Lesson 61: Numbers 1–10

“Lesson 61: Numbers 1–10,” Old Testament Seminary Teacher Manual (2014)

“Lesson 61,” Old Testament Seminary Teacher Manual

Lesson 61

Numbers 1–10


The Lord revealed to Moses how to organize the children of Israel. The Lord also gave additional laws to the children of Israel to guide them while in the wilderness.

Suggestions for Teaching

Numbers 1–4

The Lord organizes the camp of Israel

Before class, draw the following diagram on the board under the title Camp of Israel. Do not write the Tabernacle label or the names of the tribes in the boxes.


Invite students to imagine they are attending a major sporting event in a large arena or stadium. Tell them that there are no assigned seating arrangements, no limitations on those who can attend, no ticket agents, no parking restrictions, no security, and no officials or referees.

  • Would you be interested in attending this sporting event? Why or why not?

  • Why do you think those responsible for organizing sporting events do it with order?

Explain that the book of Numbers begins with the Lord directing Moses to number the children of Israel (see Numbers 1). The Lord then directed Moses to use this information to organize the camp of Israel. Encourage students to consider during today’s lesson what the Lord’s commands to Moses teach us about the blessings that can come from organization and order.

Point to the diagram on the board, and explain that the Lord taught Moses how to organize the Israelites. To help students discover how the camp of Israel was organized, invite a student to read Numbers 2:1–2 aloud. Ask the class to follow along and identify what was to be at the center of their encampment (you may want to point out verse 2, footnote b). As students report what they find, you may need to explain that “tent of meeting” refers to the tabernacle. Write Tabernacle in the center rectangle of the diagram.

  • Why do you think it is significant that the tabernacle was to be in the center of the camp? (As students respond, you may want to remind them that the tabernacle represented the presence of the Lord.)

Write the following compass directions and scripture references on the board. Assign students to groups, and assign each group one of the passages. Invite students to read their verses silently and determine which tribes were to be camped on their assigned side of the tabernacle.

East: Numbers 2:3–8

South: Numbers 2:10–15

West: Numbers 2:18–23

North: Numbers 2:25–30

After sufficient time, invite students from each group to come to the board and list in the appropriate place on the diagram the names of the tribes found in their assigned scripture passages. Invite the group members who are still seated to help the students at the board list the names accurately. After the four sides of the diagram have been labeled correctly, ask the following questions:

  • What did each tribe have? (An appointed captain.)

  • According to the verses you read and the chapter heading of Numbers 2, how was each camp organized? (According to their armies. See Numbers 2:3, 9–10, 16, 18, 24–25.)

  • How would having the camp organized with an army on all sides be a blessing to the Israelites?

Write the following incomplete statement on the board: The Lord organizes His people in order to …

Ask students how they might complete this statement based on the example of the camp of Israel. One way students might respond is the Lord organizes His people in order to protect and guide them.

  • The Israelites were surrounded by hostile nations. What are some threats we face today that jeopardize our spiritual safety and morality?

  • What are some examples of how the Lord has organized His people today in order to provide guidance and protection in the face of spiritual challenges? (Students might mention families, wards and stakes, quorums and classes, prophets, and other leaders.)

  • In what ways have you felt guidance or protection because of how the Lord has organized His people?

Invite a student to read Numbers 1:50–53 aloud. Invite the class to follow along, looking for where the Levites camped and what they were to do.

  • According to verses 50–53, what responsibility did the Lord give the tribe of Levi? Where were they placed in the camp?

Write on the board Sons of Levi near the tabernacle in the diagram. Explain that the Levites’ responsibilities to care for the tabernacle are described in Numbers 3–4. Write the following scripture references on the board. Keeping students assigned to the same groups, assign each group one of the passages. Invite students to read their passages silently and identify the specific duties different families in the tribe of Levi were assigned.

Numbers 3:25–26

Numbers 3:29, 31

Numbers 3:36–37

Numbers 3:38

Invite one student from each group to report what they discovered.

Ask a student to read Numbers 4:49 aloud. Invite the class to follow along, looking for phrases that indicate that each person had different responsibilities in the camp of Israel. Point out that the Lord organized some of the Israelites to serve in the armies and some to serve in the tabernacle. The Levites were asked to bear the priesthood in the service of others according to the Lord’s will.

  • Using the Levites as an example, what can we learn about how the Lord organizes His children to fulfill responsibilities in His Church today? (Summarize students’ responses by writing the following truth on the board: The Lord assigns specific responsibilities to individuals in His kingdom.)

  • What are some examples of responsibilities the Lord assigns to individuals in His Church today?

To help students better understand this principle, invite a student to read aloud the following statement by President Dieter F. Uchtdorf of the First Presidency. Ask students to listen for why the Lord assigns us different responsibilities at different times:

Uchtdorf, Dieter F.

“The Lord organized the Church in a way that offers each member an opportunity for service, which, in turn, leads to personal spiritual growth. …

“You may feel that there are others who are more capable or more experienced who could fulfill your callings and assignments better than you can, but the Lord gave you your responsibilities for a reason. There may be people and hearts only you can reach and touch. Perhaps no one else could do it in quite the same way” (“Lift Where You Stand,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2008, 56).

  • When have you grown or observed someone else grow as a result of serving in a calling or assignment?

Numbers 5–8

The Lord gives specific laws to the children of Israel

Summarize Numbers 5 by explaining that the Lord gave additional instructions to the children of Israel concerning disease, repentance and forgiveness, and cases of immorality and infidelity.

