The phrase “The Lord spoke” appears nearly 100 times in the book of Numbers alone. We see it the first time in the first verse, “The Lord spoke to Moses in the wilderness of Sinai, in the tent of meeting, on the first day of the second month, in the second year after they had come out of the land of Egypt.” God spoke to Moses in the wilderness of Sinai. He was instructing Moses on the next phase of their journey to the promised land. They never made it to the land in the book of Numbers, and it’s no wonder that in Hebrew, the book of Numbers is “Bemidbar.” This means “in the wilderness.” But some Hebrew manuscripts say its name is “wayeḏabbēr  meaning “Yahweh spoke.” Allen says, “From the opening words of the book (1:1) to the closing words (36:13), this is stated over 150 times and in more than twenty ways.”[1]

Moses was the spokesman for God. God’s custom was to call Moses to the “tent of meeting” to speak to him. God seems to have spoken to Moses in several ways beginning with the burning bush but regardless of when and how Moses was God’s spokesperson. Cole says, “Theologians have probed this enigma for millennia, giving rise to varied theories of inspiration. However, this communication was accomplished, whether by audible human speech form, mental and spiritual impression and compulsion, or by intellectual impregnation of ideas, the prophet Moses became the instrument for divine illumination of humankind of the will and word of God.”[2] Well, it sounds like the audible speech Moses received from God passed on in legible texts in the scriptures. The tent of meeting was the most critical part of the Israelite’s worship experience because it was from there that they heard an infallible word from God. When God spoke in Genesis, things happened. When God spoke to Moses, things happened.

But God doesn’t speak to us from a tent anymore, a temple, or any object that might have been housed in the tent or temple. According to John, God’s tabernacle is Jesus Christ! “In the beginning was the word (speech), and the word was with God, and the word was God.” This “word” was made flesh, and in John 1:14, it’s said to “tabernacle” with us. He dwelt with us. Hebrews also reminds us that in various times God spoke to us in many different ways. One of those ways was through the tent of meeting by the mouth of the prophet Moses. But today, He speaks to us in His Son. Once established by Moses, only priests could enter the tent, and only the High Priest could enter the most sacred compartment to bring the blood sacrifice for the people’s sins. But in Hebrews 9:11-12, Jesus has accomplished that for us once and for all. It says, “But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption.”

[1] Allen, Ronald B. 1990. “Numbers.” In The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, edited by Frank E. Gaebelein, 2:701–2. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[2] Cole, R. Dennis. 2000. Numbers. Vol. 3B. The New American Commentary. Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.