And the LORD spake unto Moses in the wilderness of Sinai, in the tabernacle of the congregation, on the first day of the second month, in the second year after they were come out of the land of Egypt, saying,
Take ye the sum of all the congregation of the children of Israel, after their families, by the house of their fathers, with the number of their names, every male by their polls;
From twenty years old and upward, all that are able to go forth to war in Israel: thou and Aaron shall number them by their armies.
And with you there shall be a man of every tribe; every one head of the house of his fathers.
And these are the names of the men that shall stand with you: of the tribe of Reuben; Elizur the son of Shedeur.
And Moses and Aaron took these men which are expressed by their names:
And they assembled all the congregation together on the first day of the second month, and they declared their pedigrees after their families, by the house of their fathers, according to the number of the names, from twenty years old and upward, by their polls.
As the LORD commanded Moses, so he numbered them in the wilderness of Sinai.
And the children of Reuben, Israel's eldest son, by their generations, after their families, by the house of their fathers, according to the number of the names, by their polls, every male from twenty years old and upward, all that were able to go forth to war;
Those that were numbered of them, even of the tribe of Reuben, were forty and six thousand and five hundred.
Of the children of Simeon, by their generations, after their families, by the house of their fathers, those that were numbered of them, according to the number of the names, by their polls, every male from twenty years old and upward, all that were able to go forth to war;
Those that were numbered of them, even of the tribe of Simeon, were fifty and nine thousand and three hundred.
Of the children of Gad, by their generations, after their families, by the house of their fathers, according to the number of the names, from twenty years old and upward, all that were able to go forth to war;
Those that were numbered of them, even of the tribe of Gad, were forty and five thousand six hundred and fifty.
Of the children of Judah, by their generations, after their families, by the house of their fathers, according to the number of the names, from twenty years old and upward, all that were able to go forth to war;
Those that were numbered of them, even of the tribe of Judah, were threescore and fourteen ° thousand and six hundred.
Of the children of Issachar, by their generations, after their families, by the house of their fathers, according to the number of the names, from twenty years old and upward, all that were able to go forth to war;
Those that were numbered of them, even of the tribe of Issachar, were fifty and four thousand and four hundred.
Of the children of Zebulun, by their generations, after their families, by the house of their fathers, according to the number of the names, from twenty years old and upward, all that were able to go forth to war;
Those that were numbered of them, even of the tribe of Zebulun, were fifty and seven thousand and four hundred.
Of the children of Joseph, namely, of the children of Ephraim, by their generations, after their families, by the house of their fathers, according to the number of the names, from twenty years old and upward, all that were able to go forth to war;
Those that were numbered of them, even of the tribe of Ephraim, were forty thousand and five hundred.
Of the children of Manasseh, by their generations, after their families, by the house of their fathers, according to the number of the names, from twenty years old and upward, all that were able to go forth to war;
Those that were numbered of them, even of the tribe of Manasseh, were thirty and two thousand and two hundred.
Of the children of Benjamin, by their generations, after their families, by the house of their fathers, according to the number of the names, from twenty years old and upward, all that were able to go forth to war;
Those that were numbered of them, even of the tribe of Benjamin, were thirty and five thousand and four hundred.
Of the children of Dan, by their generations, after their families, by the house of their fathers, according to the number of the names, from twenty years old and upward, all that were able to go forth to war;
Those that were numbered of them, even of the tribe of Dan, were threescore and two thousand and seven hundred.
Of the children of Asher, by their generations, after their families, by the house of their fathers, according to the number of the names, from twenty years old and upward, all that were able to go forth to war;
Those that were numbered of them, even of the tribe of Asher, were forty and one thousand and five hundred.
Of the children of Naphtali, throughout their generations, after their families, by the house of their fathers, according to the number of the names, from twenty years old and upward, all that were able to go forth to war;
Those that were numbered of them, even of the tribe of Naphtali, were fifty and three thousand and four hundred.
These are those that were numbered, which Moses and Aaron numbered, and the princes of Israel, being twelve ° men: each one was for the house of his fathers.
So were all those that were numbered of the children of Israel, by the house of their fathers, from twenty years old and upward, all that were able to go forth to war in Israel;
Even all they that were numbered were six hundred thousand and three thousand and five hundred and fifty.
But the Levites after the tribe of their fathers were not numbered among them.
For the LORD had spoken unto Moses, saying,
Only thou shalt not number the tribe of Levi, neither take the sum of them among the children of Israel:
But thou shalt appoint the Levites over the tabernacle of testimony, and over all the vessels thereof, and over all things that belong to it: they shall bear the tabernacle, and all the vessels thereof; and they shall minister unto it, and shall encamp round about the tabernacle.
And when the tabernacle setteth forward, the Levites shall take it down: and when the tabernacle is to be pitched, the Levites shall set it up: and the stranger that cometh nigh shall be put to death.
And the children of Israel shall pitch their tents, every man by his own camp, and every man by his own standard, throughout their hosts.
But the Levites shall pitch round about the tabernacle of testimony, that there be no wrath upon the congregation of the children of Israel: and the Levites shall keep the charge of the tabernacle of testimony.
And the children of Israel did according to all that the LORD commanded Moses, so did they.
 

