Reflections on Scripture

by Wayne Bandy

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Scripture Passage

      Numbers - Chapter 01 (Contemporary English Version)
    1. The people of Israel had left Egypt and were living in the Sinai Desert. Then on the first day of the second month of the second year, Moses was in the sacred tent when the LORD said:
    2. I want you and Aaron to find out how many people are in each of Israel's clans and families. And make a list of all the men twenty years and older who are able to fight in battle.
    3. (SEE 1:2)
    4. The following twelve family leaders, one from each tribe, will help you: Elizur son of Shedeur from Reuben, Shelumiel son of Zurishaddai from Simeon, Nahshon son of Amminadab from Judah, Nethanel son of Zuar from Issachar, Eliab son of Helon from Zebulun, Elishama son of Ammihud from Ephraim, Gamaliel son of Pedahzur from Manasseh, Abidan son of Gideoni from Benjamin, Ahiezer son of Ammishaddai from Dan, Pagiel son of Ochran from Asher, Eliasaph son of Deuel from Gad, and Ahira son of Enan from Naphtali.
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    16. Moses and Aaron, together with these twelve tribal leaders,
    17. (SEE 1:16)
    18. called together the people that same day. They were counted according to their clans and families. Then Moses and the others listed the names of the men twenty years and older,
    19. just as the LORD had commanded.
    20. The number of men from each tribe who were at least twenty years old and strong enough to fight in Israel's army was as follows: 46,500 from Reuben, the oldest son of Jacob, 59,300 from Simeon, 45,650 from Gad, 74,600 from Judah, 54,400 from Issachar, 57,400 from Zebulun, 40,500 from Ephraim, 32,200 from Manasseh, 35,400 from Benjamin, 62,700 from Dan, 41,500 from Asher, 53,400 from Naphtali. The total number of men registered by Moses, Aaron, and the twelve leaders was 603,550.
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    47. But those from the Levi tribe were not included
    48. because the LORD had said to Moses:
    49. When you count the Israelites, do not include those from the Levi tribe.
    50. Instead, give them the job of caring for the sacred tent, its furnishings, and the objects used for worship. They will camp around the tent, and whenever you move, they will take it down, carry it to the new camp, and set it up again. Anyone else who tries to go near it must be put to death.
    51. (SEE 1:50)
    52. The rest of the Israelites will camp in their own groups and under their own banners.
    53. But the Levites will camp around the sacred tent to make sure that no one goes near it and makes me furious with the Israelites.
    54. The people of Israel did everything the LORD had commanded.

Numbers - Chapter 01

Entered: December 01, 2006
The accounts of Exodus got the Israelites away from Egypt and established their means of survival for the journey to their land of promise. Leviticus then established them as God's people. This was as much a point of survival as their food and other physical survival concerns, for as long as they worshiped God and obeyed His commands He would take care of their every need. Apart from God they had to fend for themselves, and they would not survive long in this state. Now we come to Numbers and God is organizing them as a nation which includes a military contingency. So the account begins with instructions to number all the males 20 years of age and older. These are the military age men. They were counted according to ancestral tribes totaling 603,550 men.

Entered: June 07, 2012

Numbers continues where Leviticus left off.  In Leviticus instructions were given for construction of the tabernacle and this was followed with its actual construction. Also, regulations for the Iraelite community were enumerated concerning the various sacrifices, what was clean and unclean, behavior that was prohibited, etc. Now, one month after the erection of the tabernacle, God instructed Moses to take a census of the military age men, 20 years of age and above. This was to be done by Moses and Aaron along with one man from each tribe.

The enumerating of each tribe appears to be listed in this passage according to placement of each tribal encampment around the tabernacle. The tribe of Judah was the largest with 74,600 military age men, and the tribe of Benjamin was the smallest with 35,400. It might be noticed that the tribe of Manasseh had a smaller number, but this was a half tribe of Joseph. If the total for Joseph's two sons were given together it would be 72,700. Total military age men for the whole community was 603,550. Taking into account the women, children, and Levites, the Israelite population would have numbered in the millions. The feat of organizing and traveling with such a large number is mind-boggling.

The Levites were not numbered. They were exempted from military duty to attend to their duties with the tabernacle. This included transport of the tabernacle when they traveled, setting it up when they made camp, and attending to the sacrifices and other duties while they were in camp. No one else was allowed to handle the tabernacle.