Calvary Road Baptist Church



Our survey of Satanic and demonic warfare in the Bible brings us to the book of Numbers, the fourth book of the Hebrew Bible, the fourth of Moses’ five books identified as the Pentateuch. Those of you who have read the fourth book of Moses, the book of Numbers, notice that the book is more similar to the first two books of the Pentateuch, Genesis, and Exodus, than to Leviticus, being partly legislation and partly history, but of nearly the whole period of forty years there is scarcely any record.[1]

Here is a portion of what Jacob Milgrom writes in The JPS Torah Commentary on Numbers: 

The fourth book of the Torah is called Bemidbar (literally, “In the Wilderness”) in Hebrew. The English title Numbers goes back to the Latin Numeri and the earlier Greek (Septuagint) arithmoi. However, these titles are probably derived from the oldest Hebrew title homesh ha-pekudim “the fifth (of the Torah) the mustered” (Mish. Yoma 7:1, Mish. Men. 4:3), so named because of the several censuses recorded in the book (chaps. 1-4, 26). It was also entitled va-yedabber after the first word (see Rashi on Exod. 38:26), as is the case with the other Torah books. The present Hebrew title Bemidbar (the fifth word of the opening verse) seems more apt since it actually encompasses all the events described in the book that took place “in the wilderness.”[2] 

Herbert Lockyer makes these comments is his book The Gospel In The Pentateuch

Israel was slow to learn that godliness with contentment is great gain. In spite of the mercy of God, they murmured. Grace did not keep them from grumbling, as will be readily noted by the following: - 

The People murmured at Taberah (11:1-3).

Taberah means “burning” and possibly was so named because it was at this place that fire burnt some of the Israelites. Here the people murmured against the way God had led them. They likewise murmured at the food He fed them (11:4-35). What base ingratitude it was for them to yearn for the fleshpots of Egypt! 

The People murmured at Hazeroth (12).

Hazeroth signifies a court or enclosure. This place witnessed a grevious complaint over the leader God had set over them. Poor Moses, like many another leader, was the butt of jealousy. 

The People murmured at Paran (13-14:30).

Paran, meaning beauty or glory or ornament, was a district of caverns beautified with coral reefs. There the Israelites murmured at the land God had promised them. They also murmured against the righteous verdict which God had pronounced (14:40-45). It was here that they also murmured against God’s appointment for the priesthood (chapters 16 and 17). Chapter 16 gives us Korah’s instruction and destruction. Chapter 17 records Aaron’s supremacy. 

The People murmured at Kadesh (20:1-13).

Kadesh means “holy place” and is from the word “to sanctify.” There they murmured because of their thirst, wishing that they had died in Egypt. 

The People murmured at Edom (21:4-9 ).

Edom means to be red or earthy. There they loathed the provision of God and were plagued with serpents for their discontent with heavenly food.

What a sad record! Yes, and what a solemn warning this book carries for our own hearts. Let us beware of the initial sin of discontent or grumbling. We often look upon grumbling as a little sin, and not until we try to check ourselves do we find how completely it possesses us, and how it is ready to spring upon us at all hours of the day under the slightest provocation. The weather is bad, the tea is too sweet, the chops are half cold, the potatoes are not cooked, the parcel we expected is not delivered, and we complain. It was a secret heart-grumble that led to Eve’s disobedience.

Tracing Israel’s downward course in Numbers, we discover that the people journeyed from discontent to lust, to rebellion, to idolatry. So to be saved from this evil is one step toward perfection (Phil. 2:14; I Thess. 5:18). In trying circumstances, special temptations, weak nerves and depressions of spirit give thanks. Such a shout of faith and song of praise causes the enemy to flee and leads to victory.[3] 

Lockyer also contributes with the following analysis of Numbers in the same book: 

The contents of this Book of Wandering have been classified in the following interesting way:

  1. At Sinai (1:1 to 10:10) - Number and Order. A period of 19 days in preparation for departure from Sinai on the 20th day of the second month of the second year after the Exodus.

(1)  Numbering and ordering the people (chap ters 1-4).

(2)  Cleansing and blessing (chapters 5, 6).

(3)  Offerings of princes and dedication of altar (chapters 7, 8).

(4)  Passover, cloud and trumpets (chapter 9:1- 10:10). 

  1. From Sinai to Kadesh (10:11 to 14:45) - Faithlessness and Failure. A period of 11 days, from the 20th to the 30th of the second month in the second year after their departure from Egypt.

