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Adam Clarke Commentary

Numbers 1

Introduction

On the first day of the second month of the second year after Israel came out of Egypt, God commands Moses to number all the males of the people from twenty years and upward, who were effective men and able to go to war, Numbers 1:1 -3. A chief of each tribe is associated with Moses and Aaron in this business, Numbers 1:4 ; the names of whom are given, Numbers 1:5 -16. Moses assembles the people, who declare their pedigrees according to their families, Numbers 1:17 -19. The descendants of Reuben are numbered, and amount to 46,500, Numbers 1:20 , Numbers 1:21 . Those of Simeon, 59,300, Numbers 1:22 , Numbers 1:23 . Those of Gad, 45,650, Numbers 1:24 , Numbers 1:25 . Those of Judah, 74,600, Numbers 1:26 , Numbers 1:27 . Those of Issachar, 54,400, Numbers 1:28 , Numbers 1:29 . Those of Zebulun, 57,400, Numbers 1:30 , Numbers 1:31 . Those of Ephraim, 40,500, Numbers 1:32 , Numbers 1:33 . Those of Manasseh, 32,200, Numbers 1:34 , Numbers 1:35 . Those of Benjamin, 35,400, Numbers 1:36 , Numbers 1:37 . Those of Dan, 62,700, Numbers 1:38 , Numbers 1:39 . Those of Asher, 41,500, Numbers 1:40 , Numbers 1:41 . Those of Naphtali, 53,400, Numbers 1:42 , Numbers 1:43 . The amount of all the effective men in Israel, from twenty years old and upward, was 603,550, Numbers 1:44 -46. The Levites are not numbered with the tribes, because they were dedicated to the service of God. Their particular work is specified, Numbers 1:47 -54.

Verse 1

The Lord spake unto Moses - on the first day of the second month - As the tabernacle was erected upon the first day of the first month, in the second year after their coming out of Egypt, Exodus 40:17 ; and this muster of the people was made on the first day of the second month, in the same year; it is evident that the transactions related in the preceding book must all have taken place in the space of one month, and during the time the Israelites were encamped at Mount Sinai, before they had begun their Journey to the promised land.

Verse 2

Take ye the sum, etc. - God, having established the commonwealth of Israel by just and equitable laws, ordained every thing relative to the due performance of his own worship, erected his tabernacle, which was his throne, and the place of his residence among the people, and consecrated his priests who were to minister before him; he now orders his subjects to be mustered,1. That they might see he had not forgotten his promise to Abraham, but was multiplying his posterity.2. That they might observe due order in their march toward the promised land.3. That the tribes and families might be properly distinguished; that all litigations concerning property, inheritance, etc., might, in all future times, be prevented.4. That the promise concerning the Messiah might be known to have its due accomplishment, when in the fullness of time God should send him from the seed of Abraham through the house of David. And,5. That they might know their strength for war; for although they should ever consider God as their protector and defense, yet it was necessary that they should be assured of their own fitness, naturally speaking, to cope with any ordinary enemy, or to surmount any common difficulties.

Verse 3

From twenty years old and upward - In this census no women were reckoned, nor children, nor strangers, nor the Levites, nor old men, which, collectively, must have formed an immense multitude; the Levites alone amounted to 22,300. True-born Israelites only are reckoned; such as were able to carry arms, and were expert for war.

Verse 14

Eliasaph, the son of Deuel - This person is called Reuel, Numbers 2:14 . As the ד daleth is very like the ר resh, it was easy to mistake the one for the other. The Septuagint and the Syriac have Reuel in this chapter; and in Numbers 2:14 , the Vulgate, the Samaritan, and the Arabic have Deuel instead of Reuel, with which reading a vast number of MSS. concur; and this reading is supported by Numbers 10:20 ; we may safely conclude therefore that דעואל Deuel, not רעואל Reuel, was the original reading. See Kennicott. An ancient Jewish rabbin pretends to solve every difficulty by saying that "Eliasaph was a proselyte; that before he embraced the true faith he was called the son of Reuel, but that after his conversion he was called the son of Deuel." As Reuel may be translated the breach of God, and Deuel the knowledge of God, I suppose the rabbin grounded his supposition on the different meanings of the two words.

