This chapter of the bible gets a bad rap sometimes because of the sense that this title makes it sound like math, and in reality, has some very historically significant sections, with very little high energy narrative. These "dry" sections would be the title bearing section, involving the numbering of the Israelites...so reading Numbers, can be like reading census data.
Yet that doesn't mean that it is lacks valuable and interesting narrative.
If they made a movie about this section of the bible in it's entirety, I would not recommend The Book of Numbers be it's title, because frankly that would sound like a stupid horror movie, or perhaps the subtitle to the next installment of the Nicolas Cage's National Treasure series.
Rather, I would want to borrower from the Hebrew title Bəmidbar (במדבר) which literally means "In the desert." To me this title is more appropriate because while filled with numbers, this part of the bible tells the story of the Israelites 40 years of wandering the desert. That title is used in my mock-film poster at left.
This book also tells about Moses disobedience that excluded him from being able to enter into the promised land. This story, involving the striking of a rock, instead of speaking to it calling forth water is an interesting story in many ways, but how it would be carried out in a feature film is problematic because it's one of those events that encourages some discussion and information to create understanding.
Although, seeing Moses strike the rock and water pouring out could be an incredible scene.
Another incredible scene could be the budding of Aaron's rod in the desert as the tribe of Levi is chosen to be the priestly people.
Or, the brazen serpent that Moses makes to ward of the serpents plaguing the Israelites for speaking against God.
Numbers certainly does not lack some exciting, interesting, thought provoking, and interesting moments.
There are one story that I think could really be a great cinematic story, and that is the story of Balaam.
Balaam, Balak & A Talking Donkey
Balaam's often pictured, as with the Rembrandt painting, right, with his donkey, in the story of a Balaam and the donkey. This story involving the donkey is an aside to a bigger story that happens shortly before the death of Moses.
Balaam, could be called the cursing prophet. Balaam a non-Israelite, was famous for offering prophetic curses for pay.
Balaam was summoned by Balak the king of Midan was very concerned about the Israelites, having defeated other kingdoms. Balaam, having received a prophetic dream said he'd only do what the Israelites god, Yahweh, wanted him to do, and eventually is instructed by God to go. Along the way there is a scene in which Balaam's donkey is abused by Balaam as it avoids a dangerous angel, which upon the donkey speaking causes Balaam, the angel becomes visible. Balaam repents.
Balaam is taken by Balak to various places to curse Israel and it's people, but instead Balaam uncharacteristically issues blessings and prophesy about the success of the Israelites.
This, I could see as an interesting period piece, perhaps with some cleaver marketing, casting, and production it could be a dynamic summer blockbuster.
Art: Balaam and his Ass by Rembrandt van Rijn, 1926; and of course, mock poster graphic created by RC