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David Guzik Commentary on the Bible

Numbers 26

 

 

Verses 1-65

Numbers 26 - THE SECOND CENSUS

A. The second census of Israel in the wilderness.

1. (Numbers 26:1-4) The command to take the census.

And it came to pass, after the plague, that the LORD spoke to Moses and Eleazar the son of Aaron the priest, saying: “Take a census of all the congregation of the children of Israel from twenty years old and above, by their fathers’ houses, all who are able to go to war in Israel.” So Moses and Eleazar the priest spoke with them in the plains of Moab by the Jordan, across from Jericho, saying: “Take a census of the people from twenty years old and above, just as the LORD commanded Moses and the children of Israel who came out of the land of Egypt.”

a. Take a census of all the congregation of the children of Israel: Some 38 years earlier, at the beginning of the Book of Numbers, while Israel still camped at Mount Sinai, God commanded them to take a census.

i. The first census was primarily for military organization. If they were to enter into and take possession of the Promised Land, they had to know how many troops they had, and how they should best be organized.

b. All who are able to go to war in Israel: The purpose of the second census was also made clear. They were to count those able to fight on behalf of Israel. This accounting, 38 years later, was again for military organization.

i. 38 years before Israel was organized enough; they just did not have enough faith to take the Promised Land. Organization is good, and the work of God can suffer from a lack of it; but the best organization can never replace bold trust in God.

2. (Numbers 26:5-11) The tribe of Reuben.

Reuben was the firstborn of Israel. The children of Reuben were: of Hanoch, the family of the Hanochites; of Pallu, the family of the Palluites; of Hezron, the family of the Hezronites; of Carmi, the family of the Carmites. These are the families of the Reubenites: those who were numbered of them were forty-three thousand seven hundred and thirty. And the son of Pallu was Eliab. The sons of Eliab were Nemuel, Dathan, and Abiram. These are the Dathan and Abiram, representatives of the congregation, who contended against Moses and Aaron in the company of Korah, when they contended against the LORD and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them up together with Korah when that company died, when the fire devoured two hundred and fifty men; and they became a sign. Nevertheless the children of Korah did not die.

a. The children of Reuben were: In the first census, Reuben counted 46,500 men ready for war; 38 years later, they counted 43,730 - a loss of 2,770 men (6%).

b. These are the Dathan and Abiram, representatives of the congregation, who contended against Moses: Notable in the tribe of Reuben were Dathan and Abiram, who were co-leaders with Korah in the rebellion against the LORD and Moses described in Numbers 16:1-50. Perhaps one reason Dathan and Abiram resented Moses’ leadership was because they were from the tribe of Israel’s firstborn son (Reuben); yet Moses, descended from Levi (a younger son) was the leader of the nation.

i. And they became a sign: God’s judgment of Dathan, Abiram, Korah and their followers in Numbers 16:1-50 surely was a sign, both to the generation in the wilderness and beyond.

3. (Numbers 26:12-14) The tribe of Simeon.

The sons of Simeon according to their families were: of Nemuel, the family of the Nemuelites; of Jamin, the family of the Jaminites; of Jachin, the family of the Jachinites; of Zerah, the family of the Zarhites; of Shaul, the family of the Shaulites. These are the families of the Simeonites: twenty-two thousand two hundred.

a. The sons of Simeon: In the first census, the tribe of Simeon counted 59,300 men ready for war; 38 years later, they counted 22,000. This was staggering loss of 37,100 men for this once-great tribe (a loss of 63%).

4. (Numbers 26:15-18) The tribe of Gad.

The sons of Gad according to their families were: of Zephon, the family of the Zephonites; of Haggi, the family of the Haggites; of Shuni, the family of the Shunites; of Ozni, the family of the Oznites; of Eri, the family of the Erites; of Arod, the family of the Arodites; of Areli, the family of the Arelites. These are the families of the sons of Gad according to those who were numbered of them: forty thousand five hundred.

a. The sons of Gad: In the first census, the tribe of Gad counted 45,650 men ready for war; 38 years later, they count 40,500. This was a loss of 5,150 fighting men (11%).

5. (Numbers 26:19-22) The tribe of Judah.

The sons of Judah were Er and Onan; and Er and Onan died in the land of Canaan. And the sons of Judah according to their families were: of Shelah, the family of the Shelanites; of Perez, the family of the Parzites; of Zerah, the family of the Zarhites. And the sons of Perez were: of Hezron, the family of the Hezronites; of Hamul, the family of the Hamulites. These are the families of Judah according to those who were numbered of them: seventy-six thousand five hundred.

a. The sons of Judah: In the first census, the tribe of Judah counted 74,600 men ready for war; 38 years later, they counted 76,500. This was a gain of 1,900 (3%).

6. (Numbers 26:23-25) The tribe of Issachar.

