Chapter by chapter themes
The following table goes through the entire book of Numbers, chapter by chapter, describing each chapter’s themes so that the teacher or preacher can quickly identify which chapters they want to focus on in a preaching or teaching series. You may jump to a chapter by clicking here: 1, 2, 3-4, 5:1-4, 5:5-10, 5:11-30, 6:1-21, 6:22-27, 7, 8:1-4, 8:5-26, 9:1-14, 9:15-10:10, 10:11-36, 11, 12, 13-14, 15, 16, 17:1-18:7, 18:8-32, 19, 20, 21:1-22:1, 22:2-40, 22:41-24:25, 25, 26, 27, 28-29, 30, 31:1-24, 31:25-54, 32, 33:1-49, 33:50-34:29, 35, 36.
For suggestions of various series, see above. Brief sermon outlines that correspond to the chart below may be found in the Sermon Outlines section of this website.
Numbers 1: The Lord of Faithfulness, Holiness, and Mission
The Lord’s faithfulness to his promises; the Lord’s redeeming us for the purpose of relationship with him and mission to his world; our need to respect the Lord’s holiness by respecting his dwelling places (the Church corporately and our own temple–bodies individually).
Numbers 2: Living with the Lord and His Mission at the Center
The Lord and his mission are to be central in our lives; we are to avoid envy and jealousy of our brothers and sisters because we are focused on God’s mission, not our own; we are to be committed to our brothers and sisters since they are one with us in Jesus.
Numbers 3–4: The Nature of Biblical Authority; The Good News of Substitution
Those in spiritual authority are to be servants; those under spiritual authority are to follow and support; the Lord’s holiness calls for deep respect in the lives of his followers; a substitute stands in for you, a theme that is especially central to the Bible’s teaching on how our sins are forgiven in Jesus.
Numbers 5:1–4: Seeking Holiness, Receiving Cleansing
The need to remove impurity from the midst of God’s people; the importance of God’s people seeking personal holiness; the glorious cleansing of defilement found in Jesus.
Numbers 5:5–10: Proper Repentance; Supporting the Lord’s Work
True repentance involves confessing the wrong and also making it right where possible; the importance of supporting spiritual leaders financially so they can care properly for the Lord’s sheep.
Numbers 5:11–30: Sexual Faithfulness
Why sexual faithfulness in marriage makes sense in light of the Lord’s purposes for sex; guarding ourselves from sexual immorality; motivations for sexual fidelity.
Numbers 6:1–21: Complete Dedication to the Lord
Believers have been called to serve as the Lord’s kingdom of priests and holy nation in this world; the Lord requires complete dedication of his followers; we can live wholly dedicated lives even as we carry out our everyday lives.
Numbers 6:22–27: The Lord of Blessing; A Leader’s Call to Pray; The Source of Blessing
Blessing involves material and especially spiritual provision; the Lord is the source of blessings and he loves to give them to his people; spiritual leaders are to pray for the Lord’s blessing on behalf of his people; if we have the blessing of relationship with the Lord, we can live in hope even if we lack blessing in other areas of our life.
Numbers 7: The Importance of Unity; Who’s Going to Pay the Electricity Bill?
The importance of worshipping God (and his provision of a way for us to draw near to him), the need for his people to provide materially for such worship to take place, and the unity and equality of all God’s people before him.
Numbers 8:1–4: The Lord Who Shines His Favor on Us; Our Need of Favor
The Lord’s continual presence among his people; the Lord’s desire to shine his blessing on his people (and our need of that blessing in our lives).
Numbers 8:5–26: Leadership Requirements and Transitions
The importance of spiritual maturity among the Lord’s leaders; the importance of transitioning leadership responsibilities to others as we age; the need for moral purity among the Lord’s people; the leader’s role of modeling to others the dedication we owe to the Lord and the way in which we are to represent him in the world.
Numbers 9:1–14: Celebrating Redemption; When the Nations Join in Worship
The importance of regularly celebrating the Lord’s redemption of his people; the desire that believers should have for doing so; the Lord’s desire that those outside of his people come to express faith in him so they might also celebrate his redemption in their lives.
Numbers 9:15–10:10: The Lord Whose Presence Empowers Obedience; The Need for Skilled Musicians
The Lord’s presence as King of glory in his people’s midst should embolden their obedience; the priests’ blowing of trumpets had to be done skillfully (thus showing the importance of skilled musicians among the Lord’s people); the Lord leads his people to the promised land of rest; the Lord’s people are to pray for the Lord’s help and favor.
Numbers 10:11–36: The Lord Who Leads His People to a Land of Rest; When the Nations Enter the Lord’s Land of Rest
The Lord’s presence means his people need not fear; the Lord leads his people to places of rest; the Lord calls his people to help the world enter into his rest.
Numbers 11: Lamenting Versus Complaining; Complaining: A Burden to Leadership
What complaining is; the negative view the Lord takes of complaining; the ways that complaining impacts leaders; Moses’s legitimate lamenting versus the Israelites’ sinful complaining.
Numbers 12: Bad Leaders, Good Leaders, Good Servants
What bad leaders look like (especially their desire for power); what good leaders look like (especially their servant–like attitude), and what good servants look like (especially their submitting to authority).
Numbers 13–14: The Importance of Obedience and our Hope after Disobedience; The Lord Who Forgives and Disciplines; Biblical Faith Versus Religion
Obedience is motivated by faith in the Lord’s presence and faithfulness; obedience is central to the life of faith; in our disobedience we can turn back to the Lord with hope in his merciful forgiveness; religion ultimately looks to oneself for salvation while biblical faith looks only to the Lord.