Verse 16

These were the renowned - Literally, the called, of the congregation - those who were summoned by name to attend. The order of the tribes In the above enumeration may be viewed thus: - Sons of Leah1. Reuben2. Simeon3. Judah4. Issachar5. ZebulunSons of Rachel6. Ephraim7. Manasseh8. Benjamin1st son of Bilhah, Rachel's maid9. Dan2d son of Zilpah, Leah's maid10. Asher1st son of Zilpah.11. Gad2d son of Bilhah.12. Naphtali

Verse 25

Forty and five thousand six hundred and fifty - Mr. Ainsworth has remarked that Gad, the handmaid's son, is the only one of all the tribes whose number ends with fifty, all the others are by thousands, and end with hundreds; which shows God's admirable providence and blessing in multiplying them so, that no odd or broken number was among all the tribes. But see on Numbers 1:46 (note).

Verse 33

The tribe of Ephraim - forty thousand and five hundred - Ephraim, as he was blessed beyond his eldest brother Manasseh, Genesis 48:20 , so here he is increased by thousands more than Manasseh, and more than the whole tribe of Benjamin, and his blessing continued above his brother, Deuteronomy 33:17 . And thus the prophecy, Genesis 48:19 , was fulfilled: His younger brother (Ephraim) shall be greater than he, (Manasseh). No word of God can possibly fall to the ground: he alone sees the end from the beginning; his infinite wisdom embraces all occurrences, and it is his province alone to determine what is right, and to predict what himself has purposed to accomplish.

