Course Hero. "Old Testament Study Guide." Course Hero. 27 Apr. 2018. Web. 17 July 2018. <https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Old-Testament/>.
Course Hero. (2018, April 27). Old Testament Study Guide. In Course Hero. Retrieved July 17, 2018, from https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Old-Testament/
(Course Hero, 2018)
Course Hero. "Old Testament Study Guide." April 27, 2018. Accessed July 17, 2018. https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Old-Testament/.
Course Hero, "Old Testament Study Guide," April 27, 2018, accessed July 17, 2018, https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Old-Testament/.
Numbers is often discussed in three sections. In the first (Chapters 1–10) the Israelites receive a final collection of instructions and regulations before they leave Mount Sinai. The second section (Chapters 11–25) concern problems during their journey. The final section (Chapters 26–36) provides further miscellaneous regulations and looks forward to the apportionment of the land of Canaan between the tribes of Israel.
The contents of the book of Numbers are remarkably diverse. Unlike Leviticus, which effectively pauses the narrative progression of the Torah while listing large blocks of legal material and cultic regulations, Numbers intersperses narrative and nonnarrative sections throughout. The wide variety of material in Numbers provides revealing glimpses of the diversity of religious practices in ancient Israel and its environs.
The case of the woman accused of adultery in Numbers 5 describes a kind of trial by ritual/ordeal with magical overtones. Presented before the altar of Yahweh, the woman must swear to her innocence and drink the "water of bitterness," in which the ink of a written curse has been washed. If she is guilty, the curse causes some sort of physical harm to the woman, possibly a miscarriage. This ritual is reminiscent of other trials by "ordeal" known from the ancient Near East, such as the river ordeal mentioned in the Code of Hammurabi. In cases where accusations could not be proven, an individual would jump in the river. Survival proved innocence, while drowning indicated guilt.
The portrayal of Balaam in Numbers 22–24 as a professional prophet reflects the broader practice of prophecy in the ancient Near East. Numerous references to prophets and diviners working in the service of political rulers are found in ancient texts from Mesopotamia and Syria. At the archaeological site of Deir Alla, located on the east side of the Jordan River valley in modern Jordan, inscriptions written on plastered walls were found that also mention a person named Balaam described as a "seer" or prophet. These inscriptions can be securely dated to the 8th century BCE, and suggest that this portion of Numbers is portraying a known figure of that time period.