Numbers 15: The Lord Who Pours Forth Grace; The Gift of Grace and the Dangers of Sin; The Lord’s People: Priests to the Nations
How the Lord demonstrates his grace; how to respond to grace properly; a warning that the Lord’s grace does not make sin safe; our gracious calling to be the Lord’s priestly kingdom.
Numbers 16: The Lord Who Judges and Vindicates; Leadership: Rebuking and Interceding
How sinning against others is rooted in envy, bitterness, and in refusing to acknowledge our own sin; how the Lord responds with judgment for sin and vindication of his servants; how godly leaders rebuke the sin of others (especially of other leaders) and look to the Lord for vindication; how the triggers of the past and putting family ahead of God can lead to further sin; and how godly leaders respond by interceding for others, even others who have sinned against them.
Numbers 17:1–18:7: The Weighty Role of Spiritual Leadership; The Gospel: An Open Invitation
God’s desire for us to know him; we must come to him on his terms and not our own (there is an exclusive way to God and yet an open invitation to come); the responsibilities of spiritual leadership call for diligence on the part of leaders and encouragement from those that follow them.
Numbers 18:8–32: Giving Back to the One Who Meets Our Deepest Needs
What we proclaim when we give to the Lord’s work; why giving is important for his work to continue; how those who depend on our gifts are a reminder of how the Lord (and not material things) is truly our ultimate good in life.
Numbers 19: Being Cleansed
How important ritual cleansing is and how freely and graciously the Lord made it available to Israel; how important moral cleansing is and how freely and graciously the Lord makes it available in Jesus.
Numbers 20: The Lord’s Discipline of Leaders; The Lord Who Disciplines Leaders
The stricter judgment that leaders face for sin; the contrast between Aaron as a sinful and mortal high priest with Jesus as righteous and eternal high priest.
Numbers 21:1–22:1: The Lord Who Fights Our Battles and Delivers Us From Evil; Judgment and Deliverance
Victory in battle comes from the Lord; the Lord brings his judgment to bear against evil (with discussion of what it means to “totally destroy” a people); the Lord provides a way to be delivered from such judgment.
Numbers 22:2–40: The Lord Who Blesses is the Sovereign Lord; Blessing and Submission; The Love of Money and Its Dangers
God’s posture toward his people is one of blessing; love of money can lead to all manner of evil; only the Lord has the final say about spiritual realities (and therefore about how we live our lives).
Numbers 22:41–24:25: The Lord Who Blesses and His King of Blessing; The Love of Money and Its Dangers
The dangers of greed and of opposing the Lord; God desires to bless his people and all creation; the coming king through whom God would bless the world.
Numbers 25: Sin: A Betrayal Against the Lord and His World; How Sin Disrupts our Calling
The serious nature of the sins of sexual immorality and idolatry; sin is treason against God and a betrayal against his world; the Lord in his love has provided atonement for our sin through Jesus taking on himself the punishment our sins deserved.
Numbers 26: The Lord Who Is Faithful to Judge and to Bless
God’s faithfulness to his promises is both a warning (he will be faithful to bring judgment to bear against sin) and an encouragement (he will be faithful to bring about his covenant promises for his faithful children).
Numbers 27: The Leader as Shepherd; The Lord’s Word Versus Cultural Values
The importance of trusting in the Lord’s faithfulness and of letting his word be the standard against which cultural practices are measured; biblical leadership is often compared to the role of a shepherd who protects and cares for the flock; biblical leaders must seek the Lord’s guidance and direction as they lead his people.
Numbers 28–29: Celebrating the Lord’s Character and Deeds
The importance of regular, communal celebrations of the Lord’s character and deeds; the lavish celebration that the Lord’s character and deeds calls for; the celebrations’ forward–looking picture of Jesus’s character and deeds and the importance of regularly celebrating them.
Numbers 30: Costly Obedience
Vows and oaths must be kept, even if costly; Christians can still take vows and oaths; there are certain circumstances where vows or oaths may be modified or annulled.
Numbers 31:1–24: Being Ready for Judgment
The Lord will bring judgment to bear against sin; deal properly with moral impurity as a sign of reverence for the holy Lord.
Numbers 31:25–54: How and Why to Give
Our financial giving should support fellow believers as a sign that they are our brothers and sisters and should support the spiritual leaders of the Lord’s people as a sign of our desire for his worship to continue.
Numbers 32: United in Mission; Costly Love for One Another
Our decisions can impact others and must therefore be in keeping with God’s ways so that they impact others positively and not negatively; the importance of unity among the people of God so that they can accomplish the purposes of God.
Numbers 33:1–49: The Lord Who Judges and Forgives
The Israelites’ many faithless deeds; the Lord’s judgment for them; the Lord’s mercy, faithfulness, and provision along the way.
Numbers 33:50–34:29: Turning from Idols to Enjoy Life with God
Dispossessing the land’s inhabitants and distributing it; the land’s boundaries; those who would apportion the land. Inheritance language is used throughout to describe the land.
Numbers 35: The Lord Who Values Life and Redeems Lives; Providing for the Levites
Whole–hearted dedication to the Lord and providing for the needs of his leaders; how deeply the Lord values life; a picture of how the lifeblood of high priests can substitute for the lifeblood of the guilty and cleanse their wrong.
Numbers 36: Costly Obedience and Rich Inheritance
Zelophehad’s daughters are a model of trusting faith in the Lord and are willing to accept limitations on their lives in order to be faithful to God’s words. Their anticipation of a share in the promised land is a pointer to the anticipation that followers of Jesus can have for a share in a far greater promised land, a future inheritance that emboldens our whole–hearted obedience today.