Numbers 22–36

Old Testament Teacher Resource Manual, (2003), 99–101


The Lord allowed the Israelites to gather into encampments on the east side of the Jordan River after they had wandered in the wilderness for forty years. There they prepared to enter the promised land. They were first commanded to do battle with the Moabites and Midianites (see Numbers 22–25) and a second census was taken to number those who would make up Israel’s army (see Numbers 26).

Once the Midianites and Moabites were conquered, Moses divided the territory and gave inheritances to the tribes of Manasseh, Gad, and Reuben (see Numbers 31:1–32:15). The children of Israel were finally ready to cross the Jordan and claim their inheritance from the Lord. The book of Numbers concludes with Moses’ counsel to Israel about their taking possession of the land of promise (see Numbers 33:50–36:13).

Some Important Gospel Principles to Look For

  1. To serve God, we must give up worldly desires (see Numbers 22–25; 31:8, 16; see also Matthew 6:24; 1 Timothy 6:10).

  2. The Old Testament contains detailed prophesies of the coming of Jesus Christ (see Numbers 24:14–19; see also Jacob 7:11).

  3. By faithfully enduring to the end, we can obtain an inheritance in a promised land (see Numbers 26:63–65; see also Numbers 14:1–39; Hebrews 11:8–10; Alma 37:38–45).

  4. Church leaders are called by God, sustained by those they serve, and set apart by the laying on of hands by those who have proper authority (see Numbers 27:18–23; see also Articles of Faith 1:5).

Suggestions for Teaching

Numbers 22–25, 31. To serve God, we must give up worldly desires. (50–60 minutes)

Write on the board Is it a sin to be rich? Discuss student answers. Have them read 1 Timothy 6:10 and Jacob 2:18–19 and discuss what the Lord said about riches and righteousness. Tell them that today they are going to study a remarkable story about a man who lost everything because he let riches become his god.

Explain to students that Numbers 21 tells how the Israelites conquered Sihon, king of the Amorites, and Og, king of Bashan. This frightened the Midianites and the Moabites, who then joined together to fight the Israelites.

If you have time, you may want to read the story of Balaam in Numbers 22–24. Have students, individually or in groups, answer the following questions. Review their answers as a class and discuss issues as needed. Make copies of the commentary for Numbers 22–24 in Old Testament Student Manual: Genesis–2 Samuel (pp. 209–10) for students to use.

  1. Who was Balaam? Was he really a servant of God? (see Bible Dictionary, “Balaam,” p. 618).

  2. What did Balak want Balaam to do? (see Numbers 22:1–6).

  3. Why didn’t Balak ask his own god to help him?

  4. Why did Balaam want to go to Balak if the Lord told him not to? (see Numbers 22:7–21).

  5. Why was the Lord angry with Balaam for going if He told Balaam he could? (See Numbers 22:20–22. The Joseph Smith Translation changes Numbers 22:20 from “rise and go with them” to “rise up, if thou wilt go with them” [italics added]. This gave Balaam the responsibility for the decision to go.)

  6. Why could the donkey see the angel and Balaam could not? How could a donkey speak? (see Numbers 22:22–30).

  7. What was more difficult, opening the mouth of a donkey or the eyes of Balaam? (see Numbers 22:27–33). What does that teach us?

  8. If Balaam was sent to bless Israel, why did he tell Balak to offer the elaborate sacrifices? (see Numbers 23:1–24:13).

  9. Who was Balaam prophesying of in Numbers 24:14–19?

  10. What led to Israel’s involvement in idolatry and whoredoms with the daughters of Moab? (see Numbers 25:1–5).

  11. Who was Phineas? What did he do that earned him the Lord’s “covenant of peace”? (see Numbers 25:6–13).

  12. Why did Israel go to war against the Midianite-Moabite alliance? (see Numbers 25:16–18).

  13. Why was Balaam killed? (see Numbers 31:8, 16).

Share the following statement by Elder Bruce R. McConkie, who was then a member of the Seventy:

“I wonder how often some of us get our direction from the Church and then, Balaam-like, plead for some worldly rewards and finally receive an answer which says, in effect, if you are determined to be a millionaire or to gain this or that worldly honor, go ahead, with the understanding that you will continue to serve the Lord. Then we wonder why things don’t work out for us as well as they would have done if we had put first in our lives the things of God’s kingdom. …

“And don’t we all know people who, though they were once firm and steadfast in testimony, are now opposing the Lord’s purposes and interests on earth because money and power have twisted their judgment of what should or should not be?

“Balaam, the prophet, inspired and mighty as he once was, lost his soul in the end because he set his heart on the things of this world rather than the riches of eternity” (“The Story of a Prophet’s Madness,” New Era, Apr. 1972, 7).

