Numbers 1:1-3

A Census of Israel's Warriors

1 The LORD spoke to Moses 1in the wilderness of Sinai, 2in 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,
2 3"Take a census of all the congregation of the people of Israel, by clans, 4by fathers' houses, according to the number of names, every male, head by head.
3 5From twenty years old and upward, all in Israel who are able to go to war, you and Aaron shall list them, 6company by company.

Numbers 1:1-3 Meaning and Commentary


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.

Cross References 6

  • 1. Numbers 10:11, 12; Exodus 19:1
  • 2. Exodus 25:22
  • 3. Exodus 30:12; Exodus 38:26; 2 Samuel 24:2; 1 Chronicles 21:2; See Numbers 26:2-51
  • 4. ver. 18, 20, 22; Numbers 3:47; 1 Chronicles 23:3, 24
  • 5. Numbers 14:29; Exodus 30:14
  • 6. Exodus 12:51
The English Standard Version is published with the permission of Good News Publishers.