Verse 46

All they that were numbered were six hundred thousand and three thousand and five hundred and fifty - What an astonishing increase from seventy souls that went down into Egypt, Genesis 46:27 , about 215 years before, where latterly they had endured the greatest hardships! But God's promise cannot fail Genesis 16:5 ; and who can resist his will, and bring to naught his counsel? That a comparative view may be easily taken of the state of the tribes, I shall produce them here from the first census mentioned in the first chapter of this book, in their decreasing proportion, beginning with the greatest and proceeding to the least; and in the second census, mentioned Numbers 26, where the increase of some and the decrease of others may be seen in one point of view. It may be just remarked, that except in the case of Gad in this chapter, and Reuben in Numbers 26, all the numbers are what may be called whole or round numbers, beginning with thousands, and ending with hundreds, Gad and Reuben alone ending with tens; but the Scripture generally uses round numbers, units and fractions being almost constantly disregarded.1st Census - Ch. 1 2d Census - Ch. 26 1. Judah 74,600 76,500 2. Dan 62,700 64,400 3. Simeon 59,300 22,200 4. Zebulun 57,400 60,500 5. Issachar 54,400 64,300 6. Naphtali 53,400 45,400 7. Reuben 46,500 43,730 8. Gad 45,650 40,500 9. Asher 41,500 53,400 10. Ephraim 40,500 32,500 11. Benjamin 35,400 45,600 12. Manasseh 32,200 52,700 Total 603,550 Total 601,730 Thus we find Judah, the most populous tribe, and Manasseh the least so; the difference between them being so great as 42,400, for which no very satisfactory reason can be assigned. In the second census, mentioned Numbers 26:34 , Judah still has the pre-eminency; and Simeon, the third in number before, is become the least. Now we see also that the little tribe of Manasseh occupies the seventh place for number. Seven of the tribes had an increase; five a decrease. Manasseh had an increase of 20,500; Judah, 1,900; Issachar, 9,900; Zebulun, 3,100; Benjamin, 10,200; Dan, 1,700; Asher, 11,900. On the contrary there was a decrease in Reuben of 2,770; in Simeon, 37,100; Gad, 5,150; Ephraim, 8,000; Naphtali, 8,000. Decrease in the whole, 61,020 effective men. See on Numbers 26 (note); but balanced with the increase, the decrease was upon the whole 1,820. On the subject of these enumerations, and the manner in which this vast multitude sprang in about four generations from seventy-five persons, Scheuchzer has some valuable calculations, though liable to some objections, which I shall take the liberty to insert, as they tend to throw considerable light upon the subject. "We find in the writings of Moses three enumerations of the Jewish people, that follow each other pretty closely: - The first, which was made at their departure from Egypt, Exodus 12:37 , amounted to 600,000 One year after, to 603,550 On entering the land of Canaan, to 601,730 If we add to the number 603,550 that of the Levites given us in Numbers 3:39 , and which amounted to 22,000 - We shall have for the sum total - 625,550 "We find the same number, on adding that of each tribe given us in detail, which is the best proof of the exactness of the calculation. "I think I shall afford the reader some degree of pleasure by presenting him, in this place, the number of each tribe separately, beginning at their earliest ancestors. We shall see, by this means, how faithfully God fulfilled the promise he had made to Abraham, as well as the great utility of the mathematics for the right understanding of the Holy Scriptures. I shall begin with a Genealogical Table of that family which God so wonderfully blessed; and to it I shall afterward add each separate tribe, following the calculation of Reyher, (Math. Mos., p. 222). And we shall see that the fourth generation, taken with the third, produces the very number mentioned in the textChildren of Jacob by Leah - Genesis 46:15 . Reuben Simeon Levi Judah Issachar Zebulun Dinah Hanoch Jemuel Gershon - Libni - Shimei7,500 - Numbers 3:22 Shelah Tola Sered Phallu Jamin Kohath - Amram - Izehar - Hebron - Uzziel8,600 - Numbers 3:26 Pharez Phuvah Elon Hezron Ohad Merari - Mahli - Mushi6,200 - Numbers 3:34 Zerah Job Jahleel Carmi Jachin Hazron Shimron Zohar Hamul Shaul 46,500Num 1:21 59,300Num 1:23 22,300Num 3:22, Numbers 3:26 , Numbers 3:34 74,600Num 1:27 54,400Num 1:29 57,400Num 1:31 by Zilpah - Genesis 46:18 Gad Asher Ziphion Jimnah Haggai Ishuah Shuni Isui Ezbon Beriah - Heber - Malchial Eri Arodi Areli 45,650Num 1:25 41,500Num 1:41 by Rachel - Genesis 46:22 Joseph Benjamin Manasseh 32,200 Belah Ephraim 40,500 Becher Ashbel Gerah Naaman Ehi Rosh Muppim Huppim Ard 72,700 35,400Num 1:37 by Bilhah - Genesis 46:25 Dan Naphtali Hushim Jahzeel Guni Jezer Shillem 62,700Num 1:39 53,400Num 1:43 1. Reuben - 46,500Sons of Reuben I. Generation 31 II. Generation 215 III. Generation 2,583 IV. Generation 43,917 Amount of generations III and IV. 46,500 2. Simeon - 59,3003. Levi - 22,300Generations Gershonites Kohathites Merarites I 2 4 2 II 33 43 20 III 500 430 310 IV 7,000 8,170 5,890 Amount of generations III and IV 7,500 8,600 6,200 Total number of Levites - 22,300. 4. Judah - 74,600Hezronites 34,360 Hamulites. 10,400 Shelanites and Zarhites 29,840 Total 74,600 5. Issachar - 54,4006. Zebulun - 57,4007. Gad - 45,650Generations of Gad I. Generation multiply 3 by 9, and 4 by 10 = 67 II. Generation multiply 61 by 7, and 6 by 8 = 475 III. Generation multiply 471 by 8, and 4 by 9 = 3,804 IV. Generation multiply 3,802 by 11, and 2 by 12 = 41,846 Amount of generations III and IV = 45,650 7. Asher - 41,500All these generations added together amount to 41,5009. JosephManasseh - 32,200Ephraim - 40,50010. Benjamin - 35,400I. Generation = 98 II. Generation multiply 95 by 9, and 3 by 10 = 885 III. Generation multiply by 5 = 4,425 IV. Generation multiply by 7 = 30,975 Amount of generations III and IV = 35,400 11. Dan - 62,700I. Generation = 11 II. Generation multiply by 12 = 132 III. Generation multiply by 19 = 2508 IV. Generation multiply by 24 = 60,192 Amount of generations III and IV = 62,700 12. Naphtali - 53,400I. Generation = 26 II. Generation multiply 16 by 11, and 10 by 12 = 296 III. Generation multiply 288 by 12, and 8 by 13 = 3,560 IV. Generation multiply by 14 = 49,840 Amount of generations III and IV = 53,400 Total Number of All the Tribes1. That from the going down to Egypt to the exodus there were four generations.2. That the first two generations had died in Egypt.3. That the promise of God in multiplying them as the stars of heaven, had taken place particularly in the two last generations.4. That these two last generations alone form the aggregate sums given in the sacred text.5. That their method of accounting for this aggregate through the four generations, is not only perfectly natural and mathematical, but strictly accordant with the promises made by God to them, as the sum of each tribe sufficiently proves.6. That the whole account shows the truth of the Divine promise, the great accuracy of the Jewish lawgiver, and a proof of the inspiration of the sacred writings.But even to these calculations and deductions there may be objections, e. g. "Scheuchzer gives to 2,508 families of Dan, 24 male children, each above the age of 20: we may fairly allow an equal number of females, and add 5 more under 20, as in the note under "Exo 12:37, and we have 53 children on the average through all the families of a tribe; whilst to 4,425 families of Benjamin are allotted 7 males aged 20, and adding 7 females at 5 children, we have 19 children in each family; a tolerable number; but apparently more reasonable than the other." - Anon.