(1)  First march with the tabernacle (10:11-36).

(2)  Murmuring of the people (11:1-22).

(3)  Spirit given to elders (11:23-35).

(4)  Sedition of Miriam and Aaron (chap. 12).

(5)  Mission of the spies (chapters 13, 14). 

  1. Wanderings in the Desert (chapters 15 to 19) ­ Trial and Discipline. A period of 37 years, from the end of the 2nd year to the beginning of the 40th year. A sad section.

(1)  Laws for life in the land (chap. 15).

(2)  Rebellion of Korah (chap. 16).

(3)  Budding of Aaron’s rod (chap. 17).

(4)  Position and work of Levites (chap. 18).

(5)  Cleansing from defilement (chap. 19). 

  1. From Kadesh to Moab (chapters 20 to 36) - Judgment and Mercy. A period of 10 months, from the beginning of the 40th year.

(1)  Events on the journey (chapters 20, 21).

(2)  Balaam and Israel (chapters 22-25).

(3)  Second census and new leader (chapters 26, 27).

(4)  Sacrifices and vows (chapters 28-30).

(5)  War with Midian (chap. 31).

(6)  Partition of the land (chapters 32-34).

(7)  Cities of Refuge (chap. 35).

(8)  Marriage of heiresses (chap. 36). 

From Sinai to Kadesh was a journey of eleven days (Deut. 1:2). Because of unbelief and disobedience it was prolonged to forty years. The Israelites were made to sojourn in the wilderness a year for every day that the spies were in the land (Num. 14:34).

Thewildernesswasapartofthenecessarydiscipline of a redeemed people, but not the long years of wandering.The latter were due to the unbelief of the people at Kadesh-barnea.[4] 


Numbers covers 38 years in the history of Israel: the period of desert wandering in the Sinai peninsula. It begins two years after the escape from Egypt. It ends on the eve of entry into Canaan ... The book might have been called ‘The grumblings of a nation’. It is one long sad story of complaining and discontent. As a result, of the entire generation that had seen the marvels of God’s deliverance from Egypt, only three men - Moses, Joshua and Caleb - survive to the end of the book. And only two - Joshua and Caleb - were to enjoy the promised land. 



1 The general census

The purpose of the census is to list all men over 20 fit for military service. The Levites, by virtue of their other duties, were exempt. 

2 The encampment

Ramesses II of Egypt (Moses’ contemporary) used this same hollow rectangular formation in his Syrian campaign, so it looks as if Moses was making a good use of his earlier Egyptian military training. 

3 God chooses the Levites for special service

God’s claim to the firstborn goes back to the night of the Passover (Exodus 12). Now God accepts the Levites instead of the firstborn of all Israel. 

4 The Levitical families are assigned their jobs

Verses 1-20: the Kohathites are responsible for carrying the sacred objects of the sanctuary after the priests have dismantled and covered them.

Verses 21-28: the Gershonites are in charge of transporting the curtains and coverings of the tabernacle and forecourt under Ithamar’s supervision.

Verses 29-33: the Merarites are to look after and transport the framework ­ pillars, pegs, cords - also under Ithamar’s supervision. 

5 Various laws; the jealousy ordeal 

6: 1-21 The Nazirite

A special vow gives the Nazirite his (or her) spiritual status. The outward marks of consecration to God are:

¦  abstinence from wine and strong drink;

¦  uncut hair;

¦  special care to avoid defilement through contact with a dead body (see on chapter 19). 

6: 22-27 Aaron’s benediction 

7 The tribes bring their offerings

On successive days the leader of each tribe brings a silver plate and silver basin filled with a cereal offering, a golden dish of incense, and animals for burnt-offering, sin-offering and peace­offering. 

8 Consecration of the Levites

Those who serve God must be clean through and through. Washing and shaving ensure outward cleanliness. 

9:1-14 Rulings about the Passover

No one may opt out of celebrating the Passover. But the absentee and anyone ritually unclean at the time may observe the feast one month later. 

9:15-23 The cloud and the fire

God’s guidance in the wilderness was a clear and visible reality. Cloud by day and fire by night marked His presence at the tabernacle, which was quite literally in their midst. When the cloud lifted they moved on. Where it settled again, they encamped: no movement of the cloud, no movement of the people. 

