Numbering of Israel in the plains of Moab. (1-51) The division of the land. (52-56) Number of the Levites. (57-62) None remaining of the first numbering. (63-65)
Verses 1-51 Moses did not number the people but when God commanded him. We have here the families registered, as well as the tribes. The total was nearly the same as when numbered at mount Sinai. Notice is here taken of the children of Korah; they died not, as the children of Dathan and Abiram; they seem not to have joined even their own father in rebellion. If we partake not of the sins of sinners, we shall not partake of their plagues.
Verses 52-56 In distributing these tribes, the general rule of equity is prescribed; that to many should be given more, and to fewer less. Though it seems left to the prudence of their prince, the matter at last must be settled by the providence of God, with which all must be satisfied.
Verses 57-62 Levi was God's tribe; therefore it was not numbered with the rest, but alone. It came not under the sentence, that none of them should enter Canaan excepting Caleb and Joshua.
Verses 63-65 The execution of the sentence passed on the murmurers, chap. 14:29 , is observable. There was not one man numbered now, who was numbered then, but Caleb and Joshua. Here appeared the righteousness of God, and his faithfulness to his threatenings. Especially observe the truth of God, in performing his promise to Caleb and Joshua. Death makes awful havoc of the human species, and causes surprising changes in families and nations; yet all is appointed in perfect wisdom, justice, and truth, by the Lord himself. This should stir us up to think upon the hateful nature of sin, the cause of all these devastations. We should renew our repentance, seek forgiveness, value the salvation of Christ, remember how frail we are, prepare for the summons of death, and fill up our days in serving our generation according to the will of God.
Numbers 26:1-51 . ISRAEL NUMBERED.
1. after the plague--That terrible visitation had swept away the remnant of the old generation, to whom God sware in His wrath that they should not enter Canaan ( Psalms 95:11 ).
2. Take the sum of all the congregation--The design of this new census, after a lapse of thirty-eight years, was primarily to establish the vast multiplication of the posterity of Abraham in spite of the severe judgments inflicted upon them; secondarily, it was to preserve the distinction of families and to make arrangements, preparatory to an entrance into the promised land, for the distribution of the country according to the relative population of the tribes.
7. These are the families of the Reubenites--the principal households, which were subdivided into numerous smaller families. Reuben had suffered great diminution by Korah's conspiracy and other outbreaks [ Numbers 16:1 ].
10. the earth opened her mouth, and swallowed them up together with Korah--rather, "the things of Korah." compare Psalms 106:17 ).
11. Notwithstanding the children of Korah died not--Either they were not parties to their father's crime, or they withdrew from it by timely repentance. His descendants became famous in the time of David, and are often mentioned in the Psalms [ Psalms 42:1 , 44:1 , 45:1 , 46:1 , 47:1 , 48:1 , 49:1 , 84:1 , 85:1 , 87:1 , 88:1 ], also in 1 Chronicles 6:22 1 Chronicles 6:38 .
12. The sons of Simeon--It is supposed that this tribe had been pre-eminent in the guilt of Baal-peor and had consequently been greatly reduced in numbers. Thus God's justice and holiness, as well as His truth and faithfulness, were strikingly displayed: His justice and holiness in the sweeping judgments that reduced the ranks of some tribes; and His truth and faithfulness in the extraordinary increase of others so that the posterity of Israel continued a numerous people.
53. the land shall be divided according to the number of names--The portion of each tribe was to be greater or less, according to its populousness.
54. To many thou shalt give the more inheritance--that is, to the more numerous tribes a larger allotment shall be granted.
according to those that were numbered--the number of persons twenty years old at the time of the census being made, without taking into account either the increase of those who might have attained that age, when the land should be actually distributed, or the diminution from that amount, occasioned during the war of invasion.
55. the land shall be divided by lot--The appeal to the lot did not place the matter beyond the control of God; for it is at His disposal ( Proverbs 16:33 ), and He has fixed to all the bounds of their habitation. The manner in which the lot was taken has not been recorded. But it is evident that the lot was cast for determining the section of the country in which each tribe should be located--not the quantity of their possessions. In other words, when the lot had decided that a particular tribe was to be settled in the north or the south, the east or the west, the extent of territory was allocated according to the rule ( Numbers 26:54 ).
58. families of the Levites--The census of this tribe was taken separately, and on a different principle from the rest. (See Exodus 6:16-19 ).
62. twenty and three thousand--so that there was an increase of a thousand ( Numbers 3:39 ).
males from a month old and
64. among these there was not a man . . . numbered . . . in the wilderness of Sinai--The statement in this verse must not be considered absolute. For, besides Caleb and Joshua, there were alive at this time Eleazar and Ithamar, and in all probability a considerable number of Levites, who had no participation in the popular defections in the wilderness. The tribe of Levi, having neither sent a spy into Canaan, nor being included in the enumeration at Sinai, must be regarded as not coming within the range of the fatal sentence; and therefore it would exhibit a spectacle not to be witnessed in the other tribes of many in their ranks above sixty years of age.
|Tribes ||Chap. 1 ||Chap. 26 ||Increase ||Decrease|
|Reuben ||46,500 ||43,730 ||-- ||2,770|
|Simeon ||59,300 ||22,200 ||-- ||37,100|
|Gad ||45,650 ||40,500 ||-- ||5,150|
|Judah ||74,600 ||76,500 ||1,900 ||--|
|Issachar ||54,400 ||64,300 ||9,900 ||--|
|Zebulun ||57,400 ||60,500 ||3,100 ||--|
|Ephraim ||40,500 ||32,500 ||-- ||8,000|
|Manasseh ||32,200 ||52,700 ||20,500 ||--|
|Benjamin ||35,400 ||45,600 ||10,200 ||--|
|Dan ||62,700 ||64,400 ||1,700 ||--|
|Asher ||41,500 ||53,400 ||11,900 ||--|
|Naphtali ||53,400 ||45,400 ||-- ||8,000|
|Total ||603,550 ||601,730 ||59,200 ||61,020|
| ||Total decrease ||1,820|