Sunday 8 March 2009

Martin Pakula on Numbers

Martin Pakula, Numbers: Homeward Bound, Reading the Bible Today Series (Sydney South: Aquila, 2006), ISBN 1920935444.

The Reading the Bible Today Series provides brief-ish commentaries on biblical books, written at a semi-popular level (think a few notches down from IVP’s Bible Speak Today Series. Martin Pakula, a convert to the Christian faith from Judaism, writes the one on Numbers, based on lectures given to first-year students at Moore Theological College in Sydney.

Why read Numbers? According to Pakula, because it is our story, written for us and for our instruction (cf. 1 Corinthians 10:11), teaching us about ‘the church on its journey to God’s promised inheritance, with nothing to hold on to but the promises of God’ (2).

Like other commentaries in the series, this one seeks to move beyond explanation of the text itself to an exploration of its place in the Old Testament story and how it points to Jesus. It is a self-conscious ‘biblical-theological approach’, reading the book ‘in the context of the whole Bible, and as it finds its fulfilment in Jesus’ (7).

Numbers is part of the outworking of the promises made to Abraham in Genesis 12, and is linked to Exodus and Leviticus by the year-long stay at Sinai, ‘which set up the relationship between Israel and God’ (10).

He offers a three-fold division of Numbers based on geography, with two short travel narratives in between (15):

1. Israel at Sinai (Numbers 1-10)
1a. Travel from Sinai to Kadesh (Numbers 11-12)
2. Israel at Kadesh (Numbers 13-19)
2a. Travel from Kadesh to the Plains of Moab (Numbers 20-21)
3. Israel on the Plains of Moab (Numbers 22-36)

In a final chapter he highlights the two major themes of Numbers as Israel’s unfaithfulness and the faithfulness of God (161-65).

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