The sons of Issachar according to their families were: of Tola, the family of the Tolaites; of Puah, the family of the Punites; of Jashub, the family of the Jashubites; of Shimron, the family of the Shimronites. These are the families of Issachar according to those who were numbered of them: sixty-four thousand three hundred.

a. The sons of Issachar: In the first census, the tribe of Issachar counted 54,400 men ready for war; 38 years later, they counted 64,300. This was a gain of 9,900 (18%).

7. (Numbers 26:26-27) The tribe of Zebulun.

The sons of Zebulun according to their families were: of Sered, the family of the Sardites; of Elon, the family of the Elonites; of Jahleel, the family of the Jahleelites. These are the families of the Zebulunites according to those who were numbered of them: sixty thousand five hundred.

a. The sons of Zebulun: In the first census, the tribe of Zebulun counted 57,400 men ready for war; 38 years later, they counted 60,500. This was a gain of 3,100 (5%).

8. (Numbers 26:28-34) The tribe of Manasseh.

The sons of Joseph according to their families, by Manasseh and Ephraim, were: The sons of Manasseh: of Machir, the family of the Machirites; and Machir begot Gilead; of Gilead, the family of the Gileadites. These are the sons of Gilead: of Jeezer, the family of the Jeezerites; of Helek, the family of the Helekites; of Asriel, the family of the Asrielites; of Shechem, the family of the Shechemites; of Shemida, the family of the Shemidaites; of Hepher, the family of the Hepherites. Now Zelophehad the son of Hepher had no sons, but daughters; and the names of the daughters of Zelophehad were Mahlah, Noah, Hoglah, Milcah, and Tirzah. These are the families of Manasseh; and those who were numbered of them were fifty-two thousand seven hundred.

a. The sons of Manasseh: In the first census, the tribe of Manasseh counted 32,200 ready for war; 38 years later, they counted 52,700. This was a remarkable gain of 20,500 (64%).

9. (Numbers 26:35-37) The tribe of Ephraim.

These are the sons of Ephraim according to their families: of Shuthelah, the family of the Shuthalhites; of Becher, the family of the Bachrites; of Tahan, the family of the Tahanites. And these are the sons of Shuthelah: of Eran, the family of the Eranites. These are the families of the sons of Ephraim according to those who were numbered of them: thirty-two thousand five hundred. These are the sons of Joseph according to their families.

a. These are the sons of Ephraim: In the first census, the tribe of Ephraim counted 40,500 ready for war; 38 years later, they counted 32,500. This was a loss of 8,000 men (20%).

10. (Numbers 26:38-41) The tribe of Benjamin.

The sons of Benjamin according to their families were: of Bela, the family of the Belaites; of Ashbel, the family of the Ashbelites; of Ahiram, the family of the Ahiramites; of Shupham, the family of the Shuphamites; of Hupham, the family of the Huphamites. And the sons of Bela were Ard and Naaman: of Ard, the family of the Ardites; of Naaman, the family of the Naamites. These are the sons of Benjamin according to their families; and those who were numbered of them were forty-five thousand six hundred.

a. The sons of Benjamin: In the first census, the tribe of Benjamin counted 35,400 men ready for war; 38 years later, they counted 45,600. This was a gain of 10,200 men (29%).

11. (Numbers 26:42-43) The tribe of Dan.

These are the sons of Dan according to their families: of Shuham, the family of the Shuhamites. These are the families of Dan according to their families. All the families of the Shuhamites, according to those who were numbered of them, were sixty-four thousand four hundred.

a. These are the sons of Dan: In the first census, the tribe of Dan counted 62,700 men ready for war; 38 years later, they counted 64,400. This was a gain of 1,700 men (3%).

12. (Numbers 26:44-47) The tribe of Asher.

The sons of Asher according to their families were: of Jimna, the family of the Jimnites; of Jesui, the family of the Jesuites; of Beriah, the family of the Beriites. Of the sons of Beriah: of Heber, the family of the Heberites; of Malchiel, the family of the Malchielites. And the name of the daughter of Asher was Serah. These are the families of the sons of Asher according to those who were numbered of them: fifty-three thousand four hundred.

a. The sons of Asher: In the first census, the tribe of Asher counted 41,500 men ready for war; 38 years later, they counted 53,400 men. This was a gain of 11,900 (29%).

13. (Numbers 26:48-50) The tribe of Naphtali.

The sons of Naphtali according to their families were: of Jahzeel, the family of the Jahzeelites; of Guni, the family of the Gunites; of Jezer, the family of the Jezerites; of Shillem, the family of the Shillemites. These are the families of Naphtali according to their families; and those who were numbered of them were forty-five thousand four hundred.

a. The sons of Naphtali: In the first census, the tribe of Naphtali counted 53,400 men ready for war; 38 years later, they counted 45,400 men. This was a loss of 8,000 (15%).

