
benefit of the people or not? Are they compassionate
or not? (With all these people traveling in such close
conditions, separating the sick (and the potential
disease carriers) until they get better or are proven
to be disease free is a great blessing to all the
- Look at Numbers 5:3 again. Why does God suggest this rule
has to do with Him and not the health of the people? (God
has taken ownership of these people. They are His. He wants
a healthy camp for His people. It reminds us of God's holy
- What lesson do we find here when we think that God is
"limiting our freedom" with His arbitrary or unpopular
rules? (God is reliably looking out for us. We might
think His rules are arbitrary, but He has our best
interests in mind.)
- Read Numbers 5:4. Do you think these recently freed slaves
understand why God was imposing these requirements? (It is
unlikely they understood the reasons, but the good news is
that they obeyed.)
- Law Reform
- Read Numbers 5:5-7. What is your greatest complaint about
the criminal justice system? (In the United States, one big
complaint is that the victim has few, if any, rights.
Rarely does the victim get compensated for the harm
- What penalty does the Bible suggest? (That the victim
is not only entitled to full compensation, but a 20%
additional payment for the loss suffered.)
- In the U.S., the guilty generally go to prison. Which
system is better? The Bible system or the U.S.
system? (Most of our (huge) prison population is made
up of non-violent offenders. The taxpayers feed,
shelter and cloth the people in prison. The U.S.
system requires a lot of money - money that comes from
innocent people and which does not go to help the
innocent victims. It does not seem to do much for the
guilty, either, except to lock them away from the rest
- Notice that Numbers 5:6 says the wrongdoer is "unfaithful to
the Lord." Why is this true? Isn't the wrongdoer unfaithful
to the victim? (These were now God's people on a journey
with Him. He created them and any failure to live up to His
standards is an offense against Him.)
- Is there any concept remotely like this today? (I am
only familiar with the U.S. criminal system, but ours
is exactly like this. If you violate a law, the
criminal complaint is brought in the name of the
government. The sovereign says "These are my laws to
protect the public, and you have trespassed against
- Numbers 5:7 says the person must confess. To whom is
confession being made? (The text says "sin" is being
confessed - and that is to God. There are two things
going on here: First, the 20% penalty makes things
"right" with the wronged person. Second, confession
makes it right with God.)
- Marriage Reform
- Skim over Numbers 5:11-28 and read Numbers 5:29-30. What
concerns about this procedure do you have? (Why is it that
the woman, and not the man, has to go through this? Why is
mere jealousy grounds for this procedure? Jealousy can be a
sin - and it was the basis for the first murder, right?
- Is this the normal penalty for adultery? (Read
Leviticus 20:10. This is not the normal penalty. The
normal penalty is that both the man and woman who
committed adultery are put to death.)
- Read Deuteronomy 17:6. What was missing from the
jealousy" procedure in Numbers 5? (No witnesses. You
needed two or three to impose the death penalty in
- Stand back just a moment and set aside all of your
"modern" concerns about even-handedness. What is the
problem in the kind of family described here?
(Accusations between the husband and wife. The
household is torn apart, relationships are ruined
based on suspicions that may or may not be true.)
- What does God's plan accomplish? What goal is
satisfied by this procedure? (It brings the
jealousy and the uncertainty to an end. Either
God clears the wife (and who can argue with
God?), or the wife dies. Jewish commentators say
that the woman could refuse to take the oath,
confess, and simply be divorced. No death because
no adequate evidence.)
- What is the lesson for us today? (Most of what we see on
television and in movies glorifies adultery. Adultery is a
terrible problem in society and in the church. God's point
in this is two fold: He hates adultery and He wants to bring
peace to marriages in which these charges have been raised.
God wants it over, He does not want a burning ember in the
- Spiritual Reform
- Read Numbers 6:1-4. Remember that God had set the Levites
apart as His special people. What opportunity does this give
to those who were not born a Levite or a male? (The shows
that even in Old Testament times, God desired a special
relationship with anyone who was willing - regardless of
family or gender.)
- Do you think this is connected with the prior
regulation? (Sexual temptations are strong. Someone
viewing the prior procedure might decide they needed a
special time with God.)
- God instructs that anyone who wants to have a special
relationship with Him should not be drinking alcohol.
How is that related? (How many times does sexual sin
- There seems to be an obvious reason why being
drunk is inconsistent with "a vow of separation
to the Lord." But, this bars grape juice and
even raisins - anything that comes from the
grape. How does raisin eating interfere with a
relationship with God?
- Read Matthew 26:27-29. What does Jesus say about His
future and wine? (That He will not drink any until we
are together with Him in heaven.)
- A practical question: How was grape eating and wine
drinking an issue for people in the desert eating only
manna? Were they not all Nazarites (to some degree)
during the wilderness journey?
- When you eat at Taco Bell, Subway, McDonald's or
Burger King, do you drink water?
- All of the soda drinks in these places have
either caffeine or sugar or both. I don't want
to be jumpy or fat. Being jumpy and fat is the
worst! But, the water generally tastes terrible.
Even if it didn't taste terrible, most would
prefer the taste of a soda (carbonated) drink.)
- I hope I have you thinking about why grape juice seems
to have this odd property in the Bible (and I trust
you are not thinking about fast food). What is it
about grape juice (and grape products) that is so
special - linked with a special relationship to God?
(I always thought it had to do with self-denial. Deny
self and you have a closer relationship to God. But,
Frank Holbrook helped me to look deeper. He said that
growing a vineyard showed you were settled in the
land. Jesus is not "settled" until we are reunited
with Him. We should not "settle" for an ordinary
relationship with God. We need to be on the road to a
better relationship and our eternal home!
- Final Blessings
- Read Numbers 6:22-27. Friend, would you like this
blessing? It comes from the same God who gives us
instructions on how to live. Just imagine that? A
relationship between how we live and God's blessings!
- Next week: Worship and Dedication.
* Copr. 2009, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D. All scripture references are to the New International Version (NIV), copr. 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society, unless otherwise noted. Quotations from the NIV are used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers. Suggested answers are found within parentheses. The lesson assumes the teacher uses a blackboard or some other visual aid.