Balaam and his donkey

Summarize by referring to the question written on the board and asking:

  • What mistake did Balaam make?

  • Did his earthly gain bring him happiness?

Read Matthew 6:19–24 with your students and discuss how we can put the Lord first in our lives and still work for a good living. Share your testimony that the material things of this earth are necessary but they must not come before the things of eternity.

Numbers 24:14–19. The Old Testament contains detailed prophesies of the coming of Jesus Christ. (10–15 minutes)

On the board, write All the prophets of the Lord have testified of ______. Ask students to fill in the blank with what they think is correct, then have them read Jacob 7:11 and find the correct word. Display a picture of the Savior and ask: Why is Jesus Christ the most important person to the human race? Have them turn to the Topical Guide and name all of the topics and titles for “Jesus Christ.”

Explain that the Old Testament as it has come down to us does not mention Jesus Christ by name but it does contain some remarkable prophesies about Him. Read Numbers 24:14–19 and list on the board the details about Jesus Christ in this prophecy. The list may appear as follows:

  1. He would come in a day long after Balaam’s day (see v. 17; see also Matthew 2:1).

  2. He would be a descendant of Jacob (see vv. 17, 19; see also Luke 3:23–34).

  3. His coming would be marked by a star (see v. 17; see also Matthew 2:1–2).

  4. He would be a king, He who holds the “sceptre” (see v. 17; see also Isaiah 9:6).

  5. He would have great power over His enemies (see vv. 17–19; see also 2 Thessalonians 2:8).

  6. He would have great dominion (see v. 19; see also D&C 29:11). Ask students which parts of the prophecy are yet to be fulfilled.

Numbers 26–27. By faithfully keeping the commandments and enduring to the end, we can obtain an inheritance in a promised land. (25–30 minutes)

Ask students:

  • What do you think of when you hear the phrase “the promised land”?

  • What is a promised land?

  • Why would it be a promised land to you?

  • What would you be willing to do to obtain it?

Have students read the following scriptures and look for common words and principles: Deuteronomy 6:1–3; Hebrews 11:8–10; 1 Nephi 2:20; 17:13. Ask:

  1. What do all of those verses have in common? (A promised land.)

  2. What do they say must be done to obtain it? (Keep the commandments.)

  3. What was the promised land to ancient Israel? (see Bible map 1).

Explain that the Lord had led the children of Israel out of bondage so they could go to their promised land. Briefly review the account of the spies who searched the land of Canaan. Read Numbers 13:31–33 and find out why Israel failed to enter the promised land at that time. Ask students:

  1. What would best describe Israel’s reaction to the report given by the spies? (Fearful.)

  2. How does fear affect our ability to faithfully keep the commandments?

Read Numbers 14:28–31 and look for God’s punishment of those Israelites.

Explain that by the time of Numbers 26 nearly forty years had passed. Moses once again numbered the fighting men of Israel as they prepared to enter the promised land. Read Numbers 26:63–65 and identify who was left to enter the promised land. Ask students:

  1. Why were these people allowed to live and enter the promised land and not the others?

  2. What do we learn here about the promises and punishments of the Lord?

  3. What do we know about Joshua and Caleb?

Have students read Numbers 27:15–23. Ask:

  1. What did Moses ask the Lord to do in preparation for taking the children of Israel into the land of promise?

  2. Who was to lead the Israelites across the Jordan River?

  3. How was Joshua given the authority to lead Israel?

  4. How does the way Joshua was given authority compare with how it is given today? (Read the commentary for Numbers 27:18–23 in Old Testament Student Manual: Genesis–2 Samuel, p. 211.)

Have students read Numbers 27:12–14 and find out why Moses didn’t lead his people across the Jordan River. Briefly review what happened at the waters of Meribah and share information about this incident from the commentary for Numbers 20:2–13 in the institute manual (p. 208). Ask students why they think that event would keep Moses from entering the land of promise. Explain that Moses had completed his mission and it was then Joshua’s mission to lead Israel into Canaan.

Ask students what happened to Moses (see Matthew 17:1–3; Alma 45:18–19; also share the information about this from the commentary for Numbers 20:2–13 and Deuteronomy 34:5 in the institute manual, pp. 208–9, 232). Share your testimony that Moses was translated in order to fulfill an important future mission during the Savior’s mortal ministry. Explain that he delivered the keys to the gathering of Israel to those ancient Apostles and later to the Prophet Joseph Smith.

Encourage students to follow the examples of Moses, Joshua, and Caleb in their efforts to be obedient and faithful to the Lord. Share your testimony that if they do they also will obtain a promised inheritance in the celestial kingdom. You could conclude by singing or reading “I’ll Go Where You Want Me to Go” (Hymns, no. 270).