Numbers 1


  1 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,
  2 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;
  3 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.
  4 And with you there shall be a man of every tribe; every one head of the house of his fathers.
  5 And these are the names of the men that shall stand with you: of the tribe of Reuben; Elizur the son of Shedeur.
  6 Of Simeon; Shelumiel the son of Zurishaddai.
  7 Of Judah; Nahshon the son of Amminadab.
  8 Of Issachar; Nethaneel the son of Zuar.
  9 Of Zebulun; Eliab the son of Helon.
  10 Of the children of Joseph: of Ephraim; Elishama the son of Ammihud: of Manasseh; Gamaliel the son of Pedahzur.
  11 Of Benjamin; Abidan the son of Gideoni.
  12 Of Dan; Ahiezer the son of Ammishaddai.
  13 Of Asher; Pagiel the son of Ocran.
  14 Of Gad; Eliasaph the son of Deuel.
  15 Of Naphtali; Ahira the son of Enan.
  16 These were the renowned of the congregation, princes of the tribes of their fathers, heads of thousands in Israel.
  17 And Moses and Aaron took these men which are expressed by their names:
  18 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.
  19 As the LORD commanded Moses, so he numbered them in the wilderness of Sinai.
  20 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;
  21 Those that were numbered of them, even of the tribe of Reuben, were forty and six thousand and five hundred.
  22 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;
  23 Those that were numbered of them, even of the tribe of Simeon, were fifty and nine thousand and three hundred.
  24 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;
  25 Those that were numbered of them, even of the tribe of Gad, were forty and five thousand six hundred and fifty.
  26 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;
  27 Those that were numbered of them, even of the tribe of Judah, were threescore and fourteen thousand and six hundred.
  28 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;
  29 Those that were numbered of them, even of the tribe of Issachar, were fifty and four thousand and four hundred.
  30 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;
  31 Those that were numbered of them, even of the tribe of Zebulun, were fifty and seven thousand and four hundred.
  32 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;
  33 Those that were numbered of them, even of the tribe of Ephraim, were forty thousand and five hundred.
  34 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;
  35 Those that were numbered of them, even of the tribe of Manasseh, were thirty and two thousand and two hundred.
  36 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;
  37 Those that were numbered of them, even of the tribe of Benjamin, were thirty and five thousand and four hundred.
  38 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;
  39 Those that were numbered of them, even of the tribe of Dan, were threescore and two thousand and seven hundred.
  40 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;
  41 Those that were numbered of them, even of the tribe of Asher, were forty and one thousand and five hundred.
  42 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;
  43 Those that were numbered of them, even of the tribe of Naphtali, were fifty and three thousand and four hundred.
  44 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.
  45 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;
  46 Even all they that were numbered were six hundred thousand and three thousand and five hundred and fifty.
  47 But the Levites after the tribe of their fathers were not numbered among them.
  48 For the LORD had spoken unto Moses, saying,
  49 Only thou shalt not number the tribe of Levi, neither take the sum of them among the children of Israel:
  50 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.
  51 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.
  52 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.
  53 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.
  54 And the children of Israel did according to all that the LORD commanded Moses, so did they.

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