“Unit 13: Day 1, Numbers 1–10,” Old Testament Study Guide for Home-Study Seminary Students (2014)
“Unit 13: Day 1,” Old Testament Study Guide
The Lord revealed to Moses how to organize the children of Israel for travel, encampment, and battle. The Lord also gave additional laws to the children of Israel to guide them while in the wilderness.
Imagine you are attending a major sporting event in a large arena or stadium. There are no assigned seating arrangements, no limitations on the number of people who can attend, no ticket agents, no parking restrictions, no security, and no officials or referees.
How do you think the event would go? Why do you think it is important that large events, such as this one, be organized?
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. As you study this lesson, look for how the Lord’s instructions to Moses teach us about the blessings that can come from organization and order.
- Copy the following diagram into your scripture study journal. You will be adding labels to the diagram as you study Numbers 1–4.
The Lord taught Moses how to organize the Israelites. To discover how the camp of Israel was organized, read Numbers 2:1–2, looking for what was to be at the center of their encampment. (Be sure to look at verse 2, footnote b. The “tent of meeting” mentioned in this footnote refers to the tabernacle.)
Write Tabernacle in the center rectangle of the diagram you copied into your scripture study journal.
You may remember that the tabernacle represented the presence of the Lord. It was the equivalent of a portable temple, the house of the Lord. Ponder why it is significant that the tabernacle was to be in the center of the camp.
To find out which tribes of Israel camped on each of the four sides of the tabernacle, read the following scripture passages. Then write the name of each tribe mentioned in the proper place on the diagram in your scripture study journal. The descendants of Joseph were divided into two tribes—Ephraim and Manasseh.
East: Numbers 2:3–8
South: Numbers 2:10–15
West: Numbers 2:18–23
North: Numbers 2:25–30
Notice that each tribe had a captain appointed and the tribes were organized according to their armies. How would having the camp organized with an army on each side be a blessing to the children of Israel?
Based on the example of the camp of Israel, consider the following truth: The Lord organizes His people in order to protect and guide them.
- Answer the following question in your scripture study journal: The Israelites were surrounded by hostile nations. What are some threats you face that jeopardize your spiritual safety and morality?
Just as the Lord organized the children of Israel into groups and with leaders in order to provide guidance and protection, the Lord has organized His people today for similar reasons. Examples of how we are organized include families, areas, stakes, wards, branches, quorums, and classes, each with specific leaders.
- Answer the following questions in your scripture study journal:
What similarities do you see between how the Lord organized His covenant people anciently, surrounding the tabernacle, and how He is organizing His people today?
In what ways have you felt guidance or protection because of how the Lord has organized His people today?
Complete the diagram in your scripture study journal by reading Numbers 1:50–53, looking for where the Levites camped and what they were to do.
Write Sons of Levi near the tabernacle in the diagram. The Levites’ responsibilities to care for the tabernacle are described in Numbers 3–4.
Read Numbers 4:49, looking for phrases that indicate that there were a variety of responsibilities to be performed in the camp of Israel. One of those responsibilities was to serve in the tabernacle. The Levites were given the responsibility to bear the priesthood in the service of others according to the Lord’s will.
Using the Levites as an example, ponder what we can learn about how the Lord organizes His children to fulfill responsibilities in His Church today.
You may want to write the following truth in your scriptures: The Lord assigns specific responsibilities to individuals in His kingdom.
Think about the kinds of responsibilities the Lord assigns to individuals in His Church today.
Read the following statement by President Dieter F. Uchtdorf of the First Presidency, looking for why the Lord assigns us different responsibilities at different times:
“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 experienced or observed someone else experience growth as a result of serving in a calling or assignment?
In Numbers 5 we read that the Lord gave additional instructions to the children of Israel concerning disease, repentance and forgiveness, and cases of infidelity.
Numbers 6 describes a group of Israelites that was set apart from the rest of the Israelites. To understand the standards of behavior placed upon this group, think of the differences between a full-time missionary’s lifestyle and your current lifestyle.
How might many people throughout the world view the living standards and expectations that full-time missionaries are asked to meet? Ponder some reasons why full-time missionaries are asked to meet these standards and expectations.
In a similar way, a group of Israelites known as Nazarites made vows to dedicate themselves to God for indefinite periods of time.
Read Numbers 6:1–8, looking for living standards associated with the vow of a Nazarite.
What Nazarite living standards did you find? Notice in the verses that 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?
The term “Nazarite” comes from a Hebrew word that means consecrated or dedicated. It has no connection with the word Nazareth or with those from Nazareth. The Nazarite vow could be of short or long duration, a temporary or a lifetime commitment (see Bible Dictionary, “Nazarite”).
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. One principle we can learn about showing dedication to God from the Nazarite vow is that 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?
Separating ourselves from the world does not mean ignoring people. Rather, we are to separate ourselves from the practices and beliefs that are opposed to the Lord’s commandments and standards.
Numbers 7–8 contains the example of another 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. Both the Nazarites and the Levites serve as examples of how we can show our dedication to God through our service to Him and by separating ourselves from the things of the world.
- Write and complete the following statements in your scripture study journal:
I will separate myself from the world by …
I will dedicate myself to God by …
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. Read Numbers 9:15–16, looking for what visual evidence the children of Israel had that the Lord was with them.
Ponder what evidence you have seen that the Lord is with you. Also ponder what evidence you have seen that He is with members of His Church today.
The children of Israel were camped at the base of Mount Sinai for 11 months (see Exodus 19:1; Numbers 10:11; the book of Leviticus was revealed while they were camped there). They began their march toward the promised land when “the cloud was taken up from off the tabernacle of the testimony” (Numbers 10:11).
Numbers 10 shows us 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 guiding them.
- Write the following at the bottom of today’s assignments in your scripture study journal:
I have studied Numbers 1–10 and completed this lesson on (date).
Additional questions, thoughts, and insights I would like to share with my teacher: