Numbers 1

Numbers 1

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A Census of Israel’s Warriors

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, “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. 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. And there shall be with you a man from each tribe, each man being the head of the house of his fathers. And these are the names of the men who shall assist you. From Reuben, Elizur the son of Shedeur; from Simeon, Shelumiel the son of Zurishaddai; from Judah, Nahshon the son of Amminadab; from Issachar, Nethanel the son of Zuar; from Zebulun, Eliab the son of Helon; from the sons of Joseph, from Ephraim, Elishama the son of Ammihud, and from Manasseh, Gamaliel the son of Pedahzur; from Benjamin, Abidan the son of Gideoni; from Dan, Ahiezer the son of Ammishaddai; from Asher, Pagiel the son of Ochran; from Gad, Eliasaph the son of Deuel; from Naphtali, Ahira the son of Enan.” These were the ones chosen from the congregation, the chiefs of their ancestral tribes, the heads of the clans of Israel.

Moses and Aaron took these men who had been named, 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, as the LORD commanded Moses. So he listed them in the wilderness of Sinai.

The people of Reuben, Israel’s firstborn, their generations, by their clans, by their fathers’ houses, according to the number of names, head by head, every male from twenty years old and upward, all who were able to go to war: those listed of the tribe of Reuben were 46,500.

Of the people of Simeon, their generations, by their clans, by their fathers’ houses, those of them who were listed, according to the number of names, head by head, every male from twenty years old and upward, all who were able to go to war: those listed of the tribe of Simeon were 59,300.

Of the people of Gad, their generations, by their clans, by their fathers’ houses, according to the number of the names, from twenty years old and upward, all who were able to go to war: those listed of the tribe of Gad were 45,650.

Of the people of Judah, 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 Judah were 74,600.

Of the people of Issachar, 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 Issachar were 54,400.

Of the people of Zebulun, 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 Zebulun were 57,400.

Of the people of Joseph, namely, of the people of Ephraim, 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 Ephraim were 40,500.

Of the people of Manasseh, 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 Manasseh were 32,200.

Of the people of Benjamin, 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 Benjamin were 35,400.

Of the people of Dan, 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 Dan were 62,700.

Of the people of Asher, 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 Asher were 41,500.

Of the people of Naphtali, 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 Naphtali were 53,400.

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. 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—all those listed were 603,550.

Levites Exempted

But the Levites were not listed along with them by their ancestral tribe. For the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “Only the tribe of Levi you shall not list, and you shall not take a census of them among the people of Israel. But appoint the Levites over the tabernacle of the testimony, and over all its furnishings, and over all that belongs to it. They are to carry the tabernacle and all its furnishings, and they shall take care of it and shall camp around the tabernacle. When the tabernacle is to set out, the Levites shall take it down, and when the tabernacle is to be pitched, the Levites shall set it up. And if any outsider comes near, he shall be put to death. The people of Israel shall pitch their tents by their companies, each man in his own camp and each man by his own standard. But the Levites shall camp around the tabernacle of the testimony, so that there may be no wrath on the congregation of the people of Israel. And the Levites shall keep guard over the tabernacle of the testimony.” Thus did the people of Israel; they did according to all that the LORD commanded Moses.

(ESV)


Numbers 1 Commentary

by Hank Workman

Complaining – it gets you nowhere.  In fact, if we’re honest it will get you stuck.  This is exactly what the book of Numbers records.  The fact of the matter is at the end of the book of Leviticus the people had traveled for just a little over a year.  They found themselves camped at the foot of Mount Sinai as the laws were given to Moses.  But get this, the book of Leviticus covers only 1 month.  The book of Numbers will cover 38 years!

“Houston, we have a problem.”

Numbers 1 is often overlooked in readings, tells us what happened during those 38 years and fascinatingly in Hebrew, this book is titled Wilderness.  That’s exactly what happens when we choose to not follow God, be set in our ways, and complain against Him over and over.  We end up in the wilderness.

I know a lot of people in the wilderness.  They’ve traveled with Jesus so far and then a crisis hit or something took place that they not only settle, they camp out.  They lose their passion, which is a sheer sign of a problem and eventually turn their thoughts against the Savior who has given them life.  It’s a terrible place to be and for most if not recognized where they have landed, could stay there for years.

The reality for the Israelite’s was the wilderness was never meant to be the final destination.  The Promised Land was what was before them.  This place in the wilderness was only intended to be temporary but for whatever reason, as human nature and hateful antics happened over and over they ended up living there.

Fair warning – you turn yourself away from God and following His Son, you will not only find yourself in the wilderness, you may stay for quite some time.  And God will let you stay there.

And so the book of Numbers opens with some ‘taking care of business.’  The nation was at the foot of Mount Sinai where God’s law had been given and they were in the process of moving forward.  A census was taken in particular for their military.  From there the people would be set apart for God as His own.  God was preparing His people for what He had in store for them.  Sadly, that would not be the case for quite awhile.

For it was then the complaining began.  The complaining reverberated to the heavens.  The people complained about food, then it was about Moses as their leader.  After God finally dealt with this lot of complainers, they arrived at the border and sent spies to the land.  The people then complained about this, living in fear.  Like a flood, negativity swept through the camp.  So angry, God stated that the current generation would not see the Promised Land.  They would never step foot in it due to their unbelief.

And so the great wandering in the desert began – 38 years worth!  Even through this, though, the complaining never stopped.  Like a broken record they grumbled, were downright disobedient, defiant and death would take them.  They still didn’t get it.

Even from this opening, where do you find yourself these days?  Are you in the desert, the wilderness?  By whose hand have you landed there?  Has it been God or has it been your lack of commitment to Him?  Has it been your lack of trust in His ability?  Has the desert come to you because of circumstances that have shipwrecked your faith?

As the book of Numbers shows, God will allow us to stay in the wilderness as long as it takes for us to ‘get it’.  His purpose is often found in the future of what He wants to give, but if we ourselves get stuck personally, we will not receive what He has until we are humble before Him.  It’s a call to trust even when we don’t see the answer.

So many times when we find ourselves in the wilderness we scheme and plan our own ways to get out again and again.  These all fail.  Only God can provide a way out and it requires our humility and submission to Him.  That is the only way for true escape.


Numbers 1 Commentary

by Brad Boyles

Lists of names… census figures… what is this all about?

The Book of Numbers takes place just before the Israelites are led into the Promised Land. It records the awkward in-between moments where they wait with anticipation while also trying to obey in the current circumstances. As you will read, it was not easy. There were many struggles and shortcomings. But through discipline and instruction, God led His people to worship Him and trust in His Mighty Hand.

Although the long name lists are foreign to us, they represent the “final roll call” before victory. Though they were orphans, God cared for them. He actually multiplied their families during this uncomfortable time in the wilderness.

The first census we read (chapters 1-4) represents the first generation of God’s people freed from Egypt. Unfortunately, this generation was stubborn, untrusting, and blamed God for their problems quite often (as we will find out later). The hope that will be offered in Numbers is that God is faithful to His promises regardless of our own rebellion. However, this chapter also outlines the consequences for such behavior. Those who rebelled would not see the blessings firsthand.

The book opens with, “Then the LORD spoke to Moses in the wilderness of Sinai…” The wilderness is fitting on many levels. It’s literally where they were journeying but it also describes the spiritual wasteland that was evident among the people. They needed to have their faith tested. The same is true for us.

We will never grow in our faith outside trials. Many of us love to be blessed by God but unfortunately become stagnant and spoiled as we want to do nothing while He does everything. The trials will either strengthen us to a new resolve or reveal the shallowness of our faith. And many times, we will have to come to a place of complete humility in order to learn what God has been speaking to us.

The Census

Numbers 1 opens one year and one month after Israel has departed Egypt in dramatic fashion. It has also been about one month since the tabernacle was constructed in Exodus 40. Why is it called Numbers? The people are actually numbered twice (beginning in verse 1 and again in verse 26).

Practically speaking, it made sense to number the tribes and organize them in marching order as they journeyed toward the Promised Land. We read that one man from each tribe was assigned to help Moses take the census. The Levites were not included because they were in charge of constructing and deconstructing the tabernacle. This was their ministry to God and to the people.

“The Levites were not included because, in a very special sense, they belonged to God. He therefore was responsible for their well-being as He is for all of us who are united by faith with Christ-the true Aaron.”

F.B. Meyer
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