10:1-10 The silver trumpets

These sounded the alarm, summoned the assembly, and announced the feasts and new months. Long trumpets like these were common in Egypt about 1400-1300 BC. Some were buried with the Pharaoh Tutankhamun (about 1,350 BC). 



10:11-36 The journey begins

About three weeks after the census they strike camp and leave Mt Sinai. 

11 Complaints about the monotonous diet

The first delicious taste of manna was like wafers made with honey. Now sheer monotony makes it stick in the gullet like sawdust. Mouth-watering thoughts of all the fish and vegetables that abounded in the Egyptian delta soon produce an irresistible craving. God gives them what they want - till they are sick of it! And with it comes judgment for the attitude which lay behind the outcry. 

12 Miriam and Aaron challenge Moses’ leadership

The real bone of contention is not Moses’ marriage, but his position. As Miriam is the one to be punished with leprosy, presumably she was the instigator. Moses is silent, but God’s answer is a remarkable tribute to the man. 



Details are few, but it seems that the best part of 38 years - a whole generation ­ was spent around here. 

13-14 The twelve spies and their reports; mutiny

It seems that Moses intended to go straight on into the promised land at this point; it was the people’s suggestion that they should send spies ahead. The two men of faith put the true interpretation on the facts, but the people listened to the ten prophets of doom, with their tales of giants and grasshoppers. God, and the good land, was forgotten. Within sight of the goal, a whole generation cut itself off from all that was promised.

Caleb never lost his wholehearted trust in God. Forty-five years later, at the age of 85, he chooses Anakim territory to conquer as his possession. 

15 Various laws

Verses 1-31: offerings to be made after the conquest of Canaan.

Verses 32-36: the seriousness of sabbath-breaking.

Verses 37-41: the border of tassels to remind forgetful Israel of God and his commands. 

16 The rebellion of Korah, Dothan and Abiram

This unholy alliance has a two-pronged attack. Korah the Levite’s grievance is Aaron’s monopoly of the priesthood (10b). Dathan and Abiram challenge Moses on the grounds of high-handedness and his failure to bring them into the promised land (13-14). But at root the attack is on God (11), and it is God who puts the rebellion down.

The earth split open and swallowed them (32)

17 Aaron’s rod produces the fruit

Like all biblical miracles, this one has a very practical point. Everyone can see where God’s choice falls, and there is no more room for dispute. 

18-19 Duties and dues of the priests and Levites; the purification ritual

Neither priests nor Levites share in the inheritance of the land. Instead, God gives the priests the remainder of all the sacrificial offerings, firstfruits and firstlings. The Levites are given the nation’s tithes (one tenth of all the flocks and herds and produce), of which they in turn give one tenth to the priests. 

20:1-13 Miriam’s death; water from the rock

Miriam, Aaron and Moses all died in the same year - on the brink of entry into Canaan. The best part of 38 years has passed since 13:l.

Verses 2-13: Moses’ sin was striking the rock instead of complying with God’s directive to speak to the rock. It cost him the land he had so longed to enter. Even the greatest of God’s servants, after a long lifetime of trust and obedience, can fall. Nothing seems to cure the people’s grumbles. They were moaning when they first left Egypt. They are moaning still, after all the years of God’s providing. 

20:14-21 Edom refuses a safe­conduct

Your brother Israel (14): not just a manner of speaking, the Edomites were descendants of Esau, Jacob’s brother. 



20:22-29 The death of Aaron 

21 Victories over Arad and Sihon; the incident of the poisonous snakes

Complaints begin again on the trek south to the Gulf of Aqaba to clear Edom’s territory. The Savior used the incident of the bronze serpent to explain His own death in His discussion with Nicodemus (John 3:14). In the wilderness the people had only to look, and they lived. 



22-24 Balak and Balaam: the blessing of Israel

With the Israelites encamped on his doorstep, the king of Moab sends to Pethor on the Euphrates for Balaam the diviner to come and curse his enemies. It was a routine business arrangement for the prophet, in a day when everyone believed in the power of words (especially formal ‘blessings’ and ‘cursings’) to influence events. What is surprising is the disclosure that the source of Balaam’s knowledge is God himself. And neither bribe nor threat will budge him from the truth as God reveals it to him.

Three times they go through the same ritual (22:41-23:10; 23:13-24; 23:27-24:9). Three times Balaam blesses Israel, to the increasing anger of Balak. The fourth oracle tops all (24:15-24) - a remarkable prediction of Israel’s future.

