Numbers 1

1 ADONAI spoke to Moshe in the Sinai Desert, in the tent of meeting, on the first day of the second month of the second year after they had left the land of Egypt. He said,
2 "Take a census of the entire assembly of the people of Isra'el, by clans and families. Record the names of all the men
3 twenty years old and over who are subject to military service in Isra'el. You and Aharon are to enumerate them company by company.
4 Take with you from each tribe someone who is head of a clan.
5 These are the men to take with you: From Re'uven, Elitzur the son of Sh'de'ur;
6 From Shim'on, Shlumi'el the son of Tzurishaddai;
7 From Y'hudah, Nachshon the son of 'Amminadav;
8 From Yissakhar, N'tan'el the son of Tzu'ar;
9 From Z'vulun, Eli'av the son of Helon.
10 Of the children of Yosef: From Efrayim, Elishama the son of 'Ammihud; From M'nasheh, Gamli'el the son of P'dahtzur.
11 From Binyamin, Avidan the son of Gid'oni;
12 From Dan, Achi'ezer the son of 'Ammishaddai;
13 From Asher, Pag'i'el the son of 'Okhran;
14 From Gad, Elyasaf the son of De'u'el;
15 From Naftali, Achira the son of 'Enan."
16 These were the ones called from the assembly, the chiefs of their fathers'clans and heads of thousands in Isra'el.
17 So Moshe and Aharon took these men who had been designated by name;
18 and, on the first day of the second month, they gathered the whole assembly to state their genealogies by families and clans and recorded the names of all those twenty years old and over, as well as their total numbers.
19 Moshe counted them in the Sinai Desert, just as ADONAI had ordered him.
20 The men twenty years old and over who were subject to military service were recorded by name, family and clan, starting with the descendants of Re'uven, Isra'el's firstborn. Here are the totals:
21 Descendants of Re'uven 46,500
22 Descendants of Shim'on 59,300
24 Descendants of Gad 45,650
26 Descendants of Y'hudah 74,600
28 Descendants of Yissakhar 54,400
30 Descendants of Z'vulun 57,400
32 Descendants of Efrayim 40,500
34 Descendants of M'nasheh 32,200
36 Descendants of Binyamin 35,400
38 Descendants of Dan 62,700
40 Descendants of Asher 41,500
42 Descendants of Naftali 53,400
44 Moshe, Aharon and the twelve leaders of Isra'el, each from a clan,
45 counted the people of Isra'el by their clans, those twenty years old and over, eligible for military service in Isra'el;
46 and the grand total came to 603,550.
47 But those who were L'vi'im, according to the clan of their fathers, were not counted in this census;
48 because ADONAI had told Moshe,
49 "Do not include the clan of Levi when you take the census of the people of Isra'el.
50 Instead, give the L'vi'im charge over the tabernacle of the testimony, its equipment and everything else connected with it. They are to carry the tabernacle and all its equipment, serve in it and set up their camp around it.
51 When the tabernacle is to be moved onward, it is the L'vi'im who are to take it down and set it up in the new location; anyone else who involves himself is to be put to death.
52 The rest of Isra'el are to set up camp, company by company, each man with his own banner.
53 But the L'vi'im are to camp around the tabernacle of the testimony, so that no anger will come upon the assembly of the people of Isra'el. The L'vi'im are to be in charge of the tabernacle of the testimony."
54 This is what the people of Isra'el did - they did everything that ADONAI had ordered Moshe.

Numbers 1 Commentary

Chapter 1

This book is called NUMBERS from the several numberings of the people contained in it. It extends from the giving of the law at Sinai, till their arrival in the plains of Jordan. An account is given of their murmuring and unbelief, for which they were sentenced to wander in the wilderness nearly forty years; also some laws, both, moral and ceremonial. Their trials greatly tended to distinguish the wicked and hypocrites from the faithful and true servants of God, who served him with a pure heart.

The numbering of the Israelites. (1-43) The number of the people. (44-46) The Levites not numbered with the rest. (47-54)

Verses 1-43 The people were numbered to show God's faithfulness in thus increasing the seed of Jacob, that they might be the better trained for the wars and conquest of Canaan, and to ascertain their families in order to the division of the land. It is said of each tribe, that those were numbered who were able to go forth to war; they had wars before them, though now they met with no opposition. Let the believer be prepared to withstand the enemies of his soul, though all may appear to be peace.

Verses 44-46 We have here the sum total. How much was required to maintain all these in the wilderness! They were all provided for by God every day. When we observe the faithfulness of God, however unlikely the performance of his promise may appear, we may take courage as to those which yet remain to be fulfilled to the church of God.

Verses 47-54 Care is here taken to distinguish the tribe of Levi, which, in the matter of the golden calf, had distinguished itself. Singular services shall be recompensed by singular honours. It was to the honour of the Levites, that to them was committed the care of the tabernacle and its treasures, in their camps and in their marches. It was for the honour of the holy things that none should see them, or touch them, but those who were called of God to the service. We all are unfit and unworthy to have fellowship with God, till called by his grace into the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord; and so, being the spiritual seed of that great High Priest, we are made priests to our God. Great care must be taken to prevent sin, for preventing sin is preventing wrath. Being a holy tribe, they were not reckoned among other Israelites. They that minister about holy things, should neither entangle themselves, nor be entangled, in worldly affairs. And let every believer seek to do what the Lord has commanded.

Chapter Summary


This book has its name from the account it gives of the "numbers" of the children of Israel, twice taken particularly; which name it has with this Greeks and Latins, and so with the Syriac and Arabic versions; but with the Jews it is called sometimes "Vajedabber", from the first word of it, "and the Lord spake"; and sometimes "Bemidbar", from the fifth word of the first verse, "in the wilderness", and sometimes "Sepher Pikkudim"; or, as with Origen {a}, "Ammesphkodim", the book of musters or surveys. That it was written by Moses is not to be doubted; and is indeed suggested by our Lord himself, Joh 5:46 compared with Nu 3:14, and the references to it, in the New Testament, fully ascertain to us Christians the authenticity of it, as that of our Lord hinted at, and those of the apostle in 1Co 10:4, Heb 9:13,14. It contains an history of the affairs of the Israelites, and of their travel in the wilderness for the space of thirty eight years; though the principal facts it relates were done in the second year of their coming out of Egypt, and in the last of their being in the wilderness; and it is not merely historical, but gives a particular account of several laws, ceremonial and judicial, to be observed by the people of Israel, as well as has many things in it very instructive, both of a moral and evangelical nature.


In this chapter orders are given to Moses to take the number of the children of Israel, from twenty years old and upwards, Nu 1:1-3; and the men that were to assist in this work, one of each tribe are mentioned by name, Nu 1:4-16; all which was accordingly done, Nu 1:17-19; and the particular numbers of each tribe are recorded, as they were taken, Nu 1:20-44; and the sum total is given, Nu 1:45,46; the Levites being excepted, who were employed about the tabernacle, and so not to be employed in military service, Nu 1:47-51; they encamped about that, while the Israelites pitched their tents every man by his own camp and standard, Nu 1:52-54.

{a} Apud Euseb. Hist. Ecclesiast. l. 6. c. 25.

Numbers 1 Commentaries

Complete Jewish Bible Copyright 1998 by David H. Stern. Published by Jewish New Testament Publications, Inc. All rights reserved. Used by permission.