The books of Exodus, Leviticus and Numbers continue the story of how God formed the nation of Israel to play a special role in his plans for the whole world. When the Israelites were enslaved in Egypt, God came to them and worked powerfully through Moses to deliver them. At Mount Sinai, God revealed his laws to Moses, including the Ten Commandments, and confirmed his covenant with the young nation. Israel built a ‘tabernacle’, or ‘tent of meeting,’ so that God could live among them. The people then travelled through the wilderness to the land of Canaan.
The boundaries between the books of Exodus, Leviticus and Numbers are not sharply drawn. The key structure throughout the books relates to the various places the Israelites stopped on their journey. Each location is noted, and the events at each one are described. The key location is Mount Sinai; the second half of Exodus, all of Leviticus, and the beginning of Numbers describe what took place there. Leviticus specifically contains the laws and regulations the Lord gave to Israel. Numbers reports how the people were organized into a fighting force and moved towards the promised land.
Numbers reaches back across Leviticus and Exodus and repeats the phrase that structures Genesis: This is the account of the family of Aaron and Moses (Num. 3:1). Appropriately, we hear this phrase for the twelfth time as the twelve tribes are being organized into a nation. Near the end of Numbers the prophet Balaam says to Israel, May those who bless you be blessed and those who curse you be cursed. This recalls God’s promise to Abraham in Genesis, I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse. These references show that together these books tell a single story of the beginning of God’s redemptive work in the world.