“Look to God and Live”
The Lord answers the Israelites’ desire for meat by sending them quail
and smiting them with a plague.
The Lord chastens Miriam and Aaron for speaking against Moses.
Moses instructs 12 men to search the land of Canaan.
Moses makes a serpent of brass and tells the people that if they look at
it, they will be healed.
A study of this lesson will encourage us to overcome worldly desires and
fears and look to the Savior and his prophets for guidance.
Scripture references for study: Numbers
Note: Underlined scripture references have been hyperlinked
to the LDS Scriptures at LDS.org and will open in a new window.
Lesson 15 Handout (PDF
The Book Of Numbers
"The book of Numbers recounts a great national
tragedy. Within just a few months of their deliverance from Egypt, the
children of Israel had an opportunity to inherit the promised land. But
this inheritance was delayed for forty years because of their contentions,
divisions, and lack of faith. By the time Israel finally showed enough
faith to be able to enter the promised land, most of this faltering generation
had died." (1989 Old Testament Gospel Doctrine Teacher's Manual,
Source of the name Numbers:
Contents of the book:
Semitic custom - use the first word of a book as its title.
Example: Bereshith = "in the beginning", Hebrew title for Genesis.
Wayedabber = "and he spoke", Hebrew for first words in Numbers, similar
to opening of Deuteronomy.
Bamidbar = "in the desert", additional Hebrew title for book.
The translators of the Greek version of the scriptures wanted the title
to be descriptive of the content of the book.
Arithmoi = "Numbers", because of the repeated use of census figures
and counting of Israelites.
Numeri = "numbers", Latin title.
Most of the book describes:
Israel's encounter with God and his prophet.
Lessons painfully learned in the desert.
The thirty-eight year period from the time Israel left Mt. Sinai until they arrived
at Mt. Pisgah on the east side of the Jordan River.
The route by way of the Gulf of Aqaba takes eleven days.
A more direct route would take even less time.
The Camp of Israel begins its migration following the census and after
receiving instructions, including the organization of the camp.
In Numbers 1 the Lord commanded Moses to number all males in all the tribes
of Israel over 20 years of age, "all that are able to go for to war."
Total numbered from all tribes = 603,550. (v46)
Levites not numbered in census.
Based on above number, total population of Israel probably ran from two
to three million.
There is some question to the validity of the above census figures.
As we know, not all has been translated correctly.
We know the difficulties of moving modern Israel west to Utah in companies
of hundreds to a few thousand (although a further distance).
Other scholars have problems with these numbers and indicate that the total
number was closer to 500,000.
Whatever the number, what Moses faced was a monumental task. It may have
been the largest single migrations in the history of the world.
Moses, The Spirit of Prophecy, Israel Tires of Manna
NUMBERS 11:4-10. Israel tires of manna
and complains again.
NUMBERS 11:11, 14. Moses
is unable to carry the
It is not difficult to understand the situation of these people. Imagine eating
the same thing day after day. Even your favorite meal. I imagine
my children would even get tired of pizza day after day. Although,
I did know a man on my mission that insisted on brown beans with every
WHAT SINS WERE THE ISRAELITES GUILTY OF WHEN THEY TIRED OF MANNA AND DESIRED
WHY IS GRATITUDE IMPORTANT?
"Thou shalt thank the Lord
thy God in all things . . . ." (D&C 59:7)
President Lorenzo Snow: "I have thought
sometimes that one of the greatest virtues the Latter-day Saints could
possess is gratitude to our Heavenly Father for that which he has bestowed
upon us and the path over which he has led us. It may be that walking along
in that path has not always been of the most pleasant character; but we
have afterwards discovered that those circumstances which have been very
unpleasant have often proved of the highest advantage to us."
(CR, Apr 1899)
Elder Neal A. Maxwell: "Bearing one's testimony
and expressing gratitude are like periodic inventories; counting our blessings
is both healthy and invigorating. Counting is better than commiserating."
(Deposition of a Disciple, p74)
IF WE ARE UNGRATEFUL, HOW DOES IT AFFECT:
President Gordon B. Hinckley: "Absence of
gratitude is the mark of the narrow, uneducated mind. It bespeaks a lack
of knowledge and the ignorance of self-sufficiency. It expresses itself
in ugly egotism and frequently in wanton mischief....
"Where there is gratitude,
there is humility, as opposed to pride." (CR, Oct. 1964)
OUR RELATIONSHIPS WITH OTHERS?
OUR RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD?
HOW CAN WE BECOME MORE GRATEFUL?
When Joshua saw these men speaking the words of prophecy he said, "My
lord Moses, forbid them" (Numbers 11:28:).