The incident of the talking donkey: God’s purpose seems to be so to impress Balaam, that no matter how hard Balak works on him, the prophet will stick to the truth.

The origin of these oracles: it is not known how these oracles came to be included in Numbers. But linguistic and other factors indicate that the oracles were written down by the 12th century BC. 

25 Idolatry at Peor

It was on Balaam’s advice (31:16) that the Midianite women brought Israel low at Peor:

“Behold, these caused the children of Israel, through the counsel of Balaam, to commit trespass against the LORD in the matter of Peor, and there was a plague among the congregation of the LORD.”

And he paid for it with his life (31:8):

“And they slew the kings of Midian, beside the rest of them that were slain; namely, Evi, and Rekem, and Zur, and Hur, and Reba, five kings of Midian: Balaam also the son of Beor they slew with the sword.” 

Verse l: sexual relations with the Moabite women led the men of Israel to break faith with God and worship Baal. 

26 The second census 

27:1-11 The right of daughters to inherit

Women could not normally inherit in other ancient Near Eastern countries, but in Israel the ruling is given that brotherless daughters may inherit. 

27:12-23 Joshua appointed as Moses’ successor

Moses’ life is almost over. Joshua, his right-hand man (Exodus l7:9ff.; 24:13; 33:11; Numbers 11:28) and one of the two faithful spies (14:6ff.), is now invested with authority to lead the nation in his place. 

28-30 Rules for public worship and vows

28:1-8, daily offerings; 9, 10, sabbath offerings; 11-15, offerings for each new month; 16-25, offerings for Passover and Unleavened Bread; 26-31, the Feast of Weeks (Firstfruits).

Chapter 29: the feasts of the seventh month. Verses 1-6, offerings for the Feast of Trumpets; 7-11, for the Day of Atonement; 12-38, for the Feast of Shelters.

Chapter 30: vows. Men in Israel are unconditionally bound by vows of any kind (1, 2,). Verses 3-15: the terms under which vows made by women are binding. 

31 Vengeance on the Midianites; dealing with the spoil

The Midianites are punished for their sin in inducing Israel to worship false gods. 

32 Reuben, Gad and half Manasseh settle east of the Jordan

This is permitted only on condition that they help in the conquest of Canaan before returning to a settled life. 

33 A list of the stages of the journey from Egypt to the plains of Moab

Verse 52b: the intention is to wipe out everything associated with idolatrous religions – the carved images and places of worship (‘high places’ where shrines were built). 

34 The ideal boundaries of Israel 

35 Cities and pasture for the Levites: the six cities of refuge for those who cause death by accident. 

36 Safeguards in the case of daughters’ inheritance.[5] 


Is it proper to suggest that God used the events recorded in Numbers to prepare the Israelites for spiritual conflict when it appears there were no lessons learned, no evidence of individuals having been trained? Might it not be the case that God’s dealings with the Israelites showed them very little, but can serve to show us a great deal, in light of what the Apostle Paul wrote in First Corinthians 10.1-11? 

1  Moreover, brethren, I would not that ye should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea;

2  And were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea;

3  And did all eat the same spiritual meat;

4  And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ.

5  But with many of them God was not well pleased: for they were overthrown in the wilderness.

6  Now these things were our examples, to the intent we should not lust after evil things, as they also lusted.

7  Neither be ye idolaters, as were some of them; as it is written, The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play.

8  Neither let us commit fornication, as some of them committed, and fell in one day three and twenty thousand.

9  Neither let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed of serpents.

10 Neither murmur ye, as some of them also murmured, and were destroyed of the destroyer.

11 Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come. 

We might derive greater spiritual benefit from their experiences than they did, owing to the fact of the new birth (which was not their experience), the indwelling Spirit of God to teach us (which was not their experience), and the benefit of hindsight that we have using God’s Word.

With that in mind, consider three things with me:

First, the repeated rebellion displayed by prominent individuals, Aaron, Miriam, Korah, and the spies. Numbers chapter 12 records the incident when Aaron and Miriam spoke against their younger brother, Moses because he had married an Ethiopian. Whether this is an incident related to racism or simply an opportunity to call into question the leadership position occupied by Moses is irrelevant. The real issue here is rebellion against divinely instituted authority. What do we know about rebellion from first Samuel 15.23? 

“For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because thou hast rejected the word of the LORD, he hath also rejected thee from being king.” 