14. (Numbers 26:51) The total number of men ready for war among Israel.

These are those who were numbered of the children of Israel: six hundred and one thousand seven hundred and thirty.

a. These are those who were numbered: In the first census, Israel counted 603,550 men ready for war; 38 years later, they count 601,730 men - a loss of 1,820 men (.3%).

b. Six hundred and one thousand seven hundred and thirty: So, the total number of men ready for war during the wilderness stayed virtually the same over the 38 year period, when the generation of unbelief died in the wilderness.

i. The stagnation of population is reflective of Israel’s spiritual state during these 38 years - we should have expected them to grow, as is normal in the course of generations. Instead, they simply stayed where they were. The 38 years in the wilderness were years of no growth, no advance - just going in circles until the generation of unbelief had died and a generation of faith had arisen, a generation bold enough to take the Promised Land.

c. Numbered of the children of Israel: During this period, certain tribes suffered significant gains, and certain tribes suffered significant losses.

i. Of these twelve tribes of Israel, five suffered loss, and seven gained men. Half of the tribes had gains or losses 15% or less; but Simeon lost 63% of their population, and Manasseh gained 64%. God was blessing or cursing particular tribes, no doubt related to their abiding with Him.

Tribes of Israel - First and Second Census (Numbers chapters 1 and 26)

TRIBE

BEFORE

AFTER

CHANGE

PERCENT

Reuben

46,500

43,730

-2,770

-6%

Simeon

59,300

22,200

-37,100

-63%

Gad

45,650

40,500

-5,150

-11%

Judah

74,600

76,500

+1,900

+3%

Issachar

54,400

64,300

+9,900

+18%

Zebulun

57,400

60,500

+3,100

+5%

Manasseh

32,200

52,700

+20,500

+64%

Ephraim

40,500

32,500

-8,000

-20%

Benjamin

35,400

45,600

+10,200

+29%

Dan

62,700

64,400

+1,700

+3%

Asher

41,500

53,400

+11,900

+29%

Naphtali

53,400

45,400

-8,000

-15%

Levi

Not counted

Not counted

Total

603,550

601,730

-1,820

-0.3%

B. Inheritance of the land.

1. (Numbers 26:52-56) The general principle of inheritance: Larger tribes receive larger portions of land.

Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying: “To these the land shall be divided as an inheritance, according to the number of names. To a large tribe you shall give a larger inheritance, and to a small tribe you shall give a smaller inheritance. Each shall be given its inheritance according to those who were numbered of them. But the land shall be divided by lot; they shall inherit according to the names of the tribes of their fathers. According to the lot their inheritance shall be divided between the larger and the smaller.”

2. (Numbers 26:57-62) The tribe of Levi and their inheritance.

And these are those who were numbered of the Levites according to their families: of Gershon, the family of the Gershonites; of Kohath, the family of the Kohathites; of Merari, the family of the Merarites. These are the families of the Levites: the family of the Libnites, the family of the Hebronites, the family of the Mahlites, the family of the Mushites, and the family of the Korathites. And Kohath begot Amram. The name of Amram’s wife was Jochebed the daughter of Levi, who was born to Levi in Egypt; and to Amram she bore Aaron and Moses and their sister Miriam. To Aaron were born Nadab and Abihu, Eleazar and Ithamar. And Nadab and Abihu died when they offered profane fire before the LORD. Now those who were numbered of them were twenty-three thousand, every male from a month old and above; for they were not numbered among the other children of Israel, because there was no inheritance given to them among the children of Israel.

a. For they were not numbered among the other children of Israel: The Levites were not numbered in either the first or second census, because the men of their tribe were not to go to war.

b. Because there was no inheritance given to them among the children of Israel: As well, they were to receive no inheritance of land as the other tribes; their inheritance was greater than property - the LORD Himself (Numbers 18:20).

3. (Numbers 26:63-65) The old generation has no inheritance.

These are those who were numbered by Moses and Eleazar the priest, who numbered the children of Israel in the plains of Moab by the Jordan, across from Jericho. But among these there was not a man of those who were numbered by Moses and Aaron the priest when they numbered the children of Israel in the Wilderness of Sinai. For the LORD had said of them, “They shall surely die in the wilderness.” So there was not left a man of them, except Caleb the son of Jephunneh and Joshua the son of Nun.

a. But among these there was not a man of those who were numbered by Moses and Aaron: None of those counted in the first census were counted in the second. That was the old generation, the generation of unbelief, who perished in the wilderness. They obviously had no inheritance in the Promised Land (except of Caleb and Joshua).

 


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Bibliography Information
Guzik, David. "Commentary on Numbers 26:1". "David Guzik Commentaries on the Bible". "http://www.studylight.org/commentaries/guz/view.cgi?book=nu&chapter=026. 1997-2003.

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