Moses is struggling to deal with the childish Israelites. He tells
the Lord that it is more than he can bear alone. Moses pleads
with the Lord, "And if thou deal thus with me,
kill me, I pray thee, out of hand, if I have found favour in thy sight."
Moses' calling had become more than he felt he could handle. There
seemed to be no way to accomplish the will of the Lord and he asked the
Lord for a way out.
HOW DID THE LORD RESPOND?
NUMBERS 11:16-17. The Lord calls seventy to assist
Moses in the work.
The Lord also assured Moses that he would provide meat. (v18)
The Lord gave the Spirit to the seventy and they prophesied. (v25)
NUMBERS 11:31-34. The Lord sends quail and a
NUMBERS 11:29. Moses' reply to Joshua.
Robert L. Millet: "Indeed, 'would God that
all the Lord's people were prophets, and that the Lord would put his spirit
upon them!' When every man or woman--whether ancient or modern Israelite--has
the testimony of Jesus, the spirit of prophecy burning within his or her
soul, then the work of the Lord moves forward by leaps and bounds. The
strength of the kingdom of God at any time is not to be found alone in
the power and strength of its leaders, but more important in the individual
testimonies of the members. Members who gain the witness and enjoy the
gifts lift heavy burdens from the shoulders of the leaders, for they now
perform their labors in the Church with intelligent obedience."
(Studies In Scripture, 3:188)
President Brigham Young: "I am like Moses
when a messenger came to him saying, 'The people are prophesying in their
tents.' Said Moses, Well, what of that? I would to God that the Lord's
people were all prophets! I would to God that they all had revelation!
When they receive revelation from heaven the story is told, they know for
themselves." (JD, 13:336)
The Israelite nation growing tired of manna and wanting meat (and other foods
they had in Egypt) might symbolize their constant turning from the things
of heaven to the things of the world.
HOW MIGHT SOME OF US BE DOING THIS TODAY?
Paul cautions us in his epistle to the Galatians: "And
let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if
we faint not." (Galatians 6:9)
Do we grow weary of attending our meetings, doing home teaching, reading
the scriptures, or saying our daily prayers? Do we ever find ourselves
longing for the things of the world?
Consider a favorite piece of music. I think we have all had the experience
of purchasing a CD containing music that we enjoy. When we first
obtain that CD, we may play it frequently, even repeatedly. Over
time we might grow "weary" of the music. We play it less often
and the CD seems to disappear in our pile of CDs. Did the nature
of the music change? No. It is constant, but our desire to
hear it has diminished.
We must strive to not let this happen with the works of righteousness. Like a fitness program, if we "faint not," in
time we will "reap" the rewards. The reward for diligence in a fitness program may be reduced weight, feeling better, and increased discipline. The reward for eternal vigilance is significantly greater.
The Complaint of Miriam and Aaron
NUMBERS 12:1-2. Miriam and Aaron speak against
The Lord's response (see
According to Josephus, Moses had married Tharbis, the daughter of the king
of the Ethiopians at a time when Moses was a commander of the Egyptian
Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses as their presiding authority, pointing
out that they too had received revelation. (v2)
The Lord descended in a cloud and summoned Miriam and Aaron before him.
The Lord explained that Moses was his Prophet. "With
him will I speak mouth to mouth, even apparently, and not in dark speeches;
and the similitude of the Lord shall he behold: wherefore then were ye
not afraid to speak against my servant Moses?" (v8)
Miriam was stricken with leprosy.
Aaron pleads with Moses to intercede in Miriam's behalf.
Moses pleads with the Lord. The Lord said, "let
her be shut out from the camp seven days, and after that let her be received
in again." (v14)
WHAT HAPPENS WHEN CHURCH MEMBERS THINK OR SPEAK NEGATIVELY, AS DID MIRIAM
AND AARON, ABOUT THE LORD'S PROPHET AND OTHER LEADERS THE LORD HAS CALLED
TO SERVE IN HIS KINGDOM?
WHAT ARE THE LIMITS TO OUR RIGHT TO RECEIVE REVELATION?
President James E. Faust: "The prophets,
seers, and revelators have had and still have the responsibility and privilege
of receiving and declaring the word of God for the world. Individual members,
parents, and leaders have the right to receive revelation for their own
responsibility but have no duty nor right to declare the word of God beyond
the limits of their own responsibility." (Ensign, Nov 1989,
Hopefully Miriam and Aaron came to appreciate, in a dramatic way, that which
President Harold B. Lee stated: "One is
not truly converted until he sees the power of God resting upon the leaders
of this Church, and until it goes down into his heart like fire."
(Stand Ye In Holy Places, p63)
Among other things, a spiritual leprosy.
