From Numbers 1-2
Today we begin reading through Numbers. The book starts with a census which counts every man twenty years and upward. Sometimes a census is used to collect lots of money. But they all record the number of people counted.
This post is part of my bible in a year series.
Passage and Comments
1 The LORD spoke to Moses in the wilderness of Sinai, in the tent of meeting, on the first day of the second month, in the second year after they had come out of the land of Egypt, saying, (Nu 1.1)
Moses is still around the wilderness at Sinai. They have not reached Canaan, the promised land. Its been two years since the LORD has taken them out of Egypt. That actually seems like a long time. A lot has happened since then. But it will take much longer to finally get there.
2 “Take a census of all the congregation of the people of Israel, by clans, by fathers’ houses, according to the number of names, every male, head by head. 3 From twenty years old and upward, all in Israel who are able to go to war, you and Aaron shall list them, company by company. 4 And there shall be with you a man from each tribe, each man being the head of the house of his fathers. (Nu 1.2-4)
The census only counts the men over twenty years of age. Women and children are not counted. As a basic rule once we get the total we can probably multiply the amount by 2.25 to get an approximate total population. The men are to be counted because they are the ones who will go to war.
They will go to war because they need to destroy the current occupants of the promised land.
The census is a big job and Moses needs help.
5 And these are the names of the men who shall assist you. From Reuben, Elizur the son of Shedeur; 6 from Simeon, Shelumiel the son of Zurishaddai; 7 from Judah, Nahshon the son of Amminadab; 8 from Issachar, Nethanel the son of Zuar; 9 from Zebulun, Eliab the son of Helon; 10 from the sons of Joseph, from Ephraim, Elishama the son of Ammihud, and from Manasseh, Gamaliel the son of Pedahzur; 11 from Benjamin, Abidan the son of Gideoni; 12 from Dan, Ahiezer the son of Ammishaddai; 13 from Asher, Pagiel the son of Ochran; 14 from Gad, Eliasaph the son of Deuel; 15 from Naphtali, Ahira the son of Enan.” 16 These were the ones chosen from the congregation, the chiefs of their ancestral tribes, the heads of the clans of Israel. (Nu 1:5-16)
Moses delegates. There are men from each tribe who will help Moses count head by head. Reuben, Simeon, Judah, Issachar, Zebulun, (the sons of Joseph) Ephraim, Manasseh, Benjamin, Dan, Asher, Gad, and Naphtali. Twelve in total, two of tribes descending from Joseph and the tribe Levi is not included. We can assume these men also delegated. They went to their own tribes and made sure an accurate count was given.
17 Moses and Aaron took these men who had been named, 18 and on the first day of the second month, they assembled the whole congregation together, who registered themselves by clans, by fathers’ houses, according to the number of names from twenty years old and upward, head by head, 19 as the LORD commanded Moses. So he listed them in the wilderness of Sinai. (Nu 1:17–19)
The book of numbers records the count. Tribe by tribe using the following format. They didn’t use Excel.
Of the people of ___________,
their generations, by their clans, by their fathers’ houses,
according to the number of names,
from twenty years old and upward, every man able to go to war:
those listed of the tribe of ___________ were ___________.
Over and over again, the census records in this format the number men over twenty in Israel ready for war. When the record is finished the total is given.
44 These are those who were listed, whom Moses and Aaron listed with the help of the chiefs of Israel, twelve men, each representing his fathers’ house. 45 So all those listed of the people of Israel, by their fathers’ houses, from twenty years old and upward, every man able to go to war in Israel— 46 all those listed were 603,550. (Nu 1:44–46)
Our total population is approximately (603,550 * 2.25) 1,358,000 men, women and children. Thats a lot of people! God has been faithful to his promise of offspring to Abraham.
Story of Israel
This generation however does not make it into the promised land. They proved unfaithful to the LORD and he had them wander around the wilderness for 40 years. All but a few alive at the first census died. Moses is commanded after this time to take another census.
26 After the plague, the LORD said to Moses and to Eleazar the son of Aaron, the priest, 2 “Take a census of all the congregation of the people of Israel, from twenty years old and upward, by their fathers’ houses, all in Israel who are able to go to war.” 3 And Moses and Eleazar the priest spoke with them in the plains of Moab by the Jordan at Jericho, saying, 4 “Take a census of the people, from twenty years old and upward,” as the LORD commanded Moses. The people of Israel who came out of the land of Egypt were: (Nu 26:1–4)
And at the end of that record he also notes the total count of men over twenty years.
51 This was the list of the people of Israel, 601,730. (Nu 26:51)
A slight decrease (from 603,550) in numbers of men over twenty years. Only a slight. Overall all they continued to have babies. Notably, one son for every father.
At the end of the chapter Moses reiterates the reason for the second census.
63 These were those listed by Moses and Eleazar the priest, who listed the people of Israel in the plains of Moab by the Jordan at Jericho. 64 But among these there was not one of those listed by Moses and Aaron the priest, who had listed the people of Israel in the wilderness of Sinai. 65 For the LORD had said of them, “They shall die in the wilderness.” Not one of them was left, except Caleb the son of Jephunneh and Joshua the son of Nun. (Nu 26:63–65)
Story of Jesus
Those who believed that Jesus lived, died and rose again were warned by Paul about the first generation. They became an example of how not to behave.
10 For I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, 2 and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, 3 and all ate the same spiritual food, 4 and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ. 5 Nevertheless, with most of them God was not pleased, for they were overthrown in the wilderness. 6 Now these things took place as examples for us, that we might not desire evil as they did. (1 Cor 10:1–6)
Paul speaks about the Rock that followed them. This rock was Christ. I have an image of the same rock following them around and providing water for them through the wilderness years (cf. Ex 17.6; Num 20.8-11). (Check out this post from Peter Enns if you like).
Regardless to what Paul means by ‘followed them’. His point is clear, learn from their example. If you consider yourself counted as one of God’s people.
Keep drinking from the rock, follow the LORD wherever he leads and do not desire evil as they did.
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