Numbers chapter 16 records the incident when Korah openly rebelled against the priesthood of Aaron and Nathan, and Abiram challenged Moses. God responded to that rebellion by opening up the ground to swallow them. Do you imagine that the parallel drawn by Samuel between rebellion and witchcraft does not establish the spiritual nature of rebellion and the likelihood of evil spiritual intelligence behind rebellion against divinely instituted authority?

Next, the endless grumbling by the people. Notice once more what Paul wrote about this in First Corinthians 10.10: 

“Neither murmur ye, as some of them also murmured, and were destroyed of the destroyer.” 

Even if the Apostle Paul’s reference to “the destroyer” is God’s death angel of Exodus 12.23, as A. T. Robertson suggests,[6] does this not show that the conduct of murmuring, grumbling, is conduct that betrays a profoundly spiritual dimension? Would a seasoned and mature student of the Bible be far off seeking to understand what instigated the Israelites’ long-term sinful behavior over an almost four-decade period by first considering the possibility, even the likelihood, of demonic influence? I hardly think so, especially when this is the type of attitude God visits with judgment, Romans 1.21.

Finally, the assault on Israel by Balaam. Balaam is an enigmatic figure in the Old Testament Scriptures, especially in his relationship with God communicating to him. His connection with the Moabite king, Balak’s, attempts to use his prophetic gift to harm the Israelites. He is most prominent in Numbers 22-24. He is also referred to three times in the New Testament, where the Apostle Peter makes mention of the way of Balaam, Jude makes mention of the error of Balaam, and the glorified Savior speaks of him to the angel of the Church of Pergamos, using the phrase “the doctrine of Balaam.” Let me read those three verses: 

Second Peter 2.15:  

“Which have forsaken the right way, and are gone astray, following the way of Balaam the son of Bosor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness.” 

Jude 11:  

“Woe unto them! for they have gone in the way of Cain, and ran greedily after the error of Balaam for reward, and perished in the gainsaying of Core.” 

Revelation 2.14:   

“But I have a few things against thee, because thou hast there them that hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balac to cast a stumblingblock before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed unto idols, and to commit fornication.” 

I would suggest to you a serious consideration that “the doctrine of Balaam” mentioned by the Savior is, for all intents and purposes, concerning its origins and its intentions, “the doctrines of demons.” Balaam was a very bad man who gave Balak the key to bringing great harm to the Israelites through sexual sins leading to idolatry. 

Lest there be any confusion about what is at stake in this spiritual warfare, and God’s attitude toward our conduct with respect to waging this in this fashion, I call your attention to Numbers 33.52: 

“Then ye shall drive out all the inhabitants of the land from before you, and destroy all their pictures, and destroy all their molten images, and quite pluck down all their high places.” 

God wanted the Canaanites driven out of the land He had promised to Abraham and gave them. There can be no doubt that God wanted Israel to obey Him without question and any misguided sentimentality. After all, in spiritual warfare, the other side is incapable of sentimentality. And the enemy will never spare you, your spouse, or your sons and daughters. Sentimentality in this respect is naiveté.

Don’t get me wrong. This Christian era in which we live is not precisely the same situation like the one the Israelites of Moses’ day lived in, concerning living in a theocratic kingdom, subject to God’s direct rule. God has not given us geographical territory to conquer in a conflict with idolaters. Instead, we are engaged in spiritual warfare, with people’s minds and hearts being contested with prayer and the Gospel.

Our aim is not to claim and possess geography given to us by God claimed by usurpers. We aim to persuade the lost to consider the claims of Christ. But, just as in their day, we are engaged in a spiritual war in which our adversaries are demons that are far more intelligent and experienced than we are, with errors they use to subvert people in their efforts to oppose the plan, the purpose, and the people of God.

Be careful.

Be prayerful.

Be Biblical.


[1] Herbert Lockyer, The Gospel In The Pentateuch, (Chicago: The Bible Institute Colportage Association, 1939), pages 92-93.

[2]Jacob Milgrom, Numbers - The JPS Torah Commentary, (Philadelphia, PA: The Jewish Publication Society, 1990), page xi.

[3] Lockyer, pages 97-98.

[4] Ibid., pages 100-101

[5] The Lion Handbook to the Bible, (Oxford, England: Lion Publishing plc, 1983), pages 185-194.

[6] A. T. Robertson, Word Pictures In The New Testament, Vol IV, (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1931), page 153.

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