President Spencer W. Kimball: "There is
the man who, to satisfy his own egotism, took a stand against the authorities
of the Church. He followed the usual pattern, not apostasy at first, only
superiority of knowledge and mild criticism. He loved the brethren, he
said, but they failed to see and interpret as he would like. He would still
love the Church, he maintained, but his criticism grew and developed into
ever-widening circles. He was right, he assured himself; he could not yield
in good conscience; he had his pride. His children did not accept his philosophy
wholly, but their confidence was shaken. In their frustration, they married
out of the Church, and he lost them. He later realized his folly and returned
to humbleness, but so very late. He had lost his children…. 'The fathers
have eaten sour grapes, and the children's teeth are set on edge.' (Ezekiel
18:2.)" (Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, p184)
Spies and The Land of Canaan
Israel approaches the land of Canaan (see
One of the twelve spies, Caleb of the tribe of Judah, reported, "Let
us go up at once, and possess it; for we are well able to overcome it."
The Lord commands Moses to send out a mission to scout out
the land of Canaan.
One man from each tribe was sent on this mission, including Joshua.
They were to check on:
The strength of the inhabitants.
Quality of the land.
The cities and the dwellings.
Lumber and crops.
The twelve spies returned from searching the land after forty days. They reported:
It was a land that flowed with "milk and honey."
The strength of the people who inhabited the land.
NUMBERS 14:2-4. The response of the Israelites
to the report of the spies.
NUMBERS 14:6-9. Joshua and Caleb stand
up for the Lord.
Ten of the twelve reported the opposite: "We
be not able to go up against the people; for they are stronger than we."
President Gordon B. Hinckley: "Ten of the
spies were victims of their own doubts and fears. They gave a negative
report of the numbers of stature of the Canaanites.... They compared themselves
as grasshoppers to the giants they had seen in the land.
"We see some around us who are indifferent concerning
the future of this work, who are apathetic, who speak of limitations, who
express fears, who spend their time digging out and writing about what
they regard to be weaknesses which really are of no consequence. With doubt
concerning its past, they have no vision concerning its future."
(Ensign, Nov. 1995, p71)
NUMBERS 14:11-12. The Lord irritated
When our first son was born, we chose for him the name of Joshua. We
picked the name because we liked it, not for any Biblical reasons. Whenever
we visited my father, Joshua's grandfather, he always referred
to Joshua as the "son of Nun." We often referred to that great
prophet in the Bible and taught my son that he should be a man like
Joshua of old. When
my second son was born, my wife and I discussed names, and I suggested the name Caleb. I referred
to this story of Joshua and Caleb in Numbers and said that this would be
a good pair of names for our sons. These are the kind of men we want
to raise our sons to become. Men who are willing to stand up for
the Lord and "go and do the things which the Lord
hath commanded" (1 Nephi 3:7). My wife didn't like the
name Caleb, but I thought it was a good idea.
HOW DID ISRAEL RESPOND TO THE STAND OF JOSHUA AND CALEB?
"But all the congregation bade stone them with
stones." (Numbers 14:10)
"The Israelites had been led out of the power
of the greatest empire in the world. They had been personal
witnesses to plagues that afflicted the Egyptians but left Israel untouched.
They had with their own hands smeared blood on the doorways of their homes
and then heard the cries of the Egyptians as their firstborn fell. They
had walked between towering walls of water that divided at the command
of Moses, then watches as those walls collapsed on the armies of the pharaoh.
They ate bread that miraculously appeared each morning, drank water gushing
from a rock, felt Sinai quake, and saw it glow with fire. What people in
all history had greater witness that God was with them and would use his
unsurpassable power in their behalf? They had so much and were promised
so much more. Then came the choice. In one foolish, blind, faithless choice
this generation of Israel lost it all." (Old Testament Student
The time for modern Israel to possess Zion has been postponed.
NUMBERS 14:19-20. Moses pleads for Israel.
In spite of Moses' frustration with these people, he pleads for them before
the Lord. It is fascinating to look at the prophets through religious
history and see their love for the people, even when they are weak and
NUMBERS 14:29, 33. Israel to wander in the wilderness
The Lord had given this generation of Israelites the privilege of assuming
their rightful inheritance. By their actions they lost this privilege and
would be left to wander in the desert for forty years.
NUMBERS 14:36-37. The men
that brought back a negative report died
of the plague.
It never pays to be negative.
D&C 105:5-6, 9, 13. The redemption
of Zion postponed due to the transgressions of the people.
