The book of Numbers is the fourth of the five books of Moses. It gets its name from a census that was taken at Sinai not long after Israel escaped from Egypt. A second census is recorded in the 26th chapter of Numbers.
This second numbering of the people took place 38 years after the first one, just before Israel would enter the Promised Land. Each census was for the purpose of determining how many men were available for military service.
The ancient Hebrew name for this fourth book of Moses was descriptive of the book's actual contents. It was called, In the Wilderness. It describes the fortunes and misfortunes that befell Israel during the 40 years from the time they left Egypt until they entered Canaan—the Promised Land.
The book of Numbers tells the story of their sin and rebellion. More importantly, it portrays the longsuffering and mercy of God, who does not forsake His people even when they forsake Him.