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10. The Bible's Big Story

25 lesson plans for children, young people and their teachers.

Lesson 10 Disobedience results in aimless wanderings Bible reference – Numbers 9 verse 15 – chapter 36 verse 13. The Israelites are about to travel on foot from Sinai through Kadesh into Canaan, the land God promised them as their own. You may be able to see these places on a map if you have one. It would be a straight journey of about 350 kilometres, but they did not go in a straight line! Also, they did not enter Canaan from the south – although it was closest to them. When they did go in eventually, they went across the river Jordan from the east (as we shall see next lesson). This journey was to take about 40 years. Approximately 3 million people travelled. (See Numbers1 verse 46 for the number of families, and Numbers chapter 33 for a list of all the places they went to). When we go on journeys we try to take with us enough to eat and drink, and some way of keeping warm. But these people were all miraculously fed by God with manna and quails every day, (Exodus 16 verses 4-5, and Joshua 5 verse 12). Stop and act (1) Their camps were set out around “the Tent of His (the Lord’s) presence”, Read slowly to the class Numbers chapter 2 verse 2. Now let’s see what that must have been like!

  • Divide the class into twelve groups, each group to represent one of Jacob’s sons – the children of Israel. (Use list from lesson 7 answers, on page 25).

  • Give the twelve tribe ‘leaders’, and one name card or flag each, from the list.

  • Put a chair into the middle of the room (you will see later this is to represent the Tent of meeting with God).

  • Put Judah, Issachar and Zebulun to the east of the chair – the leader holding the card, and all the group with him/her.

  • Put Reuben, Simeon and Gad to the south of the chair – the leader holding the card, and all the group with him/her.

  • Have Levi and his/her group walk in, carrying their Bibles, and sit around the chair – sitting between the chair and any other groups. Let them put their Bibles on to the chair. Explain this represents the ‘Tent of Meeting’, where the people and their leaders met with God.

  • Ask the tribe of Joseph to stand up where they are, with their leader holding the ‘Joseph’ card. Take the card away, and appoint a second leader for this group. Give one leader a new card: ‘Ephraim’, and the other a new card:‘Manasseh’. Divide the group between the two leaders. Explain that Joseph’s tribe was split into his first two sons (Genesis 48 verse 5).

  • Put Ephraim, Manasseh and Benjamin to the west of the chair and the Bibles.

  • Put Dan, Asher and Naphtali to the north of the chair and the Bibles.


So every time the people of God camped, they set the camp up like this, as we are now set up. Listen to Numbers chapter 2 verses 32-34. Read these verses slowly to the class, pointing out the big number of people (with a sweep of your arm) the Levites in the centre (the importance of meeting with God), and then have them ‘march’ back to their usual class places one tribe at a time their leader going first, and holding up his/her card or flag until the last group member is back in their class place. God’s presence with His people was seen in the Tent of Meeting and in the Pillar of Cloud by day and Fire by night, Numbers 9 verse 15-16. It was through this pillar that God guided His people. They followed when the pillar lifted and moved away, verses 17-23. God’s people obeyed God’s commands. They left Sinai, Numbers 10 verse 11-13.

God’s people were following God’s commands and on their way to God’s place for them to be. As time goes by the people begin to grumble! Have the boys ‘grumble’ by saying to each other:‘grumble, grumble, grumble’. And the people begin to complain! Have the girls complain by saying to each other: ‘murmur, murmur, murmur’. 1 Stop and discuss (2) Let’s see if we can discover what they were grumbling and murmuring about. Look up these verses and tell the class what the people grumbled and murmured about: 1. Numbers 11 verse 1 2. Numbers 11 verse 4 3. Numbers 12 verse 1 4. Numbers 14 verses 1-3 5. Numbers 16 verses 1-3 6. Numbers 20 verses 2-5 7. Numbers 21 verses 4-5 God’s people were not happy with the way God was helping them. God became angry with them, Numbers 11 verse 1; 11 verse 10; and 12 verse 9. He still guided them and He still provided for them. But all of the people who had come from Egypt and then grumbled or complained were to be punished by God. God would not let them enter into His promised land, read (or have a good reader read to the class) Numbers 14 verses 22-23. Instead of going into the promised land after about two years, it is not until forty years later that they enter! Disobedience and grumbling against God is punished by Him. His own people are not excused from this. By Numbers 33 verse 50 the Israelites are in the plains of Moab, by the river Jordan just opposite Jericho. (If you have a map, show these three places). God warns them that when they enter the PromisedLand – now so near by – they must not be influenced by those who worship other gods, but must clear the land and divide it between the twelve tribes, verse 51-54.

1 (above) See MacMillan School Dictionary, page 481 for the meaning of ‘murmur’.


The people of God must never copy those around them who worship other gods. We must be a good influence on them. Do not let them be a bad influence on us.

Answers to ‘Stop and discuss’


1. complained about their troubles– boys say: grumble, grumble, grumble

2. “if only we could have some meat” – girls say: murmur, murmur, murmur

3. criticised Moses over his wife – boys say: grumble, grumble, grumble

4. complained they’d rather have died in Egypt – girls say: murmur murmur, murmur

5. to rebel against Moses – boys say: grumble, grumble, grumble

6. there was no water – girls say: murmur, murmur, murmur

7. lost their patience – boys and girls say: grumble, murmur, grumble, murmur, grumble, murmur!

Remember to teach the ACTIONS and VIDEO overview

found and demonstrated on the homepage

and introductory lesson.



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