D&C 84:54-59. The children of Zion
President Ezra Taft Benson: "Watchmen--what
of the night. We must respond by saying that all is not well in Zion. As
Moroni counseled, we must cleanse the inner vessel, beginning first with
ourselves, then with our families, and finally with the Church.... Now
we not only need to say more about the Book of Mormon, but we need to do
more with it. Why? The Lord answers: 'That they may bring forth fruit meet
for their Father's kingdom; otherwise there remaineth a scourge and a judgment
to be poured out upon the the children of Zion.' We have felt that scourge
and judgment!" (CR, Apr 1986)
It is easy to look at the story of ancient Israel and say that we would
not act as they did when they lost this great opportunity. Each of
us must look into our hearts, and repent as necessary, in order to see
that the tragedy of ancient Israel is not repeated in our lives.
President Gordon B. Hinckley: "There is
no place in this work for those who believe only in the gospel of doom
and gloom. The gospel is good news. It is a message of triumph. It is a
cause to be embraced with enthusiasm.
"The Lord never said that
there would not be troubles. Our people have known the afflictions of every
sort as those who have opposed this work have come upon them. but faith
has shown through all their sorrows. This work has consistently moved forward
and has never taken a backward step since its inception....
"This is an age of pessimism.
Ours is a mission of faith. To my brethren and sisters everywhere, I call
upon you to reaffirm your faith, to move this work forward across the world.
You can make it stronger by the manner in which you live." (Ensign,
Nov 1995, pp71-72)
Moses & The Brass Serpent
NUMBERS 21:4-5. The people complain again.
NUMBERS 21:8-9. How the people could save
NUMBERS 21:6. The Lord's response, snakes.
I would not like this plague, although I can't think of a plague that I
Just as the children of Israel needed to look at the brass serpent to live,
we need to look to Jesus Christ to receive eternal life.
Nephi's commentary: "And he did straiten
them in the wilderness with his rod; for they hardened their hearts, even
as ye have; and the Lord straitened them because of their iniquity. He
sent fiery flying serpents among them; and after they were bitten he prepared
a way that they might be healed; and the labor which they had to perform
was to look; and because of the simpleness of the way, or the easiness
of it, there were many who perished." (1 Nephi 17:41)
JOHN 3:13-15. A type of the crucifixion.
WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO LOOK TO CHRIST?
HOW DO MANY PEOPLE TODAY MAKE THE SAME ERROR AS THE ISRAELITES WHO WOULD
NOT LOOK AT THE BRASS SERPENT?
Elder Boyd K. Packer: "And today many say,
'How silly! How could accepting Christ save me?' They will not turn their
heads to look nor incline their ears to hear. They ignore the great witness
that comes from these conferences. We ought to, indeed we must, heed the
counsel of these men, for the Lord said, 'What I the Lord have spoken,
I have spoken, and I excuse not myself; and though the heavens and the
earth pass away my word shall not pass away, but shall all be fulfilled,
whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same'."
(CR, Oct. 1968)
As Elder Packer has stated, we must listen to the Brethren and heed their
counsel. They bear the truth, which for us is like the brass serpent. If we seek to do the will of the Lord, as spoken by these men, we will
be saved from unnecessary pain and anguish and find eternal happiness.
Gospel Doctrine Notebook
- We see in this lesson the consequences of turning away from the will
of the Lord and seeking to do the things of the world. The children
of Israel lacked faith in the Lord and seemed to long for Egypt and the
security it seemed to provide. This group of people had tremendous
opportunities placed before them and yet they did not have the faith to
- In the midst of this group of negative Israelites, we see the shining
example of Joshua and Caleb. They had vision and faith. They
were willing to plunge ahead and do the will of the Lord. How are
we doing? Are we willing to look to God and his servants and find
success during our mortal probation or are we going to spend our time murmuring
and miss the great opportunities placed in our path.
- "And thus they have been called to this holy
calling on account of their faith, while others would reject the Spirit
of God on account of the hardness of their hearts and blindness of their
minds, while, if it had not been for this they might have had as great
privilege as their brethren." (Alma 13:4)
- Record your thoughts on these ancient Israelites. How does it make you
feel when you consider their lack of faith? What can you do to avoid falling
into the same traps?
Resources Used In This Lesson
Conference Reports (CR).
Deposition of a Disciple by Neal A. Maxwell.
Journal of Discourses (JD).
Old Testament Gospel Doctrine Teacher's Manual, 1989.
Old Testament Student Manual - Religion 301.
Stand Ye In Holy Places by Harold B. Lee.Stand Ye In Holy Places by Harold B. Lee.
Studies In Scripture, Volume 3, edited by Kent P. Jackson and Robert L.
Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball.
Gospel Doctrine Class
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Changes last made on:
10 March 2014