As You Read: Weeks 16 and 17

The Book of Numbers does what it says: it names and numbers Israel. We find numerous lists of tribes and families listed and counted. Here is another origins document naming the original members of this newly called out tribal people that will eventually become the nation and kingdom of Israel.

As it opens, Numbers is set at the holy mountain, Sinai (or Horeb as it is sometimes named). The first ten chapters complete the story of the giving of the Law that began in Exodus.

Exodus 19:1 to Numbers 10:10 describes how this ragtag rescued people were received into a formal covenant of relationship with the God who brought them out of Egypt. Here they receive instructions about how to live within this covenantal relationship.

But always keep in mind that these five books of the Pentateuch were actually written or edited or complied centuries after the events they record. The Hebrew Scriptures as we know them came into being around the time of the Babylonian Exile. Either during their time in Babylon or not long afterwards.

Like many ancient peoples, their story was first preserved by their storytellers. Oral histories of events and geneologies were handed down from generation to generation until they were finally written down. This founding story of the exodus from slavery and the covenant with YHWH became Israel’s Scripture during another painful time of exile and alienation from their God. This people in exile knew full well they had broken covenant with their God and brought this tragedy upon themselves.

So as they recount and retell the ancient stories of the ancestors, they surely were confessing again their own faithlessness in light of the covenant faithfulness of the One Who Called them. They told the old old stories with a stubborn hope that the God of Covenant would rescue once again. As you read, consider the implications of Israel retelling these ancient stories through the lens of their current estrangement. It makes these stories all the more poignant.

We finish Hebrews this week with the famous list of Israel’s heroes of faith. How many of these people do you recognize?

Notice how slowly we are moving through the Gospel of Luke. Take your time. Ponder the life and times of the one who finally lived wholly and perfectly within the covenant relationship, Israel’s Messiah.

Charlotte Vaughan Coyle

Author: Charlotte Vaughan Coyle

Charlotte lives and blogs in Paris TX. She is ordained within the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and developed Living in The Story while doing doctoral work at Brite Divinity School in Ft. Worth. Charlotte also blogs about intersections of faith, politics and culture at

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *