There are a large number of commentaries on Numbers today. Rather than describe all of them, I will describe several to be aware of and to consider for your personal library.
If you're trying to narrow it down to one to three, here's my summary:
Timothy Ashley’s NICOT commentary, now in its second edition (2022), is currently the best available for in-depth exegesis of the text. It answers the most important questions a person might have of the text in terms of its history, geography, Hebrew grammar, and overall flow of thought and meaning. It does not, however, have much to say about the theology and application of the passage or how the passage might relate to later Old or New Testament teaching.
Gordon Wenham's Numbers commentary in the Tyndale series (1981) combines solid exegetical discussion with theological awareness and brief comment on application. As with all his commentaries, Wenham writes clearly and focuses on what is most important to know.
The Numbers commentary (2003) in the JPS series was written by Jacob Milgrom (d. 2010), a liberal Jewish rabbi who devoted most of his academic career to the study of Leviticus and Numbers. Milgrom writes very clearly and his commentary has engaging exegetical discussion but assumes a higher-critical framework and therefore must be used with caution. JPS commentaries are also fairly expensive.
Ronald B. Allen's contribution on Numbers in the Expositor's Bible Commentary series (2012) has wonderful exegetical discussion. These commentaries do not have a separate application section, but Allen's discussion is characterized by pastoral warmth. (For those with Kindle, it is also possible to get the Numbers volume by itself.)
I contributed the Numbers volume (2023) for Zondervan’s The Story of God Bible Commentary series. While this series does not go into the same level of detail as the NICOT series, my goal was to provide solid exegesis of the text that is rounded out with discussion of theology, apologetic matters, and practical application. The last of these is addressed at some length in the application section of each chapter, which I usually divide into three or four sections that could correspond to the three or four points of a sermon. (The Sermon Outlines page of this website is based on those application sections.)
Along with the normal goals one has in writing a commentary, I had the following specific goals in mind when writing this one:
I tried to be aware of issues in the text that will seem strange, or simply wrong, to modern people. Numbers has many of these, leading to many discussions on apologetic matters related to the book, e.g., the many questions surrounding the ritual for the wife suspected of adultery in Numbers 5 (see pp. 102-103), the destruction of the Canaanites in Numbers 21 (see pp. 281-83), or the requirement for the daughters of Zelophehad to marry within their clan in Numbers 36 (see pp. 420-21).
Where possible, I’ve tried to use language throughout the commentary that translates well to the person in the pew. (It seems to me that pastors are sometimes left with the hardest work: translating academic parlance into everyday language.)
In the application sections, I always kept in mind how this would have applied to an ancient Israelite before I considered how it also applies to us today (this helps keep the application rooted in the original message of the text as opposed to allegorical leapfrogging from the Old Testament into the New Testament).
The commentary maintains a strong focus on the grace that God provides to us and on the mission to which he calls us—emphases that are central to Numbers itself.
The theology of Exodus through Numbers leads me to believe that we read Numbers best when we read it as the story of the heavenly King (the Lord), who has come to dwell in his palace-tent (the Tabernacle), where he is served by his palace servants (the priests), and which rests in the midst of his covenant people (the Israelites). Reading Numbers through that lens brings it to life in exciting ways.
My original manuscript was far too long. As I trimmed it down to size, I kept many of the more secondary notes and observations and turned those into a book entitled Additional Notes on Numbers. It is freely available as a pdf and is also published (for those liking to have an actual book in their hands).
So once again, if you're trying to narrow it down to one to three commentaries, here's my summary:
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