Introduction to Numbers

This fourth book of the Pentateuch gets its name from the two “numberings” of the children of Israel. The first census was taken soon after the escape from Egypt and the giving of the law (Numbers 1–4). The second occurred as they were nearing the end of the forty-year sojourn in the wilderness and the new generation was preparing to enter the promised land. Numbers 5–25 recounts a number of experiences of the Israelites in their wilderness wanderings, along with additional instructions given by God through Moses during that time. This section ends with their remarkable encounters with the false prophet Balaam (Numbers 22–25). After the second census, the last ten chapters (Numbers 27–36) gives further instructions concerning offerings and feast days, as well as other events occurring as Israel was getting ready to invade Canaan.

The wilderness wanderings occurred during the period from approximately 1447 B.C. to 1407 B.C., assuming the chronology accepted by most conservative scholars is correct. The book of Numbers records events from the wilderness period. Despite the obvious Mosaic authorship (the book contains at least eighty statements to the effect that “the LORD spake unto Moses”), liberals still allege that most of it was written by priests living after the Babylonian exile. There is no proof whatever for such an assumption. All the internal evidences of the book itself, as well as its correlation with what is known archaeologically about this period, fit the wilderness period much better than the post-exilic period.

l:1 spake unto Moses. Like Leviticus, the book of Numbers includes many actual statements of God, recorded by Moses after God spoke to him in the tabernacle. This statement–“the LORD spake”–is found eighty or more times in the book.

1:1 second year. Since the Israelites left Egypt about the middle of the first month at Passover time, the book of Numbers begins about twelve and a half months after the start of their exodus. The events in Numbers then cover essentially the forty years of wilderness wandering (Numbers 14:34; 32:13).

1:2 the number of their names. In accord with the Biblical principle of plenary verbal inspiration, even these long lists of names and numbers in this book (as well as similar apparently mundane information in other books) have a divine purpose. Among those that might be suggested are: (1) to illustrate God’s concern for every individual and each one’s own distinct role in God’s economy; (2) to emphasize that God is a God or order and structure, not of chaos and randomness; (3) to demonstrate His faithfulness to Abraham, fulfilling His promise to multiply Abraham’s seed; (4) to confirm His interest in maintaining the integrity of families as well as individuals.

1:3 go forth to war. This census was commanded by God with military preparedness in view, as the Israelites would have to defeat the pagan nations in Canaan if they were to claim the promised land. This generation, however, would instead have to die in the wilderness because of their lack of faith that God would enable them to do this (Numbers 14:26-35).

l:18 assembled all the congregation. It is interesting that the Greek word used to translate “congregation” in the Septuagint is ecclesia, the New Testament word for “church.” Stephen actually called this congregation “the church in the wilderness” (Acts 7:38). Another word used for church in the New Testament is “assembly” (James 2:2; note also Hebrews 10:25). This assembly of “all the congregations,” probably numbering in the millions, thus might be considered a type of the coming “general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven” (Hebrews 12:23), which will all be called together in heaven at the return of Christ.

1:46 all they that were numbered. This number did not include the women and children nor the tribe of Levi. All the Israelites in the wilderness must easily have exceeded two million. Since there were only seventy who had entered Egypt (Genesis 46:27), this represented an average doubling of the Israelite population every twenty to thirty years, depending upon the somewhat uncertain duration of their stay in Egypt, which may have been as little as 215 years or as much as 430 (Genesis 15:13; Exodus 12:40,41; Galatians 3:17). This represents an unusually high growth rate, implying large families (Jacob had twelve sons, for example). As reported in Exodus 1:7, “the children of Israel were fruitful, and increased abundantly, and multiplied, and waxed exceeding mighty; and the land was filled with them.” Despite these large numbers, God miraculously provided food and water for them in the desert for forty years. Their numbers no longer grew, however. The corresponding total at the end of the forty years was only 601,730. Of this total, only Caleb and Joshua were left from the number in the first census, all others dying in the wilderness because of unbelief.

1:47 not numbered. The Levites had a separate census because they had been designated to serve in and protect the tabernacle (Numbers 1:50-51), not to fight in the wars of conquest.


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