Invite students to describe some of the differences between the lifestyle of a full-time missionary and their own current lifestyles. (These might include guidelines regarding dress and grooming, companionships, entertainment, relationships with the opposite sex, and daily schedules.)

  • How might many people throughout the world view the standards and expectations that missionaries are asked to meet?

  • What are some reasons why full-time missionaries are asked to meet these standards and expectations?

Explain that, in a similar way, a group of Israelites known as Nazarites made vows to dedicate themselves to God for indefinite periods of time. Invite a few students to take turns reading aloud from Numbers 6:1–8. Ask the class to follow along, looking for living standards associated with the vow of a Nazarite. You might suggest that they mark what they discover.

  • What Nazarite living standards did you find?

Point out that in these verses the word separation is used in relation to those following the Nazarite vows.

  • What word is used in verse 8 to describe the Israelites who chose to follow the Nazarite vows?

Explain that a vow is a promise or covenant. Those who entered into the Nazarite vow did so to dedicate themselves to the Lord and His work. These vows were most often for a designated time (much like missionaries setting aside one and a half to two years to serve the Lord).

  • What can we learn about showing dedication to God from the Nazarite vow? (Students may identify a variety of principles, but be sure to emphasize something similar to the following: We show our commitment to God when we strictly observe His standards.)

  • Besides serving as full-time missionaries, what can we do to separate ourselves from the world and dedicate ourselves to the Lord? (Help students understand that separating ourselves from the world does not mean refusing to interact with others. Rather, we are to separate ourselves from practices and beliefs that are contrary to the Lord’s commandments and standards.)

  • How can we stay separate from the world but still work to make it better?

Summarize Numbers 7–8 by explaining that these chapters contain the example of an additional group of people who separated themselves from the world and dedicated themselves to God. This group, the Levites, prepared themselves to do the Lord’s work in the tabernacle by following certain rules and practices.

  • What examples have you seen of others dedicating themselves to God?

Write the following incomplete statements on the board, and invite students to complete them in their class notebooks or scripture study journals:

I will separate myself from the world by …

I will dedicate myself to God by …

Numbers 9–10

The Lord leads Israel in the wilderness

Explain that Numbers 9 marks the beginning of the second year of the Israelites’ journey from Egypt to the promised land. In this chapter we read that the Lord revealed what the children of Israel should do to stay committed to the Lord and how they could know He was with them. Invite a student to read Numbers 9:15–16 aloud, and invite the class to listen for one indicator that the Lord’s presence was with the children of Israel.

  • According to verses 15–16, how did the Lord show the children of Israel He was with them?

  • What evidence have you seen that the Lord is with you? with His people?

Invite a student to summarize Numbers 10 by reading the chapter heading aloud for the class. Point out that as the camp of Israel went forward according to the way the Lord had organized them, the Lord was with them. The cloud going before them was a constant reminder that He was in their midst and guiding them.

You may want to conclude by sharing your testimony of the truths taught today.

Commentary and Background Information

Numbers 1:1–46. How many people did Moses lead through the wilderness?

“The first census of Israel after the Exodus numbered 603,550 men over twenty years of age who could go to war (see v. 3). This included none of the Levites (see v. 47) who numbered 22,000 (see Numbers 3:39). It also excluded all females, old men, boys under twenty years of age, and men unable to bear arms. This record has caused some scholars to estimate the total number of the children of Israel to be over two million souls (see Keil and Delitzsch, Commentary, 1:3:4–5). Other scholars believe that there have been textual errors in the transmission of numbers down through the centuries and that the total number of Israelites would be closer to half a million (see Enrichment Section E, “The Problem of Large Numbers in the Old Testament” [Old Testament Student Manual: Genesis–2 Samuel, 3rd ed. (Church Educational System manual, 2003), 193]). Whatever is correct, the task Moses faced was incredibly huge. To lead even five hundred thousand people into a harsh and barren wilderness and attempt to keep their hunger and thirst satisfied, their needs for shelter and protection from the elements met, as well as bring them to a state of spiritual maturity and obedience—no wonder Moses cried out, ‘I am not able to bear all this people alone, because it is too heavy for me’ (Numbers 11:14)” (Old Testament Student Manual: Genesis–2 Samuel, 3rd ed. [Church Educational System manual, 2003], 197).

Numbers 6:1–21. What was a Nazarite?

The term Nazarite comes from a Hebrew word that refers to someone who is consecrated, devoted, or dedicated through the making of a vow. It does not have anything to do with the word Nazareth or necessarily those who came from Nazareth. The Nazarite vow could be of short or long duration, a temporary or a lifetime commitment (see Bible Dictionary, “Nazarite”).

“A Nazarite took three vows: he would abstain absolutely from wine or strong drink, including any products of the vine in any form (see Numbers 6:3–4); he would not let a razor touch his head, but would let his hair grow naturally as a crown to God (see Numbers 6:5); and he would not allow himself to draw near a dead person, even a member of his own family (see Numbers 6:6). His life and all his efforts were completely and expressly dedicated to the Lord. This consecrated life bore some resemblance to that of the high priest (see Leviticus 21:10–12). Those who seem to have taken such vows, or had parents who made the vows for them, include Samson (see Judges 13:5), Samuel (see 1 Samuel 1:11, 28), and John the Baptist (see Luke 1:15). In some cases, these Nazarite vows were for life, but more often they were for a specific period of time, after which the person returned to a normal life. (Two instances in the New Testament that seem related to this vow taking are recorded in Acts 18:18–19 and 21:23–26.)” (Old Testament Student Manual: Genesis–2 Samuel, 3rd ed. [Church Educational System manual, 2003], 199).