Key verse: Numbers 21:8-9

Then the LORD said to Moses, “Make a snake image and mount it on a pole. When anyone who is bitten looks at it, he will recover.” So Moses made a bronze snake and mounted it on a pole. Whenever someone was bitten, and he looked at the bronze snake, he recovered. (CSB)

Monday, May 20 | Read Numbers 16

From the King James Study Bible note on vv. 1-2:

“The leaders of the rebellion included a group headed by Korah and composed principally of Levites who were offended by the setting apart of the family of Aaron for the duties and privileges of the priesthood (v. 10). The other group, headed by Abiram and Dathan, felt that they, rather than Moses, should have the preeminence in the nation, since they are the leaders of the tribe descended from the firstborn son of Jacob (Reuben). thus a rebellion against religious authority and another against political authority were associated, and the strength of each was greatly enhanced by cooperation with the other. Korah was a member of the Kohathite branch of the tribe of Levi, the branch to which Moses and Aaron belonged. With him were three outstanding members of the tribe of Reuben and 250 leaders of the congregation.”

Tuesday, May 21 | Read Numbers 17

From the Africa Study Bible note on vv. 5, 10:

Accept God’s Mercy

“The Israelites saw great miracles. They saw the Egyptians punished by the plagues. They experienced the actual presence of God. But the Israelites still complained and rebelled (Numbers 17:5, 10).

“A Malawi proverb says, Garu ndi garu ngakhale ungamusamale motani, meaning, “A dog is a dog. Even if you put a dog’s food on the table for it to eat there, the god will still pull the food onto the ground.” Even when we see God doing great miracles of salvation and even when we know that God will punish our sinful acts, too often we still cling to those same sinful acts. Instead, we should repent and accept God’s mercy with gratitude.”

Wednesday, May 22 | Read Numbers 18

From the Ancient-Modern Bible note on vv. 8-20:

“Indeed, do you wish to know what the difference is between the priests of God and the priests of Pharaoh? Pharaoh grants lands to his priests. The Lord, on the other hand, does not grant His priests a portion in the land but says to them, “I am your portion.” You therefore who read these words, observe all the priests of the Lord and notice what difference there is between the priests, lest perhaps they who have a portion in the land and have tie for earthly cares and pursuits may appear not so much to be priests of the Lord as priests of Pharaoh. For it is Pharaoh who wishes his priests to have possessions of lands and to work at the cultivation of the soil not of the soul, to give attention to the fields and not to the law. but let us hear what Christ our Lord admonishes his priests: “whoever of you does not forsake all,” He says, “that he has cannot be My disciple” (Luke 14:33).”

Thursday, May 23 | Read Numbers 19

From the NRSV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible note on v. 10:

alien residing among them. In future generations this purification (sin) offering and ritual becomes one of the more commonly applied purification (sin) offerings because of the continual potentiality of becoming unclean through the death of someone in the family, of a neighbor or of a sojourner in the land. The ritual guidelines apply to both the native Israelite and to resident non-Israelites. The openness of Israelite ritual law to resident non-Israelites who desire to identify with the community of faith stands in contrast to some other religious practices in the ancient Near East. Hittite temple ritual prohibited foreigners from bringing anything to the gods or even approaching them.”

Friday, May 24 | Read Numbers 20

From the Amplified Study Bible note on vv. 11, 23-24;

because you [both] rebelled. Up to this point, Moses’ obedience had been impeccable. It may seem that his anger was so understandable that God was overly harsh in His discipline of Moses. But Moses was the only representative of God to his people. It was only with Moses that God had spoken face to face, and Moses had a grave responsibility to only communicate what God actually said. Moses’ attitude was displeasing to God, and his actions went beyond what God had directed. Anger and presumption are still two quick ways to break our fellowship with God.”

Saturday, May 25 | Read Numbers 21

From the Jesus-Centered Bible note on v. 4:

Jesus, the Bronze Snake

“It’s ironic that, in Numbers 21:4-9, a symbol of destruction and death is lifted up as a source of life. Moses instructs those who are dying of a poisonous snakebite to turn their eyes to a pole holding up a bronze replica of a snake. If they do as he says, they will find healing. Remarkably, Jesus says this bizarre “rescue” is a direct illustration of what he intends to do for us on the cross. Referring to himself in John 3:14-15, Jesus says, “As Moses lifted up the bronze snake on a pole in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in him will have eternal life.” The bronze snake represents a curse that leads to death, but it’s also the object upon which God places the curses’s consequences, so that people can be saved from death. The scandal of the cross is tied to the bronze snake–when Jesus is lifted up on that terrible instrument of execution, he is representing the curse of sin that leads to death. He takes upon himself sin’s consequences, so we can live. As Paul explains in Romans 5:8, “But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.””

Sunday, May 26 | Numbers 22

From the NKJV Chronological Study Bible note on vv. 5-6:

Balaam: Prophet for Hire

“Balaam son of Beor is the famous prophet of Num 22-24 whose services were requested by Balak, king of Moab. The Israelites were crossing through Moab at the time, and Balak was uncomfortable with such a large group of people in his land. So he called on the prophet to curse the Israelites in the name of God.

“Normally a ruler would call on his own professional court prophets for such an undertaking. The blessing of cursing of neighboring kingdoms was standard duty for a court prophet. In contrast, prophets-for-hire were generally viewed unfavorably as unscrupulous persons who would say whatever their employer wished to hear. Nevertheless, Balak believed himself to be in sufficient danger to send for a famous and powerful prophet whose work was known for its potency.

“In the biblical traditions of Num. 22-24 Balaam is presented both favorably and unfavorably. Balaam, intending to keep his contract with Balak, attempted to curse the Israelites, but God kept him from doing so, insisting that Balaam bless them instead. In this way Balaam was a true prophet even in spite of himself and so, perhaps, was worthy of his fame. In a separate tradition (Num. 31:8, 16) Balaam is held responsible for the Israelite apostasy and Peor, and reported to have been killed by Israel.”